Over the course of the past week, women have taken to social media to share their stories of strength, perseverance, and identity, from being fat-shamed throughout their youth to navigating and escaping toxic relationships, all in hopes of becoming members of the Good American #GoodSquad as part of its fifth annual Open Casting.
A central part of the fashion brand — founded by Emma Grede and Khloé Kardashian in 2016 — since its start, the annual casting call allows shoppers across the size spectrum — with or without prior modeling experience — to apply to model for Good American. Winners go on to not only be featured in the brand’s spring campaign but receive modeling training courses through Natural Models, with the opportunity to get signed on.
By leading the way in making models of various shapes and sizes central to its imagery, the brand has attracted a loyal customer base.
“In this industry, curve-washing and tokenization have become the norm,” says fashion influencer and editor Bella Gerard. “To me, Good American's body representation feels genuine. Their campaigns feel inclusive, and I think that's why shoppers like myself are so happy to sing the brand's praises.”
“The Open Casting is probably the thing that I get DMs or stopped in the street about the most because people get to see a version of themselves [represented],” says Grede, who recently made Entrepreneur's 100 Women of Influence list.
According to her, in the beginning, Good American “had no choice but to do Open Casting,” given the lack of visible plus-size models. While back then, curve models were slowly being integrated into top agencies like IMG, representation was scarce, especially in e-commerce. Clothing was often showcased on straight-size models, even when plus-size offerings were available, as many failed to recognize the importance of including multiple body types. While the pool of professional and fit model talent has grown exponentially since then thanks to fashion’s new embrace of size inclusivity, Grede believes that “putting the spotlight back on our customers [continues to] allow us to reach a super diverse group of women.”
This also has to do with the products. Among the most prominent pain points for plus-size shoppers is the search for well-fitting denim. With this in mind, Good American has spent the past six years refining its process by using real customers as fit models and experimenting with new sizing methods.
“I positively dread buying jeans, but I've never had a negative experience shopping Good American,” Gerard says. “That's not to say every pair I try fits like a glove, but it's more about the experience. High-end denim retailers can often give off exclusive vibes but the Good American site feels especially welcoming, providing ample information about style and fit and including a wide range of models on site.”
She is not alone. According to Good American — which offers styles in sizes 00 to 32 — 27% of its customers are currently shopping plus-size offerings. Since 2021, the demand for extended sizes grew by more than 50%, with products from the Always Fits category — positioned as being able to stretch up or down four sizes (say, size 14 to 18 or 28 to 32) — topping the list. This isn’t the only instance when Good American has created its own sizing: In 2018, the brand launched a size 15 to try and alleviate the frustrations that size 14 and 16 customers were having, which Grede told Harper’s Bazaar at the time was caused by switching from a straight-size to plus-size pattern during production.
To Grede, this type of innovation has been key to success. “Depending on the time of the month, depending on the stage of your life, you're changing sizes a lot,” says Grede. “We’ve always been heavily data-driven and very analytical about the way we approach anything.” While Grede says that the brand is always working on “finding solutions” to improve fit, ultimately “there's no one-size-fits-all — it's really about doing something that works for different body types.”
Indeed, as successful as Good American has been at creating clothing for many body types, currently, it’s not a complete fit-all answer.
“I ordered a bunch of Good American jeans when I was doing my Jeans Science reporting last year,” says Virginia Sole-Smith, author of the Burnt Toast newsletter. “One pair was worth road-testing — by which I mean I wore it with the tags on for a day around my house — but stretched out really fast.” Sole-Smith credits that to being “what women's magazines call an ‘apple’ shape — wider in the middle, thinner in my legs,” a body type often overlooked in favor of an hourglass figure, the most common curvy body type represented in fashion.
While the goal has always been to cater to as many women as possible — with the slogan being “representing body acceptance” — Grede is aware of how much further inclusive the brand can grow to be: “We don't get everything right straight off the bat, but I think one of the things that we've done best is just [continue to] listen to customers.”
That’s precisely why the brand has focused on overlooked consumers and providing products like plus-size denim and shoes with extended widths for feet, calves, and thighs. The brand may not be perfect for every body — or for those who refuse to shop it because of Kardashians' history of controversial behavior that has ranged from advertising diet pills to being accused of fat-shaming — but for those who have finally found fashion-forward jeans that fit after years of ill-fitting denim, according to stylist Kam Throckmorton, it has become a “game-changer.” (Good American declined to comment on the criticism regarding Kardashian’s involvement in the brand.)
“My first interaction with the brand was while I was shopping for a client in Nordstrom and found a size 20 mixed in with the rest of the straight-size jeans,” says Throckmorton. “Of all of the brands I have worked with, it is the one that has brought several of my clients to tears because they felt so good in their jeans. I've had more than one clients say, ‘I don't care how much these costs, I want several pairs.’” (Jeans from Good American range from around $90 to $160.)
In 2016, when plus sizes were frequently separated from straight sizes or not carried in-store at all, Grede fought for the entire jeans size range to be offered together at Nordstrom stores. “I outlined the opportunity to serve a customer that wasn’t currently shopping at Nordstrom and was super upfront and clear about our priorities. This essentially meant they would have to re-merchandize their women’s section — and we understood how huge of an ask that was — but it was non-negotiable for us," she told Refinery29 in July. "The undertaking proved to be a success that inspired Nordstrom to rethink their sizing merchandising strategy across all stores and all brands nationwide.”
“I was encouraged when I found out that Good American would not sell to retailers unless they carried the entire size range,” says influencer Callie Richards. "This was encouraging for me as a shopper who’s looking for more brand experiences like this.”
Looking to the future, Grede hints that Good American will continue to experiment and invent new fit policies to best serve its customers. “When you make a product that works, people feel immediately seen and heard," she says. And it won’t stop there: Having recently launched a Good American collaboration with Zara, which notably expanded the Spanish brand’s sizing from XL to 5XL, she hints at another in-store collaboration coming soon.
The technology to invent a one-size-fits-all jean may be a fantasy right now, but for those who Good American has served so far, the feeling is nothing short of a dream.