Dear Eloquii

 

****Hey guys, today I’m using the blog to write an open letter to one of my favorite online retailers who will be closing their doors. Plus sized shoppers are an under-served, largely ignored demographic, and instead of just complaining I’m doing my part to let the fashion world know that we’re here and we want real fashion choices!****

Dear Eloquii,

Last week you announced that you would be closing your plus-size concept store operating under The Limited. I’m not a fashion blogger, much less an influential one, but I’m writing this on the off chance that you or another plus-size retailer will read my thoughts as a plus-size shopper.

I’m 25 years old and an “in-betweener”: at a size 16/18, I can shop straight size for most things but some things I have to go plus size for (namely dresses, suits, and bras). I’m  finishing grad school and will soon be joining the work force, so I’m trying to develop a wardrobe appropriate for a young professional. Eloquii has really helped me develop my personal style this past year by offering chic blouses, classic dresses, and cute, well-fitting (!!!!) suiting separates that can take me from a job interview to a dinner date. Frankly, Eloquii filled a niche for the young, fashion-obsessed plus size customer who lives in the real world. Your target demographic remains massively untapped, and I can tell you why. ASOS Curve is great, but overall skews edgy and doesn’t have a lot of pieces that work for me every day (in addition to being above my price point). Lane Bryant caters to an older demographic, and Avenue works better for women on the larger end of plus size. Lines like Rachel Pally White Label and Igigi have great products, but as boutique labels they a) are out of many folk’s price ranges and b) can’t offer a broad range of styles that appeals to the mass market. Eloquii, as part of The Limited brand, has a huge advantage here, and you capitalized on it by not only offering many The Limited styles in Eloquii, but by going beyond being a copycat line to develop your own aesthetic.

The bottom line is, I am a loyal Eloquii customer because the concept is great! The designers clearly put some thought into what looks good on full-figured women. You acknowledged that plus size women are not all hourglass or pear shaped! The Shape My Style feature allows shoppers to find styles that are most flattering for their body type, and can choose from 5 different shapes (top heavy, bottom heavy, hourglass, boyish, and full waisted). Pants and skirts come in curvy fit (waist smaller than hip) and classic fits (waist larger than or equal to hip size). You focused on designing clothes that fit different body types, rather than trying to make every style fit every body type (which results in shapeless clothing, or spandex overkill).  Second, the clothes are fashionable. If I see a particular style in magazine, I cango to Eloquii and find a chic, plus sized version of it. Military, peplum, leather, prints- it’s all there! No more looking like grandma.

Unfortunately, there were many things that could have been done better from a branding perspective starting with the name. Distancing yourself from The Limited was a huge mistake. For example, I’ve never referred to your brand as “Eloquii by The Limited” to any of my friends, so you voluntarily divested yourself of a lot of social capital. Second, there was no advertising to speak of. Not once have I seen a print ad for Eloquii! The Limited only carries up to a size 14, so I would never have gone to your site to see the Eloquii tab (and neither would 90% of your other potential plus size customers). I never would have heard of your brand, in fact, had I not been a subscriber to The Curvy Fashionista blog. Speaking of bloggers, sending out gift cards or sample clothes for a social media campaign would have been the way to go if you were trying to drum up business through word of mouth. And while the durability and style of your clothes was on on point, a little less polyester and a little more natural fibers would have been great. As a practical matter, we thick girls get a little hot under all that non-breathing polyester!

You also shot yourselves in the foot by keeping the concept online. Online only is NEVER going to work if you are trying to go mainstream and your demographic isn’t solely the under-30 crowd who accept online shopping as part of their lifestyle. Forever 21+ remains profitable (despite lower quality and inconsistent sizing) because it is available in Forever 21 stores across the country, and it’s available in far more stores than you can count on one hand. I’m past the Forever 21 phase of my life, but I appreciate that they at least make their aesthetic available to a wider range of sizes. Target and Old Navy could definitely stand to expand their in-store plus offerings, but a customer can at least try something on to get a feel for the sizing so they can order online with some degree of confidence.

A few final thoughts. First, a glance at the comments on your Facebook page revealed many complaints about fit and pricing; I hope you take these with a grain of salt because consumers who really care about fashion will pay more for quality. Moreover, your pricing was right in line with comparable mainstream retailers like The Limited (of course), Gap, New York & Company, Ann Taylor, and White House|Black Market.  As for the complaints about fit, that will never be perfect. It’s impossible to make off-the-rack clothing that will fit every person perfectly. Proportions are different on every woman and some designs are simply meant to fit looser or tighter. However, that could have been mitigated with more in-store retailing.

Although I’m deeply disappointed in your decision, I will continue to shop Eloquii until the site closes down. However, I hope that you will do your best to put the brand in the hands of someone with the fortitude and foresight to give it a real shot of succeeding.

 

 

UPDATE 12/5/13

Eloquii will be back in spring 2014! More details at The Curvy Fashionista. I’ve definitely missed the brand and look forward to seeing what they do differently this time around. And I’m glad that the fashion industry is finally noticing that plus size women are not to be ignored!

 

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19 thoughts on “Dear Eloquii

  1. Stacey says:

    Lecie,
    You are right on target concerning retailers neglect of of the plus size woman. As an owner of Lola Getts Active ( made exclusively for women size 14-24) it amazes us how the retailers know the plus sizes woman’s buying power but no one wants to be the first to commit to having her as a customer. Here’s reality 65% of American woman are size 14 and up the number is going away…. Time for retailers who are struggling to survive pay attention to this wonderful customer

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  2. jodi arnold says:

    Hi Lecie
    I am Jodi Arnold the creative director for elqouii. Thanks so much for your comments.
    We are all so sad that this decision was made. I would love to stay in touch with you! please contact me when you can.
    jodi

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  3. Tabitha M. says:

    I think you hit every point that I could have made. Elqouii was one of the only brands that offers young plus size professional wear. I am in my 20’s and have been in the legal field since I was 21 and this is the first brand that I have found where my work clothes are similiar to that of my thin co-workers.

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  4. Nicole says:

    I too am a plus sized woman in my mid 20’s that LOVED shopping at Elqouii..it has made all the difference in being able to be confident and fashionable at work. I really am sad to hear that they are closing as I get the majority of my business wear from the website (at least once a month I am making an order). Where do we go now..who can we turn to to make sure its not all spandex and old lady wear…really upset to see it go

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  5. La says:

    was extremely upset and shared all the frustrations shared in your open letter. They not only have crushed the hopes of plus size women who are willing to pay a little more for quality clothing, they are sending a message that the plus size audience doesn’t matter. I couldn’t believe that after only 365 days they’re pulling the plug and it was only months after they opened stores, they were closed, which means they never even gave the program time to develop. It must be a group of idiot males running this organization, not understanding the female shopper, specifically the plus size shopper. Back to Macy’s we’ll go.

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  6. Maureen says:

    This letter was written extremely well and so on point. I’m absolutely devasted to learn of Eloquii’s closing. This quickly became my favorite store and was buying each week with the great sales. I agree that a primary online audience is difficult to target. I came upon Eloquii on a random online search a year ago; was excited to learn that it was part of The Limited as I was an avid Limited shopper until I “grew out of it.”…However was very reluctant to shop online until I was able to try something on to see what size I fell into. Thankfully I live in Illinois so I took a day, drove downtown to the WaterTower Place location and was able to not only able to determine my size with their line but also purchased many pieces in the brick and mortar. However it accomplished my goal, which was to learn my size so I could then shop online since there wasn’t another store near me. I truly wish The Limited would reconsider this decision and possibly do a re-launch with stronger marketing and larger brick and mortar offerings. Thank you.

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  7. Nicole says:

    I didn’t realize eloquii was closing until I got an email from them today. I just found eloquii in January and have ordered items from them every month since then. I found the website by a random websearch for plus size fashions, and thought it was strange that a company owned by The Limited, didn’t promote this better. I am am their target market. I am an avid shopper, both retail and online, fashion conscious, professional and plus sized. Yet I find out about this brand months after it launched and by accident. I wore a skirt I bought on the site and a couple of other plus size friends of mine, loved it and asked where I got it. I told them eloquii and neither of them had heard of it either. Again these are 2 more women right in square in the middle of their target market, who have never heard of them. That was a marketing plan destined to fail.

    Hopefully, someone picks up this brand and runs with it. There is definitely a market for it, but it needs to be properly courted and developed.

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  8. Reni says:

    I found out about Eloquii a few months ago and while I do like the design, the fabrics kept me from buying. I hate synthetic fabrics, I think they hold heat like nothing else. If being fat isn’t bad enough, being fat and sweaty is just pitiful. Lane Bryant may be stodgy and matronly but at least there are natural fibers in the fabric. The internet that cares about Eloquii’s product keeps groaning about the lack of marketing, but think for a moment. Why pay Lane Bryant prices for Walmart fabric? I know that cut and design counts for something but not as much as Eloquii is demanding.

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  9. Brittani says:

    I know I’m late seeing this and Eloquii is now closed, so this comment doesn’t matter so much, but I have to make it. As much as your letter struck a cord with me and really spoke a lot of how I felt about Eloquii, the dismissiveness of your comment about Facebook complaints about price and fit couldn’t get past me without me mentioning something as a reader and fellow blogger. I am under 30, but that doesn’t mean I love wearing teenybopper clothing to work. I am also an inbetweener size. I agree with 98 percent of your sentiments above. In fact, I hate that I almost always have to plan ahead months in advance to buy something online, (or at least start looking) when I should be able to go into a store and get, especially if it’s short notice. As annoying as it can be however, many plus sized retailers do get many opinions from and cater to the online crowd, (as I like to call it) who speak up through social media and view shopping online as a mainstream part of their retail experience. I’m not a Facebook proponent or anything like that and don’t deny that people can go a bit far on the site, but my problem was more with the implication that the complainers were basically cheap and not really people who care about fashion.
    Obviously, marketing played a HUGE role in this as well, but that’s not why I’m writing. Those complaining about the price and fit of Eloquii items were right int their experience. I agree that their price point is up there with some other mainstream brands –that are also too expensive for some of the items they present– and the sizing wasn’t just a little inconsistent on different body types but wildly inconsistent on the same one: mine. The only reason I even kept trying Eloquii items is because I’m a member of Gwynnie Bee, and could return them without having to actually pay for what I’d grown to learn was often disappointment. I’m sure others also had this experience of perpetual inconsistency. Couple that with an almost laughable return policy and that alone could’ve killed the brand.
    Also not to stereotype your age group like you did mine, but something that many 30+ somethings are not understanding, is that those of us in my age range and below have been to college and have much debt. Because of that we actually care a lot about quality because we have less money to spend on clothing, and that doesn’t seem like it’ll be changing anytime soon. I realize you were in law school, so I’m not saying you don’t understand that, but if I’m going to Pay 60-100 dollars for something, it had better be of great quality and a staple piece I can have for awhile, even without the fit/sizing errors. I’m not talking couture or anything but it had better not be falling apart next month. I had several Eloquii items come to me with unfinished hems or jewelry that would be falling apart upon arrival or shortly after, and I “really care about fashion” but am not going to keep buying from a place that I consistently have problems with, especially at some of those price points. I’m glad you didn’t have that experience, but I just wanted to present the other side of the coin, on top of the mistakes already made by the brand. That being said, I was grateful for a blog post that made me want to comment back. Too bad I didn’t see it at the time. I know you’re not a fashion blogger, but because of your insight, you should really consider sticking a few more fashion posts in from time to time. Cheers!

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    • Lisa says:

      Thanks for your comment! I appreciate the perspective. I think it just goes to show that the plus size market is NOT a monolith. I never paid full price for anything with all the sales (although over-aggressive markdowns may have cut into their profit margin and made it unsustainable). But, I love all my Eloquii pieces, and only sent one or two things back due to sizing/fit. If I’d been working full time and not in school, I’d have gladly paid full price for most of the items I bought. But I did mention & will repeat that for the price, I would have liked to see some higher quality fabrics than polyester and rayon.

      On rereading I was dismissive of the naysayers, mostly due to frustration. Eloquii was pretty much the only mid-range pricing option for plus size clothes that fit my personal style aesthetic. Torrid and a lot of ASOS is either too teenybopper or too clubby for me and Lane Bryant stuff is just FUG. Simply Be and City Chic are great, but shipping takes forever since they’re overseas. I know a lot of retailers excuse is that they only make cheap plus size clothes because we don’t buy at higher price points and that isn’t true for everyone.

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