New York & Co.’s Growth Ve­hi­cle: Fash­ion to Fig­ure

WWD Digital Daily - - News - BY DAVID MOIN

Fash­ion to Fig­ure, a year af­ter be­ing ac­quired by New York & Co., is step­ping out.

The plus-size women’s busi­ness is re­launch­ing its e-com­merce site to stand apart from the web site of New York & Co., store open­ings are on the agenda, and Fash­ion to Fig­ure has tapped ac­tress and singer Danielle Brooks as its first “brand am­bas­sador” celebrity tie-in.

Through­out the hol­i­day sea­son, Brooks will be fea­tured in Fash­ion to Fig­ure’s mar­ket­ing, which will cel­e­brate “real woman, self-ex­pres­sion, body pos­i­tiv­ity and in­clu­siv­ity,” the com­pany said.

The as­so­ci­a­tion in­cludes three cap­sule col­lec­tions over hol­i­day cho­sen by Brooks and the Fash­ion to Fig­ure team.

“I get ex­cited talk­ing about the col­lec­tion be­cause ev­ery look gives me a ‘ yes girl, work it’ mo­ment, and now I’ll get to see so many women feel that same way,” Brooks told WWD.

“In this cam­paign we’re giv­ing women ev­ery­thing from se­quins, an­i­mal print and faux fur, to a show-stop­ping gown. This col­lec­tion should be re­named the ‘Where did you get that from?’ col­lec­tion, be­cause when you wear these looks, you’re go­ing to hear that every­where you go.”

Brooks de­scribed her per­sonal style as “al­most like a game show spin­ning wheel — one day I’ll land on a body-con dress and an­other day I’ll wear black over­alls with a col­or­ful crop top. My first choice is com­fort, but I do love a dress that shows off my curves,” said Brooks, who is best known for her role as Tasha “Taystee” Jef­fer­son on the Net­flix series “Orange Is the New Black” and for starring as Sofia in “The Color Pur­ple” on Broadway.

“I’m a pretty sporty lady. You can al­ways catch me in Brook­lyn rid­ing my scooter or a Citi Bike, so I feel most com­fort­able in some­thing with span­dex/ stretch. FTF jeans and panties are pretty great for that rea­son, among oth­ers.

They have mas­tered the su­per cute looks with­out com­pro­mis­ing the com­fort.

While I love the re­laxed comfy looks, I also love get­ting dolled-up as well. I feel the cap­sule looks I worked on choos­ing with the FTF de­sign team re­flect my glam­orous, red car­pet style. It’s not al­ways easy find­ing clothes that rep­re­sent who you are and how you feel when you’re in the dou­ble-digit sizes, but with my part­ner­ship with FTF, I plan to erase that is­sue and give hope to a lot of women and young girls. I want women to have what I didn’t have grow­ing up, and that’s sim­ply stylish, af­ford­able clothes.”

“She was in­volved in ev­ery­thing,” said Ni­cholas Ka­plan, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Fash­ion to Fig­ure, who co­founded the busi­ness in 2004 with his brother Michael. It even came down to last week’s photo shoot, where Brooks pulled to­gether a crew that was all plus-sizes, in­clud­ing the pho­tog­ra­pher, stylist, hair and makeup peo­ple.

“A plus-size gang — it’s a won­der­ful thing,” Ka­plan said. “Danielle is a very con­fi­dent, proud, em­pow­ered plus-size woman. She’s an Emmy and Tonynom­i­nated ac­tress who went to Juil­liard. She’s an inspiration to any woman.”

Fash­ion to Fig­ure, a smaller player in the plus-size mar­ket, op­er­ates eight stores and the web site. New York & Co. bought the busi­ness out of bank­ruptcy in No­vem­ber 2017 and in­te­grated Fash­ion to Fig­ure’s web site into its own e-com­merce site, but it breaks free on Thurs­day with the re­launch.

“Lever­age is a crit­i­cal word here,” Ka­plan said in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view. “It’s one thing to be an in­de­pen­dent com­pany. It’s an­other thing to be part of a $1 bil­lion com­pany with an in­cred­i­ble sup­ply chain.”

Con­sid­er­ing it was bank­rupt just a year ago, a rapid turn­around of Fash­ion to Fig­ure is in the works, fu­eled by the par­ent com­pany’s fi­nan­cial where­withal, cus­tomer data­base, real es­tate con­nec­tions, sup­ply chain and its celebrity plat­form, in­clud­ing suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tions with Eva Men­des and Gabrielle Union. This past sum­mer, New York & Co. formed a part­ner­ship with Kate Hud­son.

Be­ing un­der the wings of New York &

Co., Ka­plan said, “cer­tainly gives us an op­por­tu­nity to do a lot more — and do it a lot bet­ter than we had done be­fore.” He said the Fash­ion to Fig­ure strat­egy con­tin­ues to be about “com­mu­nity build­ing” and is now mov­ing onto “a na­tional stage” through its

Ac­tress Danielle Brooks says col­lab­o­rat­ing with the plus-size brand has given her a “yes girl, work it” mo­ment.

om­nichan­nel ap­proach.

“We def­i­nitely see great op­por­tu­nity in cities in ma­jor mar­kets,” Ka­plan said, dis­cussing the plan to open stores. Three are open­ing later this year, in At­lanta’s Cum­ber­land Mall and the Chicago Ridge and North River­side cen­ters in the Chicago area.

The com­pany plans to ac­cel­er­ate brickand-mor­tar growth in 2019. “We be­lieve in stores. They rep­re­sent the place where peo­ple re­ally en­gage,” Ka­plan said. “But we are an omni com­pany and be­lieve peo­ple shop omni.”

Asked why the com­pany de­cided to re­launch the web­site, Ka­plan replied, “Our cus­tomers said they wanted their own home. We felt the iden­tity of our brand is bet­ter served with its own URL and own web­site, to give our com­mu­nity [of shop­pers] their own home.”

Fash­ion to Fig­ure did have its own web site un­til it was in­te­grated into the New

York & Co. e-com­merce site, post-pur­chase. “To take a step for­ward, we’re tak­ing a step back­ward in terms of re­turn­ing to our roots from a dig­i­tal per­spec­tive,” Ka­plan said.

For the re­launch, “We are in­vest­ing a lot in the cre­ation of con­tent,” Ka­plan said. “The ex­pe­ri­ence will be­come a lot more in­ter­ac­tive, with video ca­pa­bil­ity, shop­pable look books and pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics so we are show­ing her what she may want. From a tech­no­log­i­cal per­spec­tive, we are us­ing a lot of per­son­al­iza­tion tools.”

The Ka­plan broth­ers are the great­grand­sons of Lena Bryant, founder of the plus-size chain Lane Bryant. “Peo­ple talk about the op­por­tu­nity in the plus-size mar­ket, but it’s re­ally in our blood,” said Ni­cholas, who con­sid­ers him­self “a mem­ber of the first fam­ily of full-size fash­ion.”

“There are still not enough op­tions for plus-size women,” he ob­served.

“The av­er­age Amer­i­can woman is a size 14 to 16. That rep­re­sents 68 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion.”

Asked how he feels com­pet­ing with Lane Bryant, Ka­plan replied, “I don’t look at it as com­pet­ing with my his­tory. I look at it as a con­tin­ued pro­gres­sion for the in­dus­try catch­ing up to who the Amer­i­can woman is.”

Whether it’s Lane Bryant, Cather­ine’s or Elo­quii, which was just bought by Wal­mart, “we all have our brand iden­ti­ties and who we speak to,” Ka­plan said. “Lane Bryant has a large in­ti­mate of­fer­ing. Cather­ine’s has its com­po­nent. Elo­quii has its com­po­nent as well.

Fash­ion to Fig­ure, he said, “stands for fash­ion first, for de­vel­op­ing a good con­sis­tent fit, ac­ces­si­bil­ity and value. We have the trends cov­ered and the cus­tomer knows we’re giv­ing her ev­ery­day value. We’re not play­ing the high-low game.

“We are a move­ment, not just a brand, a cel­e­bra­tion with women with plus curves. I grew up with it.”

As re­ported, New York & Com­pany Inc. will change its name to RTW Re­tail­winds later this month, to re­flect its “rein­ven­tion” from a mono­brand to a multi­brand “life­style” re­tail plat­form. The com­pany has been gath­er­ing mo­men­tum, bring­ing in ad­di­tional celebri­ties, ac­quir­ing Fash­ion to Fig­ure and a lin­gerie brand in the works. It has big plans for the Kate Hud­son col­lec­tion, which has yet to be named. Once the cor­po­rate name change oc­curs, the stock will be listed as RTW.

“We are at a defin­ing mo­ment in our cor­po­rate rein­ven­tion, with a proven track record for de­vel­op­ing celebrity and sub­brand col­lec­tions that res­onate with our con­sumers,” said Greg Scott, chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of New York & Co. “Fash­ion to Fig­ure’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Danielle Brooks re­flects the team’s abil­ity to lever­age our com­pet­i­tive as­sets of speed, fash­ion, value and com­mu­nity as crit­i­cal points of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion while also am­pli­fy­ing the brand’s aware­ness and emo­tional con­nec­tion through celebrity part­ner­ships.”

Danielle Brooks fea­tured in a lookse­lected from her col­lab­o­ra­tionwith FTF.

Danielle Brooks (cen­ter) on the photo shoot with a plus-size crew.

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