Partridge, Alison Stickney, Old Navy’s Head of Women’s and Maternity Merchandising, beams as she recounts how the last three years have led to BODEQUALITY. Every garment in the Old Navy women’s division will be available in sizes 0-28 (with size 30 accessible only online) in the same styles, for the same price, starting August 20. “Isn’t it easy? We now offer outfits for all of the plus-size women in America,” Stickney says.
That’s correct, Old Navy won’t have a plus-size department anymore since the entire store will be merged to allow for smooth browsing regardless of size. Old Navy will be the only company of its size to guarantee real size inclusiveness throughout its 1200 locations (and yes, that includes international stores as well).
“After extensive research in which we spent time listening, learning, and walking in our consumers’ shoes, it was apparent that we could do more to satisfy their requirements and ensure that every woman saw herself in our brand,” Nancy Green, President and CEO of Old Navy, stated via email. “BODEQUALITY marks a total shift in how we do business—from design and manufacturing to our in-store and online shopping experiences, and how we connect with customers across all brand touchpoints. This launch affirms our brand’s conviction in style democracy.”
Every aspect of BODEQUALITY is designed to guarantee that the phrase “inclusive” is respected rather than just tokenized. It’s a welcome change from the all-too-common practice of businesses just offering plus sizes online or in certain shops. It’s an experience that both me and Lindy West (per an Instagram story rage in June 2021) have had in the previous year—desiring to try on a dress but being advised to go home and purchase it online after standing in their stores.
These emotive experiences of having easy access to critical wardrobe essentials and inclusion were a motivating reason for Old Navy’s three-year overhaul of their plus-size strategy, which went beyond surface improvements. Partridge Stickney explains, “We recognized that it was going to take more than a rack or a tab on a site and that we had to fundamentally alter the way we work.” “It was the concept of providing a straightforward, all-inclusive purchasing experience in the retail business. Every product, in every size, is the same price. It doesn’t matter if you’re on our website or in one of our locations; there are no more guessing games; it’s just that simple.”
In terms of product development, Old Navy has updated all of their existing plus size grades by collaborating with the University of Oregon to create 3D avatars based on 389 body scans of actual women. This fit direction, Alison says, will be recognizable to existing customers (their sizes should remain the same), but the fit will be better and more comfortable, based on early feedback.
Following that, all in-store employees will be trained so that the in-store experience fits the diversity of clientele size. “We value democratization of style, but democracy of service is just as essential to us, so when you walk into an Old Navy shop, you should feel welcome no matter what size you wear,” Allison adds.
The training will address who the plus-size consumer is, the history of this company-wide initiative, how Old Navy’s “fit differentiator” assures the greatest fit, and how to change their own body language to be more inclusive. Finally, a marketing campaign to coincide with the in-store roll-out, showing women of all sizes with plus-size star Aidy Bryant, who will be the face of the launch, will be the frosting on the figurative, size-inclusive cake. Bryant’s image has been on the line’s inspiration board from day one, making this a relationship that seems like manifestation come to reality.
At the risk of sounding overly optimistic, I’m hoping that BODEQUALITY will prove to be more than simply a campaign, and that it will ignite change in the fashion world by removing the unwritten divide between straight and plus-size buyers. Because Old Navy is demonstrating it is feasible, and Alison is convinced that it is good business, businesses will no longer be able to claim “because it’s just not possible” as an explanation for why plus-size customers can’t buy in person.
“We hope it sparks a revolution, and that it eliminates the need for people to question this degree of inclusion. Obviously, this is a moment on August 20th, but it is not a moment in time for us. This is our company’s future.”