FullBeauty Is Building a Plus-size Fashion Empire

After a 123-year history in plus-size fashion, FullBeauty Brands is moving fast and looking to learn some new tricks as it seeks to bring in younger shoppers.

The company said on Wednesday that it acquired Dia & Co., which has both a size-inclusive marketplace and a styling service that uses algorithms and human stylists to recommend looks to shoppers.

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It’s the third deal in less than a year for FullBeauty, which also recently bought intimates brand Cuup and the trendy Eloquii, which was owned by Walmart.

FullBeauty — which grew out of the Redcats mail order business that was owned by PPR before the luxury giant changed its name to Kering —  already has a host of plus-size brands targeting Boomers and older Gen Xers, including Catherines, WomanWithin and Jessica London.

Now, the company is pushing for more.

“We’re good at taking a woman into one brand and introducing her to our other brands in the portfolio as well as introducing her to other categories,” said Jim Fogarty, who’s been FullBeauty’s chief executive officer for nearly five years, in an interview. “We had this really good network built for Boomers and older Gen X [shoppers] and we had always wanted to do a better job serving the younger demographic and younger Gen X and into the Millennial [customers].”

Now the market fallout in direct-to-consumer brands has opened up an opportunity for FullBeauty to both expand its established business while aggressively going after younger shoppers in the $81 billion women’s plus market.

“What you don’t want to do is take brands that are positioned to serve a certain demographic and somehow overnight try to make them younger,” Fogarty said. “It never works. It’s not true to who the brand is.”

Apparel from Dia & Co.
A look from Dia & Co.

Dia & Co. brings in younger shoppers and also some new skills.

Lydia Gilbert, cofounder of Dia & Co., will join FullBeauty and oversee the Dia styling business, which will be put to work across the company’s portfolio of brands.

Fogarty said the styling business, which resembles the Stitch Fix’s approach, ran into something of a squeeze.

“The cost of [customer] acquisition became enormously difficult for them driving that business,” he said.

“One of the things we have is we have over 5 million active customers in our own portfolio,” the CEO said. “We saw a lot of value in their own existing subscribers in their styling business as well as our ability to use that styling business with our own existing customer base.”

Dia & Co. is also arriving at FullBeauty with a marketplace that brings together a couple hundred brands targeting younger shoppers.

“It would’ve taken us a lot of work to have built out this and reach out to all of those retailers and built out all of these relationships,” Fogarty said. “So we had a team in Dia that had these relationships already built, they had the infrastructure already built. And so we see that as a nice add to our younger new digital mall.”

FullBeauty, which has no stores of its own and a relatively small wholesale business, is proof that there are direct-to-consumer models that can work today, with a little discipline.

“We’re not ever going to chase top line,” Fogarty said. “We’re very careful about making sure we’re doing things that make sense, basic mathematical sense to us over time.”

Not that FullBeauty’s journey has always been an easy one.

The company filed bankruptcy in early 2019 and is now owned by Goldman Sachs and Oaktree Capital Management.

Fogarty said FullBeauty has paid out $205 million in dividends over the past five years, reduced its debt load and has the money to snap up competitors.

When asked what comes next, Fogarty said; “We have owners who over the course of time are going to want to maximize their return. And at some point that might mean sale or public offering.”

But that would still be down the line.

“What we need to do is just keep our business strong and execute our strategy and we have alignment with our ownership that we think it’s a great business,” he said. “We want to keep on working forward with this strategy.”

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