Old Navy is taking unprecedented steps toward size inclusivity after announcing its latest initiative, called BODEQUALITY, promising to present more inclusive images and in-store size offerings on its clothing — all equally priced.
The news was announced on Wednesday, just two days before its Friday kickoff both in stores and online. People across social media are already hopeful about what the move means for the future of plus-size shopping, noting that a number of Old Navy stores around the world have already implemented these changes.
"They did it right," Gianluca Russo, co-founder of the Power of Plus, tells Yahoo Life of Old Navy's push toward size inclusivity.
"A lot of times we see brands do it wrong. They'll extend [sizing] wrong, they will say they're inclusive and not be inclusive. They'll make so many mistakes along the way because they don't listen to the plus customer, they don't listen to this community," Russo explains. "But what we're seeing is that Old Navy took a step back, they took years to plan this, to make sure that they checked every box they could so that when they came out with this, it was right. And that it hit every point that it could and serves as many people as it could."
Old Navy released the specifics of the initiative in a press release which explains that the brand's 1,200-plus stores and online shops will be transformed into "fully size-integrated shopping experiences," displaying sizes 0-28 together rather than separating straight and plus sizes. Stores will also have mannequins in sizes 4, 12 and 18.
A representative for the clothing brand additionally tells Yahoo Life that BODEQUALITY — which comes from the words "body" and "equality" — is "an ongoing initiative created to revolutionize how women shop by creating a more size-inclusive environment, giving women everywhere the fashion and choices they deserve."
The implications of the in-store changes alone, Russo explains, are "extraordinary."
"Size expansion of in-store is largely unheard of. I can't think of another mass retailer that has up to a 28 in-store. So that's huge," he continues. "Also having diversity of mannequins in the store is huge, because it's so incredibly difficult to find mannequins in those sizes, because manufacturers just don't make them, so you have to get special orders. And so to get special orders for all 1,200 stores internationally is a huge investment."
The work that Old Navy has done to revolutionize the fit of its denim — by doing body scans of 398 women, running fit clinics, and partnering with full-time fit models in a size 8 and 20 — as well as the brand's promise to price all sizes the same, are also of utmost importance for both the company and the industry as a whole.
"Differential pricing has long been a sore spot in the plus-size shopping experience," Nadia Boujarwah, CEO and co-founder of the leading retailer for plus-size women Dia & Co, tells Yahoo Life. "Raw materials make up a large portion of the cost of a garment, so when more material is required, costs can go up. However, this is just as true between a size 0 and a size 6, but historically, only plus-size consumers have been asked to pay more. Moving away from this approach is a huge step forward in equitably serving our community."
Russo points out that the brand's decision is further proof that Old Navy has been listening to the needs of the plus community, specifically after a petition was created in 2014 demanding that the brand stop up-charging for women's plus-size clothing. At the time, Gap Inc. spokeswoman Debbie Felix released a statement defending the cost. "This higher price point reflects the selection of unique fabrics and design elements," it read, according to TODAY.
Nearly seven years later, Old Navy has done the work to affirm that the investment is a worthy one.
"The most important thing is to center community in this work. Because when you do that, you will always have the best return on investment," Russo explains. "If you try to do this work without actually talking to this customer, without talking to these women, without really digging into this community, you're never going to be able to serve them in the way they deserve to be served."
Old Navy's marketing surrounding the new initiative is reflective of the conversations that the brand has had with consumers, as it speaks to the specific concerns that women shared and responds directly to them.
The response from the plus community thus far demonstrates that the company's efforts are not only encouraging for consumers, but also life changing — especially for those who have already seen their sizes displayed at the front of the store for the very first time.
"It should always be that normal. But when you get to see it for the first time, it's like, 'Wow, I'm part of this. I'm accepted here and I'm worthy to be a part of this conversation,'" Russo explains. "This is always about more than just clothes. It is always about more than that because it really is a transformative experience of finally feeling like you belong somewhere and that someone cares enough about you to dress you."