While not widespread until the last 10 years, plus size models have been part of the fashion industry since the 1940’s. An industry-wide prejudice against plus size consumers has generally worked to keep them out of the majority, but the incredible expansion of the internet and catalog advertising in recent years has brought them into the mainstream. As an illustration, Lane Bryant, a plus size designer who has been around since the 1920’s, is now as universal in malls and shopping centers as GAP and Old Navy. They are generally regarded as one of the most prominent clients in the plus size model business.
The plus size designer industry has a handful of key players that have brought it from immaturity to prime-time in the past 15 years. Gary Dakin founded Ford 12+ modeling agency 25 years ago, and it remains a main influence in the plus size industry to this day. Wilhelmina 10/20 was founded by Susan Georget in 1994, and is widely recognized as growing the plus size model industry past just clothing retailers and manufacturers.
Due in part to the unbelievable accomplishments of these two agents, MODE magazine was launched in 1997 and saw instant success in the industry. As the first high-fashion magazine for the plus size designer industry, it brought a new sense of purpose and esteem to the models that it featured and a new consciousness of how refined the plus size fashion industry had become.
The business has not been without its difficulties, however. Around 2001 Versace, Valentino, Anne Klein Plus, and several other top designers stopped their plus size lines; a move that turned the industry on its head, and many recognize this as the beginning of the end for MODE magazine. At present, the only plus size magazine in the United States is Figure magazine, published by the parent company of Lane Bryant (Charming Shoppes).
Today, with no recognized plus size designer publication, the plus size industry is at somewhat of a impasse. The industry has gotten some publicity from publications like Vogue and Glamour, but this has been mostly “healthy image” and “self esteem” writing that has not translated into any positive direction for the industry in general. And with the availability of plus size models much greater than the demand, it is somewhat complicated for even the leaders to follow and manage successful careers. Some movement in the plus size designer world has been seen as recently as 2007 when a plus size design calendar, the Luscious and Fenomenal Calendar, received a respectable amount of attention and follow on success, but more is needed for real movement.