When 11 Honoré’s founder Patrick Herning and Danielle Williams Eke, the brand’s design director, began brainstorming around the idea of a private label late last year, the pair focused on one thing: client needs. Since its launch in 2017, the plus-size e-tailer has catered to a demographic long ignored by conventional fashion retailers. By offering designer wares from Marc Jacobs and Mary Katrantzou in sizes 12-20, they helped to take the conversation about size-inclusivity into the world of luxury. Given that polished aesthetic and runway focus, the in-house collection had to complement the existing lineup. “The intention of the private label was not to introduce something that is already out there,” shared Herning on the phone from Los Angeles. “It was to identify that blank space and fill that void.” Achieving that goal required data and plenty of it. “We took a deep dive and competitive analysis of the plus-size landscape,” says Williams Eke. “We wanted to know what customers weren’t getting from those brands and how we could touch on all those points.”
The 24-piece debut, which will release in three drops appears to do just that. Understated and easily accessorized, it hits the sweet spot between refined workwear and work-from-home comfort, composed of neutral separates with a splash of blue-grey. For Williams-Eke, the mood is equal parts 1980s power dressing and modern minimalism. “We loved Donna Karan and her seven easy pieces,” she says, referring to the iconic 1985 collection that launched Karan’s career. “It’s about versatility and being able to create a wardrobe that suits your lifestyle.” The Karan comparison feels apt; the unfussy sophistication of the clothes make them particularly appropriate for careerists in search of their next Zoom-ready look, be it a bias cut slip dress with hidden pockets or a sophisticated take on the sweatsuit. Currently, the workwear options for plus-size consumers are limited, with few brands delivering the kind of luxury in which 11 Honoré specializes. “We’ve always been an aspirational destination,” says Herning. “The audience is smaller when you’re talking about a piece that is $1,500, but when you have an average price point of $300, that audience grows.”
Connecting to said audience meant paying attention to the details. The pricing had to be right for starters. With its most expensive item topping out at $568, the collection is comparable to many contemporary lines. The extended size range (the collection goes from 12 to 26) also underwent an extensive fitting process with crowdsourced feedback. “The great thing is that our office is full of customers, and they were able to tell us so much in terms of the fit and size checks,” says Williams-Eke. “Fit is where a lot of brands get it wrong. Some still fit on dress forms instead of people. [When you do that], you don’t get to see how it works on a woman and what to adjust.” Special features were added to address concerns specific to sizes 12 and up: the ice blue slip dress in the new collection has straps wide enough to conceal bra straps and each blouse includes a hint of stretch to address subtle differences in shape.
The private label marks 11 Honoré’s first launch since the pandemic hit, a move many might consider a risky proposition. Still, Herning and Williams-Eke have navigated the obstacles that come with production delays and working remotely with a steady hand. Admittedly, the pandemic has prompted a shift in customer attitudes and buying patterns, though Herning is confident there’s still room for glamour. “It’s going to take a moment as we’re all reevaluating, but the beautiful thing about this collection is that it compliments how we dress today,” he says.
For Williams-Eke, the designs reflect many of the things she has been in search of for her own wardrobe. “I’ve always struggled with finding my go-to brand, whether it be contemporary or fast fashion,” she says. “Being plus size, you have to hop around to so many different places, whether they be contemporary or fashion, just to be able to find things that you love.” With her first drop launching today and a second athleisure-focused capsule already in the works, the designer is hopeful 11 Honoré will become a mainstay. Says Williams-Eke, “I hope that women look to us first and we become their go-to.”