By: Fatima Arkin Special to the Star, Published on Mon Apr 15 2013
Toronto plus-size fashion blogger Karyn Johnson was nervous. Really nervous. The 32-year-old online marketing manager was about to model lingerie, in a photo shoot for plus-size clothing company Addition Elle. Then Johnson thought about her readers, and her concerns vanished. “I knew that when the images were released, my followers would be proud and encouraging,” Johnson says.
More than 13,000 people read the fashionista’s blog, KillerKurves.ca. As an authority on plus-size style, Johnson felt like she had a responsibility to participate in the Addition Elle campaign. “I had to represent for plus-size women,” she says. “I’m doing it for them.”
The bold campaign features Johnson, as well as two other plus-size fashion bloggers — Montrealer Sarah St Fleur and New Yorker Nadia Aboulhosn.
“Partnering up with these bloggers gives us some credibility to a fashionable, younger demographic,” said Roslyn Griner, vice-president of marketing for Addition Elle. “These bloggers are the source of where to buy clothes, which items fit their body. They’re actually becoming stars in their own right.”
The strategy seems to be paying off. “We definitely see a correlation between the lists in sales and the bras that are being voted as (the bloggers’) favourites,” said Griner.
Other clothing companies have partnered with bloggers, but Addition Elle is one of the first in Canada to do so. Bloggers seem to be particularly useful in plus-size marketing. While many straight-size retailers turn to trendy Hollywood starlets, plus-size clothing companies face a problem. “There really aren’t a lot of beautiful, fashionable (plus-size) celebrity endorsers,” said Griner. In their absence, bloggers have arisen as new celebrities.
Johnson’s blog grew from her getting attention. After purchasing trendy frocks online, mostly from American stores, the self-described “plus-sized Barbie doll” found plus-sized women took notice.
“People always stop me,” she said. “They’ll be like ‘Oh my god, where did you get that dress? It’s so gorgeous.’” Eventually she became “overwhelmed with questions” and took to the blogosphere to share her fashion secrets. “I want women to feel beautiful at any size, and that starts with finding clothes that make you feel and look beautiful,” said Johnson.
Johnson launched KillerKurves.ca in December 2011. She now receives about 30 emails a week filled with questions about where to shop and comments like, “I didn’t see myself as beautiful. You showed me that I am.”
“Getting emails like that is so flattering,” said Johnson. “It makes me happy because I’ve been big my whole life. I know what they’re going through.”
In the U.S., collaborations between retailers and fashion bloggers — plus-size and not — have grown increasingly popular over the last two years.
Last November, Marie Denee, editor of the thecurvyfashionista.com, started working with Nordstrom to promote the department store’s plus-size section. “(Companies pairing with bloggers) reflects the voice of the plus-size consumer demanding more, and the brands replying with bloggers whose audiences and reach mirror their base,” said the California resident, whose blog averages roughly 65,000 unique visitors a month.
In Canada, women’s plus-size apparel accounts for 15 per cent of the $13-billion dollar women’s clothing market, according to the NPD Group, a global consumer market research firm. While sales in the overall market shrank by one per cent in the year ending Aug. 31, sales in the $1.9-billion plus-size section picked up.
“It all just makes sense,” says Maureen Atkinson, a senior partner at retail consultancy firm J.C. Williams Group who expected to see more collaborations between bloggers and retailers in Canada. “Bloggers give their readers more confidence in what companies are selling or doing. That sense of authority is important.”
Addition Elle’s campaign found a fan in Melissa Evans, a 30-year-old nurse in Conception Bay South, NL. After seeing the bloggers on The Morning Show, Evans checked out Johnson’s photos on Addition Elle’s site. Having been plus-size all her life — she currently hovers between a size 18 and 20 — Evans said it was nice to see other plus-size women in a beautiful lingerie ad.
“It made my heart happy,” she said. So much so that Evans emailed Johnson and said, “I look at your pictures and think Gorgeous! Gorgeous! Gorgeous!”