‘Twee’ Clothing Company Laughs All the Way to the Bank—The Modcloth Success Story

modclothI like to think I’m a hard sell. I can hear my husband laughing now. But I am pretty quick to turn stuff down: “No, I don’t want fries with that.” “No, I don’t want to open a store credit card.” “No, I don’t want the extended warranty.”

So, when a company does get me to buy into something, I like to figure out how they won me over. This led me to do a bit of research on the company Modcloth.

Some things I have bought from Modcloth include: a cheese grater shaped like a hedgehog, a business card holder with a bird on it, and a necklace with a wishbone charm that I gave to my sister one Christmas. Breaking the turkey’s wishbone was a big tradition each Thanksgiving; waving the winning half in the losing twin’s face was an immediate wish come true.

This clothing and apartment décor online retailer is certainly an e-commerce success story. Call the clothes hipster, label the accessories “twee” (whatever that means—something to do with Zooey Deschanel), but let’s face it, money talks. To the tune of a reported $100 million in sales in 2012.

Of course, if the show Shark Tank has taught me anything, the next question is: “How much of that was profit?” While I couldn’t find that figure, I did discover TechCrunch reported last July that Modcloth laid off 15% of its workforce in one fell swoop. So, who knows.

Regardless, you don’t stay in business in the online world for 10 years without doing something right. Modcloth recently caught my ever-wandering attention when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a banner ad (seriously!) with three nicely dressed models frolicking in a field. And one of the models was not a size 0—nor a size 2, nor a size 4. This is noteworthy because size 4 may be the absolute largest you can expect in most commercial advertising. Source: The griping designers on Project Runway during the “real woman” challenge. Additional source: Any magazine you’ve ever seen.

Refusing on principal to click a banner ad, I went to the Modcloth website to do some investigating.

Screen Shot 2014-10-16 at 11.56.11 AMWhat I expected to see was a separate clothing collection labelled “plus-sized” or some other ghastly euphemism, being modelled by larger women and surrounded by text that reassures us that “big is beautiful!” and that you should “love yourself the way you are!”

What I saw instead were pictures of women of all sizes wearing cute clothes. No condescending categorization. No implication of shame or “otherness,” which was something that always rubbed me the wrong way in that Dove campaign. I saw pretty pictures of young, well-dressed women in a refreshingly thorough range of sizes.

To see “normal” models and “larger” models side by side is pretty cool. Also, that customers who wear larger sizes aren’t necessarily relegated to a different collection—a special section of the virtual store, if you will—is even cooler. Fashion blogger Nicolette Mason has just launched a line for Modcloth that is for sizes XS through 4X.

The takeaway: With thoughtfully designed content that’s mindful of its target audience’s needs without being patronizing, Modcloth has even won over notoriously cantankerous Jezebel writers. And if that’s not a success, I don’t know what is!

If you enjoyed this post, read more from Kristen here.

Kristen Jackson – Editor

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