And why the brand is just now experimenting with physical stores.
There are (sadly) only a few brand names that come to mind when talking about the forefront of the plus-size retail industry, but Eloquii, an online powerhouse that designs up to a size 28, is almost always the one mentioned right away — and sometimes the only one mentioned at all.
The e-commerce retailer has been making plus-size clothes for women since 2014, which is way before mainstream media shifted to focus on body positivity and straight-size brands began tinkering with extending their sizes by one additional X or two.
Three years later, Eloquii has opened its very first brick-and-mortar store (just a few days ago), though only temporarily: a pop-up boutique inside the Pentagon City Mall in Washington DC, an area that creative director Jodi Arnold says is the brand’s second-largest market, right behind the New York tri-state area.
Creating a store atmosphere that’s welcoming, friendly, and easy to navigate was one of the primary goals for the brand’s first pop-up shop. “I don't think the boutique experience is anything she has had,” says Arnold, referring to the typical plus-size shopper and the lacking quality of stores dedicated to her size. “She hasn't had many opportunities to shop in a really nice environment.”
While the store is merchandised thoughtfully with some of Eloquii’s best-selling items and exclusives, Arnold says that making the boutique a community space for plus-size women was just as important as stocking the shelves with clothes that fit. “We didn't pack the store full. We didn't put out a ton of merchandise — we wanted it to feel open and spacious and inviting.” She notes that in the plus departments of bigger multi-brand stores, “stuff is jammed into the racks or it's hanging on the floor. It always felt like the plus section didn't get the kind of care and love that the contemporary floor did.”
Opening a boutique in 2017 is an impressive feat, even if it’s only temporary. (“This isn’t a time people are opening stores. It's the time they're closing stores,” Arnold points out.) But for one of the plus-size community’s biggest champions, it’s been a long time coming to finally get a physical footprint.
When I ask about the feedback she’s received in the past few days, Arnold recalls the opening night: “The joy that I saw in these women, being able to shop — she hasn't had the opportunities that everybody else has had.”
While there have been considerable improvements to the plus-size shopping experience in the past few years — thanks to companies like Dia & Co. and Stitch Fix, which just added over 90 plus-size brands to its designer list — there’s still a long way to go. Arnold acknowledges that the industry has recently “raced forward,” but is a bit skeptical that straight-size brands and retailers will make the full commitment to serving the plus woman. “I'm kind of curious to see if a lot of the high-end designers who had plus-size models on their runways really will extend their sizing range.”
The DC shop will remain open for the next three months. After that, Eloquii has a few additional temporary pop-ups planned for the year, but as of now there are no definitive plans to open a permanent, full-time store. “We want to continue this experiment through the rest of the year — with different areas and different concepts and different store feelings — and see what she's really looking for.”
But odds are the brand won’t have to dig that deep; it seems like Eloquii already knows. “She doesn't want you to talk to her about how she can look better, or flatter her figure,” says Arnold. Really, she just wants to shop.