Michael Kaplan was probably always going to make on-trend fashion accessible for curvier women. O.G. gold spinner Lena H. Bryant (Lane Bryant,) was his great grandmother. And here he is the CEO of Fashion To Figure, a chain of physical stores that offer curvier women the rare thrill to be able to walk into a store and walk out with fly threads that fit. They sell their affordable deep neckline jumpsuits, palazzo pants and velvet keyhole dresses, sized “0-3,” (12-24,) online too. (Peep the romantical dresses for their spring season below.)
Michael and his bro, COO Nicholas Kaplan opened the first Fashion to Figure in a New York suburban shopping mall in October 2004, and now they roll deep with 25 stores. Reached by e-mail we asked Michael about how their 121 years of history of fashion design for curvier women helps them nail size-inclusive fit, why most brands still fail women who wear midi dresses larger than a size 12, and why it will be a while before the market is saturated.
You could it was genetically predetermined that you would do this– any chance you smell a bandwagon thing happening?
Yes. There is a big bandwagon now. But, it’s like anything else, you’re only going to be successful if you love what you do. We live for this at Fashion To Figure. Meantime, many people entering the market will find it’s very nuanced and segmented versus a single characteristic mass market opportunity.
What do you and your brother bring to this business as men?
We don’t really think that way. We believe strongly that fashion is a state of mind not a size range or gender specific. In our case, we bring countless hours on the store floor from many many years working directly and personally with our customers. We like to think we’re great retailers, practitioners, product people, and business people. This is all guided by the customer and our desire to help – not being one sex or another.
How do online sales compare to in-store sales — recent numbers?
The channels work together. But online grows much faster.
What is there still left to do for these women — what can’t they have yet?
Loads to do still. There is still is mass dislocation between supply of fashion and apparel and the demand or market size above size 12. More choices, more stores, more categories, more specialization – everything. There is a long way to go for this customer.
What complaint do you hear the most from this market?
Traditionally the complaint has been that there are not enough choice – but thankfully that’s changing. It is a very segmented and nuanced market. Frankly, all women in every corner of the ‘plus’ market want what every other segment has – a ton of players serving them and many choices geared for them. It will be a while before this market is saturated though there has been some good movement in the past few years.
Are there ways brands address this market but still sideline it or don’t do women justice?
When large format stores go into this segment at first there is enthusiasm but I wonder, compared to the majority of what they offer, whether it eventually becomes another reminder to the customer about their having less choices than their friends. Like at first it’s great Target brings good product to market but when you go into the store and it’s 500 feet versus 50,000 feet your friends have to choose from, I’m sure that’s a downer.
Any heirlooms you have from Ms. Bryant with a story? What would she say about the latest campaign
We have all the heirlooms, some in our offices. But I think she wouldn’t look at us as much as the market and say it’s great things are getting better for this customer, this woman for whom she worked so hard.
Other than business, what kinship do you share with her? Anything relatives remark on?
My great-grandmother died September 26th 1951 – my birthday is September 26th. I think my brother and I bring a great passion for being successful like she did.
How did Fashion to Figure decide which sizes to offer?
This is the advantage of drawing on more than 100 years of history and more than ten year’ experience being on the store floor ourselves with our guests. We know our audience and our segment within this broader market. We focus on that and size around that. It’s the same for any fashion company. Not all people are proportioned the same. We have a point of view based on our guest experience and we work around that. Our product and technical teams are great at this and work very hard to please our customers.
Fashion to Figure’s prices are affordable. How do you keep their costs of production low to charge customers low prices?
This is part of the value added of FTF – we provide on-trend fashion at a quality, fit and price level we think works really well for our guests. This is the result of years of refining our supply chain and operating with excellence on the merchandise side of our organization. We very much feel this is our area of differentiation and our ongoing job to continue to offer hundreds of on-trend styles per month within basic, dressy and casual areas that convey a fashion, fit, quality and price relationship our guests love. It’s what we’ve been doing for more than a decade at Fashion to Figure.
People talk about how larger sizes are more labor, can you talk about why this is said?
It’s more fabric consumption and a different yield equation per garment. It’s not really about the labor. But it’s our job to deal with that and just deliver on-trend quality merchandise to our guests at a compelling price.
When you hire, do you consider size or personal stories in addition to job requirements?
We believe fashion is a state of mind not a size range. Consequently we have tremendous diversity in our stores and our people. People who really love a fast pace fashion experiential environment and taking care of others flourish at Fashion to Figure.