The fashion industry has built its rep on exclusivity—which often means disregarding the needs of women who buy its products. Now Old Navy is trying something completely different: treating all women the same, no matter what size they wear. The Bodequality project represents a retail reinvention hyper-focused on customer-centricity and means the U.S. brand will now offer all of its women’s fashions in every size, with no price difference, across its 1,200 retail locations and online shop.
It’s quite the fashion statement—taking high-level concepts like inclusion and body positivity directly into the mainstream. Retooling everything from the nav bar on the brand’s site to the mannequins in stores, the multiyear project involved more than 20 cross-functional project teams and was nearly two decades in the making¬, beginning when Old Navy introduced extended sizes back in 2004.
“We set out to understand what women of all sizes wanted from fashion and the shopping experience and were inspired to revolutionize every area of our business,” explains Alison Partridge Stickney, head of women’s and maternity merchandising at Old Navy.
It’s a sound business strategy: The global plus-size clothing market is projected to reach US$696.7 billion by 2027, per a report by Allied Market Research.
Through years of research, design reviews and interviews with women, Old Navy examined everything from the placement of pockets on jeans to the lengths of tops. To create designs that would meet the needs it uncovered, the company partnered with the University of Oregon to create 3D digital avatars based on body scans of nearly 400 women. Rather than scaling up smaller sizes—a common industry practice—the team ran “fit clinics” with models in larger sizes to design specifically for their proportions. Full-time fit models in two sizes—one smaller, one larger—were also asked to model all clothing styles so the team could review the versions side by side. The result is an updated process focused on giving women a consistent fit at any size.
From there, the team turned its attention to the customer experience. The retailer had transformed 30 of its locations into “size-integrated concept stores” in 2019. Based on learnings gathered there in combo with the company’s other research, Old Navy decided customers won’t see any more separate “plus-size” sections. Online or in-store, all sizes will be grouped together and offered at the same price. The team also added new inclusive visual cues, like showing mannequins in three sizes and letting online shoppers select their preferred model size.
After testing its Bodequality shopping experience at pilot stores and incorporating customer feedback, the company rolled out the changes in August. And now it’s training all retail staff on the purpose of the Bodequality project as well as other inclusion topics, like how to use more inclusive body language.
Nancy Green, Old Navy president and CEO, calls the project “a full transformation” of the business: “We knew we had an opportunity to reach more women and create a shopping experience that made all women, no matter their size, feel that they belonged.”