The one (and only) Lane Bryant catalog

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Posted by HSG on June 04, 2005 at 06:54:04:

Most of the press releases that are put out by the various plus-size fashion retailers are of little consequence to anyone, except to those individuals who actually hold stock in the companies, or who plan on buying some.

But Charming Shoppes recently released a barrage of memoranda regarding their acquisition of a certain catalogue company, and in this case, it may be worth paying attention to the company's statements:

The acquisition of Crosstown Traders, Inc. provides Charming Shoppes with an infrastructure for the development and expansion of the Company's Direct-to-Consumer businesses, which will include the Company's catalog and e-commerce sales distribution channels. The development of the Company's Direct-to-Consumer operation is a key step in the preparation for the launch of the Company's own catalog for the Lane Bryant brand in October 2007, when the Lane Bryant catalog trademark reverts to the Company.

So, if we are reading it right, this means that the current so-called "Lane Bryant Catalog"--which is an utterly worthless publication that features plus-size clothing on straight-size (not even faux-plus) models, and is not affiliated with either the Lane Bryant chain, or with Charming Shoppes--will no longer be printed after October 2007.

Its demise is certainly welcome. Once this happens, it will no longer be necessary to explain to an understandably confused public why there are two unrelated plus-size clothing companies bearing exactly the same name.

And, as a general rule, all publications that showcase plus-size apparel on straight-size models should either reform their advertising practices, and begin using true plus-size models, or should close up shop, and make way for those that do.

But what makes this news significant is that the subsequent launch of a print catalogue by the "real" Lane Bryant (i.e., the Charming Shoppes incarnation) will be a marvellous opportunity for the dissemination of plus-size beauty--if it is done right.

The only stumbling block is that there are already dozens of other plus-size apparel catalogues on the market.

So how will Lane Bryant be able to differentiate its publication from those of its competitors?

The most effective way is also the most obvious:

By using genuinely full-figured models.

With the exception of Lands' End and a few smaller publications, most of the current plus-size catalogues use straight-size models to showcase their wares, and many others resort to the faux-plus approach, which is only marginally better.

If, by contrast, Lane Bryant features the industry's most gorgeous models who are size 14 or better, its catalogue will immediately distinguish itself from the rest.

* * *

While model selection will be far and away the most important criterion for the success of this catalogue, visual quality will also play a major role.

From the time of the Charming Shoppes acquisition, each campaign produced by Lane Bryant has improved on the last, until the Spring 2005 promotion, which proved unsurpassable.

This was the campaign that featured Crystal Renn, Maiysha, and other models in a dreamlike classical setting:

If Lane Bryant can produce a catalogue filled with images such as this, which match gorgeous settings and photography with models who exhibit timeless beauty, then the catalogue will be a runaway success. Customers will take pride in it, and will gladly share it with their friends, telling them, "See? Plus-size women can be fashionable--and gorgeous!"

This catalogue could have just as much impact a magazine. (After all, consider how iconic the catalogue put out by Victoria's Secret has become.) And indeed, in many ways, it could be better than a magazine, because at least its positive imagery will not be undermined by diet ads, or by weight-shame articles.

Lane Bryant demonstrated in the Spring 2005 campaign that it can create promotional images that practically qualify as works of art. If the company can produce a catalogue at a similar level of accomplishment, then it truly will be a sight to behold.

Hollie Lawing, the popular winner of last year's Lane Bryant modelling competition, in the contest photo that won her the majority of the public vote:

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