There's a new mega-player in the plus-size market that wants to disrupt the industry. Simply Be, a prominent U.K.-based size-inclusive brand, is turning its eye toward the U.S. with a global rebrand. It's here to abolish "token" curve models and celebrate the average woman, who just so happens to come in above-average retail sizing.
Simply Be's been present in the U.S. for the last six years (it was founded in the U.K. in 1999), but it's listening to its audience and pivoting to include more of what they need in an effort to grab more customers. After noticing an uptick in younger consumers, the brand's new direction focuses on young adult women, bringing with it U.S.-exclusive collections, monthly high-fashion-inspired campaigns featuring models that shoppers can relate to, and friendly pop-up shops (more on that later).
Leading the powerhouse global rebrand team is Topshop alum Rich Storer. Now the vice president of marketing for Simply Be’s U.S. team, he has an impressive resume that includes heading up global brand communications for the high-street favorite; a stint as the executive fashion and beauty director for the photographer Rankin and his bi-annual magazine, Hunger; and leading multiple award-winning global repositioning campaigns for a breadth of popular name brands. If you're going to relaunch your brand, he's the right guy to bring on board.
Simply Be’s relaunch includes a series of stateside-shot campaigns starring a budding group of young curve models. They show both upcoming and existing product in conceptualized pool-side shots and a Coachella-inspired lookbook. They also represent the brand's first venture into aspirational plus-size imagery, proving size hardly trumps just how "high-fashion" curve models and curve sizing can look.
The clothes, in short, are good. They're not new, they're not unexpected, they're not here to break Instagram. But, as Storer will tell you, that's kind of the point. "There is an outcry of girls who are saying 'Please give us something younger, fresher, and a bit cooler.' Like, 'We want something cropped, don’t cover us all up,' or, 'We want the same clothes that every other girl has.' ... We need to be the company that supplies what they’re asking for." It's trying to remedy what most plus-size markets haven't been doing and give shoppers all the options women see from straight-size brands. Simply Be has already been providing at least some of those options: With a massive selection ranging in size from 6 to 28, it's got its product bases covered. (The biggest issue is knowing what to buy.)
Storer says that the feedback he's received since joining the company has resulted in one resounding response: Plus-size women often feel uncomfortable shopping. "When you feel uncomfortable shopping — first thing, you’re not shopping," he says. "But you're also asking, 'Well, how do I style this?' because you’re not seeing [images] that are telling you what you could look like as a size 26, or as an 18. That’s because you’re flooded in the media with everybody that’s a size 0 to a 10, and it stops there. Then you’re going to tell yourself, 'I don’t know how to dress my body.'
"What I really want to do is show them you can wear it just the same."
To drive that home, Simply Be's site relaunch will include a shopping experience where looks and images tied to the corresponding campaigns are styled out for you. As opposed to having to page-by-page search the site for what to buy, shoppers will be provided recommendations, hopefully making their shopping experience not only easier, but enjoyable. Many straight-size retailers provide a similar option on their sites; providing this on a size-inclusive site and taking the stress out of the search process is one more way Simply Be is merely trying to match, effort for effort, the shopping experience other women already get.
As for animating the brand's new approach to shopping, Simply Be will also roll out pop-up shops across the country this summer. To create a safe space in which plus-size women can shop, Simply Be is enlisting a group of women in varying sizes to assist shoppers with finding their fit and style. “You’ll be able to digitally shop and try on clothes within our store in an environment that you'll feel safe and comfortable in," Storer explains.
Storer admits, sweating amid a long afternoon of shooting in the desert sun, that his deep motivation transcends beyond just a new website redesign. “I want to create a group of curve supers, and you can write that down.” And he's well on his way. Simply Be recently locked down two budding models to front its global campaigns and projects through the next year: Natalie Nootenb00m, whose sultry looks you may recognize from her familial ties to model/aunt Devon Aoki and DJ/uncle Steve Aoki; and Sarina Nowak, most recently spotted as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model and in a campaign for Khloe Kardashian’s brand Good American.
In aiming to redefine what the average supermodel looks like, Storer stirs up the conversation of where a size-inclusive brand's responsibilities lie when it comes to body positivity while remaining as aspirational as the rest of the fashion industry. "If [the customer] is confident in what they’re wearing and they can purchase from us and they can walk out the door feeling great, then I think the size conversation kind of gets put to one side because you feel empowered anyway. Clothing is an empowerment."
Simply Be is inclusive, but it's not shying away from the fact that it's still trying to be a fashion-driven brand. What brands reps aren't shy to explain is that it's neither looking to be an inventor of style nor a brand exclusive to plus-size; it’s just trying to bring regular-ass clothes to to regular-ass women. And damn, does the industry need that.