How Lane Bryant motivated Glamour magazine to prioritize its plus-sized readers

Glamour magazine’s first-ever partnership with a retailer will highlight a demographic more often shunned by mainstream fashion media. In teaming with Lane Bryant, the publisher is courting its plus-sized readership, an audience that has been rapidly gaining cache in recent months.

Lane Bryant approached Glamour for a multi-level partnership, one that includes a special edition of the magazine, a collaboration on three body-empowerment videos, and a retail collection. In September 2016, a line of plus-size, fashion-forward clothing will premiere in 75 Lane Bryant stores and online, created with Glamour associate fashion writer Lauren Chan and deputy fashion director Sasha Iglehart.

Connie Anne Phillips, Glamour’s publisher and chief revenue officer, said that what convinced her to team the magazine with a retailer for a long-standing partnership was Lane Bryant’s leadership: CEO Linda Heasley and CMO Bryan Beitler, who caused her to take a new look at Glamour’s readers.

“Heasley has set out to change the conversation that women are having in regard to their bodies, and the fashion choices they have,” said Phillips. “She and Bryan Beitler have real expertise and understanding of how their customer is being underserved in the fashion market.”

Glamour has since conducted a study of its audience that found 80 percent of plus-size readers felt underserved by the fashion industry. Two-thirds of them reported being happy with their bodies. Heasley and Beitler also pointed out to Glamour that the plus-size shoppers’ spending power is between $25 and $40 billion.

Glamour’s first retail line collaboration will target that consumer, aiming to provide trendy fashion options in sizes above a 12. Before the collection hits in September, Glamour’s fashion editors will be training Lane Bryant associates to better provide style and fashion advice to customers.

“The fashion industry needs to see who these women are and what they stand for,” said Beitler. “Women have been hammered for so long by the media that there’s one perfect body type. There’s room for Lane Bryant to lead this conversation, and uplift the women who do want to be seen and celebrated. They want great fashion.”

Beitler said that Lane Bryant is working to reverse the antiquated notion that plus-size fashion is meant to artfully cover women’s bodies; it is a recognition that its fashion-forward customers’ wants, needs and opinions are increasingly the mainstream. Glamour magazine, for its part, seeks to make amends to the majority of its readers who were feeling shafted by the current media.

“We’re addressing this issue in a multifaceted way, by providing inspiration that mainstream fashion magazines often overlook,” said Phillips. “Our goal is to drive more shoppers into stores.”

“The media is responding, finally — it’s very much in line with a culturally responsive move that amplifies the conversation,” said Mike Karam, head of digital and integrated strategy at Laird + Partners. “Other brands and media outlets are jumping on where Lane Bryant helped to get the conversation.”

Glamour isn’t the first publisher to see an opportunity for a retail collection under an existing brand. Fashion media company Who What Wear tapped its editors’ sensibilities and audience insight to create an ongoing line of fashionable but affordable work apparel for Target stores.

Glamour, now, is hoping to do the same for the plus-size crowd.

“Lane Bryant is the perfect partnership for this — they want to change the conversation and I was so impressed by their responsibility to their consumer,” said Phillips. “This is a moment.”

That “moment,” Phillips recognizes, is being enabled by the way social media and other apps have opened the conversation between media and consumers. Rather than speaking down from its pedestal to readers, Glamour, and other publications, are now involved in a back-and-forth thanks to Facebook comments and tweets. A new integration with a WhatsApp share button on online articles lets readers connect the magazine’s content to their communities on the messaging app.

“Our goal is to always be where the Glamour woman is,” said Glamour’s senior executive digital director Annie Fox.

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