Stylists like myself consider leggings to be a closet staple.
With the rise of the #gymselfie and celebrity athleisure brands like Kate Hudson’s Fabletics and Beyoncé’s Ivy Park, leggings and crop tees have never looked so on-trend outside of the gym. It’s a chill time to be alive in the fashion game.
So you’d think, given that there are so many awesome ethical brands coming out strong in the activewear game, I’d be thrilled. But there’s a big problem.
I’m too big to wear any of it, and most of my plus size style clients are, too.
Depending on which statistics you read, we make up at least 30% of the world’s population, and the average American woman now wears a size 16-18. Unfortunately, most ethical brands stop their sizing at 16, if they even go past a size 12.
While ethical and sustainable brands continue to hustle for greater good, they’re basically ushering the more than 2 billion people in the world who can’t wear their clothes to the accessories section. And I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m not interested in figuring out how many Fair Trade beanies it takes to make a women’s 2XL sweater. Nobody has time, patience, or budget for that.
A decade ago, brands could maybe argue that they weren’t sure the market was there, but today, the numbers are in, and plus size sales have outpaced straight-sized fashion for three years in a row. We’re spending the money, happily, with any retailer who will give us the respect and acknowledgement we deserve as fellow humans. We’re a $20 billion market. Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were putting that money – even a small fraction of it – towards businesses that support humane labor standards and sustainable sourcing?
Those uninitiated into the uplifting body positive world might make the mistake of believing that plus size people don’t buy or need sportswear because we don’t work out. What about US weightlifting olympian Sarah Robles and the other athletes in her weight class? At 273 pounds, the bronze medalist wasn’t wearing Fabletics, that’s for sure, but what ethical choices did she have for training wear?
The good news is, Vivacity Sportswear has women sizes 0-24 covered in buttery stretch modal and recycled plastic.
And while plenty of clothing companies will claim they have a strong code of ethics where labor is concerned, Vivacity founder Vivian Seyward walks the walk. She knows the stories of the manufacturers who make Vivacity happen, she knows their families and what’s on the line for them, and she takes a lot of pride in being able to keep her business local.
At a time when most designers couldn’t tell you what the factory floor looks like where their clothes are made, Seyward invited a local news crew to tour the family-owned hub where Vivacity is manufactured, while workers sewed on the machines. At a time where most ethical brands are turning customers over a size 16 away at the door, Vivacity started a #FITKNOWSNOSIZE campaign to encourage healthy acts of self-love for women of all shapes and sizes. Time will tell if Seyward’s successful with her approach, but the odds are pulling in her favor each time she shows both her workers and her customers respect and love.
Regardless of how anyone personally feels about the state of weight in the world, plus size people exist, and as far as the fashion industry is concerned, right now, we’re their best customers. I’d love to see more conscious brands expand their do-gooder attitude to a more inclusive world. We already know the business is there. In the meantime though, if you need me, I’ll be sweating it out at the gym in my sweatshop-free, plus size Vivacity pants.