Size matters: fashion and inclusion
"How can you be an 'inclusive' brand when you only go up to a size 20?"
This is a valid question and it's one we've been asked a lot recently, so I thought it would be prudent to address it here.
Until now, we've had the enjoyable position of being supported by people who came across the brand when it was in development (during 2018) and who have seen it set and work towards its goals.
However, if you've come across us recently - let's say, you saw an advert on social media - it's understandable that you would read about our ethos on inclusion and feel disappointed at a size range of 8-20. I imagine part of that is because lots of companies talk about being diverse and inclusive, but don't always live or invest in those values. It's created a sense of frustration - a "yeah, yeah" reaction - when brands use words like these.
But I think context is everything and that's why I'm writing this post. Kintsugi is a startup, created and built by yours truly with no external funding, just my savings. I like to think our website looks pretty slick, but one of the consequences of that may be that people assume we're bigger and more well-established than we are or that we have lots of people or resources. This isn't the case.
I set up Kintsugi to challenge the standard way of designing clothing, which doesn't place much focus (if any) on disabled people as customers. I discovered 'universal design', which centres around creating products and services that include as many end users as possible, regardless of things like size, gender, age and disability. This is a guiding principle that the company will stick to as it develops, but true inclusion is a continuous process, not an overnight achievement.
Kintsugi has been trading for a year. It took as long to develop the first collection and it was financial restraints that dictated the size range we could stock our products in. Not only that, but manufacturers have requirements around minimum order quantities and I was advised that, if I went beyond sizes 8-16, I'd be holding a lot of stock and risking a lot of that sitting dormant. I responded that the purpose of Kintsugi was to be inclusive, so I wanted to go further. We settled on 8-20.
When 59 boxes of clothing arrived at my house, the reality of this set in (and so did the panic). Looking back, I probably should have approached this whole process differently, creating minimum viable products in smaller numbers/ranges and making reiterations. Then I could have expanded on that. After all, any business and its products/services are a work in progress, as they constantly strive to improve.
But I probably tried to walk before I could run and, as a result, have a lot of stock, which I need to sell more of to enable me to reinvest, improve and expand. Hence the ads you'll be seeing.
But please know this: Kintsugi exists to make sure that people who are so frequently overlooked and sidelined have more choice. Primarily, this challenge is about disabilities and chronic illnesses and how to create clothing that accommodates and adds value without being bland or looking like scrubs! Being inclusive is our ambition, our purpose and our guiding principle - it's a continuous process and it sits behind everything the company does.
And we're not finished. In fact, we've only just begun.
Thank you for reading and, if you like what we're trying to do but we don't currently hold your size, please know we see you. Do keep getting in touch to let me know what you would buy if it were in your size - these comments are valued. We're working to be better and to improve our offering. And I'd love for you to follow us on social media or subscribe to our newsletter, so I can keep you updated with developments as they happen.
Your continued support and patience is appreciated.