However, it no longer offers any styles in a size 22 or 24. The Curve range previously catered to sizes 18-24.
Dangerfield said it is working on what its size 22-24 offering will look like in future and asked customers to click a link to signal their interest in those sizes.
The decision has been widely criticised by customers, not only because it is a step backwards in terms of size diversity, but also because it was poorly communicated.
Dangerfield stopped producing Curve items in August, but didn’t tell the public until last week, after a customer shared the news on TikTok and it got picked up by media outlets.
Dangerfield is owned by Factory X, which also owns Gorman, Princess Highway, Alannah Hill and Jack London, and has over 40 stores in Australia and seven in New Zealand.
The explanation of why Dangerfield discontinued its Curve range came “too little, too late” for Holly Richards, the founder of Club Melon, a plus-size sportswear brand set to launch next year.
“The whole argument about fit, honestly, it’s pure laziness,” Richards told Inside Retail.
“I know that pattern-making is expensive, and grading is expensive, but it’s not that much of an investment to get your garment fitted to a plus-size model so that the pattern actually works for a large body. It’s not like you’re making clothes for 5 per cent of the market. This is 67 per cent of the market.”
She is referring to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ finding that 67 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese, which she sees as a rough indication of the level of demand for plus-size fashion. However, most of that demand goes unmet.
Plus-size brands make up just 6.7 per cent of Australia’s $16.5 billion clothing industry, IBISWorld found. In the US, they account for 19 per cent of that country’s US$113.8 billion women’s clothing market, according to NPD Group.
Richards believes the lack of plus-size clothing options is due to rampant fat-phobia, rather than any real design or manufacturing obstacles.
“Even just the way people talk about fat people or look at fat people, we’ve got so far to go,” she said.
While some retailers finally seem to be making progress in this space, they are still the exception.
American fashion brand Old Navy made headlines in August when it announced that it would start offering every style of women’s clothing in sizes 0-28 and XS-4X in stores, and up to a size 30 online. The retailer also got rid of the separate plus-size sections in its stores and rolled out new mannequins in diverse sizes as part of the overhaul.
“We are definitely heading in the right direction, but in terms of the scale of progress, we’re still in the very early stages of change,” Richards said.
Louise Grimmer, a retail researcher and senior lecturer in marketing at the Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, noted that fast fashion brands tend to take their cues from high fashion, where the preference is for small sizes and small models.
“The move toward more inclusivity in clothing design is coming from smaller, independent designers who were first to recognise a significant gap in the market for larger sizes to cater for the large numbers of consumers who are size 14-plus,” Grimmer told Inside Retail.
However, not everyone agrees on what inclusivity in clothing design looks like.
While Grimmer sees Dangerfield’s expansion of its straight-size range up to a size 20 as an example of progress, Richards sees it as the bare minimum.
“I personally don’t call 20 a plus-size, because the average Australian woman is a [size] 18 to 20. You’d hope that clothing brands are catering to the average Australian woman,” she said.
According to some estimates, the average Australian woman wears a size 14-16, but with most straight-size ranges only going up to a size 16, Richards’ point still stands.
“That doesn’t make sense,” she said.
One thing that Grimmer and Richards do agree on is that Dangerfield should have done a better job communicating the changes it was making to its Curve range to customers.
“It’s always best to be transparent, timely and up front with consumers,” Grimmer said.
“What we often find in communications problems is that consumers are usually more concerned with a lack of communication or ill-timed communication, than with the message itself.”
That was certainly the case with Richards.
“I was really disappointed, especially the way it was announced. There was no explanation in the beginning as to the reason why [it had discontinued the Curve range], or what the mitigation plans were to correct it,” she said.
“I get and respect that it takes time [to get fit right], but [there is] a way you can do it that’s actually inclusive and considerate.”
In a competitive market like fashion, Grimmer advised brands to learn from Dangerfield’s mistake.
“Dangerfield, and other retailers, should learn from this and ensure that they concentrate on effective communications with their customers. There is so much competition in the clothing industry these days that consumers can easily reject a brand based on this type of communication fail,” she said.
“Time will tell what impact this has on the brand.”