Menswear goes large

ASOS has begun trialling a plus size range for men

The call for greater diversity of body shapes has been part of heated discussions in the fashion industry in recent years, particularly the need for larger sizes from designers and retailers.

While there is an ever-growing emergence of plus size clothing brands for women, few retailers cater for larger men in Australia. However, ASOS began trialling their new collection of plus size menswear last week, which ranges from XL to XXXXXL.

“It’s only a small range at the moment. There are only 100 SKUs, but already, the pick up has been fantastic,” said Carly Cazzolli, head of ASOS in Australia and New Zealand.

“It’s about offering equality for all our customers and offering them the same service. We’ve got successful ranges for womenswear including our maternity, petite, curve and tall ranges, so we wanted to offer the same for menswear.”

At the moment, ASOS’ plus size menswear range features basic pieces, but more clothing with a fashion-forward element will be eventually added in the future, said Cazzolli.

“Australia and the US are over-indexed for taller guys and bigger builds versus Europe, so it’s perfectly positioned for our market. It’s about extending our menswear range rather than it being just a separate collection for bigger and taller guys,” she explained.

Indeed, the plus size clothing industry presents many opportunities for retailers.

Figures from IBISWorld’s Plus Size Clothing Stores Industry Report in February 2016 showed that over the five years through 2015 – 2016, industry revenue is expected to grow by an annualised 4.4 per cent to $817.4 million. And specifically, the men’s clothing product segment is estimated to be worth 33.1 per cent of industry revenue.

“Strong consumer demand and rapid introduction of new clothing lines has characterised the growth phase of the industry,” said the report. “This has resulted in an increase in the number of fashion brands that cater to plus size consumers. As more retailers jump on the plus size bandwagon, the number of enterprises in the industry has grown.”

No more daggy clothes

johnny-bigg-retail-apparel-groupOne company that has experienced high customer demand for plus-sized menswear is Johnny Bigg, owned by the Retail Apparel Group.

According to Julian Hayman, founder of plus-size menswear store Johnny Bigg, since the brand relaunched almost three years ago, it has experienced 30 to 40 per cent growth and plans are currently in the works for the brand to grow from 20 to 30 stores by June 2017 and 50 by 2018. Stores are currently located in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia, with a new store to open in Perth in the new year.

“[When we started], we could see a lot of demand in other businesses in the US and UK where guys were looking for bigger sizes, but no-one has been looking after this guy for so long [in Australia]. And recently, guys are much more concerned about their grooming and looking good when they go out. We’ve been unbelievably surprised by the response,” Hayman told IRW.

“I just think there have been very few retailers out there doing it, so this guy has had to shop online or get custom-made clothing. Perception-wise, everyone thought the market wouldn’t be there for these men, because it seemed like he wasn’t interested in fashion…It’s been a big eye-opener for us in terms of the guys out there who are bigger, muscled, taller or larger and who just had nowhere to shop.”

Johnny Bigg is targeting fashion conscious larger men

Johnny Bigg’s waist sizes range from 36” to 56” and tops are between XL and 8 XL. The brand also offers a wide range of shoes including larger sizes, from nine to 15.

While there are fashion-forward retailers for plus-size women, clothing for larger men has traditionally been “very daggy and conservative” and little investment has been made by retailers to create a stylish atmosphere for those customers to shop in, claimed Hayman.

“We decided that we would provide a modern, contemporary environment in mainstream shopping centres across the country to cater to this guy, and we’re offering head-to-toe fashionable clothes. What you see in a Tarocash store or yd, you’ll see exactly in our business,” Hayman said.

“What’s critical for our guy is he needs to be comfortable and stylish, so there are a lot of stretch fabrications in most of our product and a lot of the fabrics are 100 per cent cotton or linen and breathable.”

According to Hayman, the focus of staff is to create an environment for customers where they don’t feel threatened where they feel welcome into the store and larger change rooms are provided to for extra comfort and privacy.

“When our customer comes in, our staff is trained to style him up and make him feel good, so when he leaves us, it’s not about just trying to sell him a garment or an outfit to make a sale. We’re paying a lot of attention to making him feel better about himself when he leaves the store. Why should he be treated any differently to anyone else?”

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