11 Honoré Launches BIPOC Designers Initiative

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Danielle Williams Eke in Greta Constantine. Courtesy.

Spurred by last summer’s racial reckoning, which 11 Honoré design director Danielle Williams Eke dubs a “re-awakening of America in regards to diversity and inclusion,” the plus-size luxury retailer is launching a new, recurring initiative in which it will help BIPOC designers — of various categories, including contemporary, high end and indie — launch into extended sizing.

The six debut pieces, ranging in price from $550 to $2545 and dresses to trench coats, will be available on 11 Honoré’s site starting today.

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This initiative in particular was born out of a desire on Williams Eke’s part for the retailer to stock more Black designers. The company has been working with its first two designers — LaQuan Smith, known for his sultry, high-gloss catsuits, gowns and capri pants, and Greta Constantine, a peppy occasionwear brand fronted by Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong — for months to develop fit for the pieces plucked from the brands’ Spring/Summer collections.

Extended sizing is a category that has proven difficult for brands to get right due to fit issues, expense and general misunderstanding and neglect of the plus-size consumer. 11 Honoré’s objective has always been to help alleviate those issues, expanding access to luxury and high-end fashion to plus-size women — who have historically been relegated to unflattering, shape-concealing and oft-inconsistent offerings.

This initiative, beyond being a test by the site to see if customers will be excited by the designers, is an experiment in a new business model for the 11 Honoré.

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Developed with its partners, the initiative stretches the definition of “collaboration.” Instead of 11 Honoré designing with a designer, then producing the pieces itself, the e-commerce platform will buy off of designers’ existing collections. When 11 Honoré receives an order, it will pass it to its partners who will produce items as purchases come in — using a made-to-order model. This, all in hopes of alleviating stresses on both the company, which will not have to buy and hold inventory it’s not sure customers will want, and the designers, who will not have to produce and pay for production up front.

11 Honoré’s hope is that the arrangement will prove sustainable and that once designers learn how to do extended sizing through their first partnership with the company, they will opt to continue the relationship for their future collections. The brand has already said among itself, LaQuan Smith and Greta Constantine, there’s a mutual desire to work together again, but it remains to be seen what exactly that will look like, or when it will occur. After this first launch, the next designer 11 Honoré will bring into the fold is Romeo Hunte.

“Our hope is that we can continue to connect, or convince, or help these designers understand the importance of expanding their sizes, and understand that over 60 percent of women in America are plus sized — so it really is a benefit to their business as well,” Williams Eke said.

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