Is Ozempic Destroying the Plus-Size Fashion Market?

Is Ozempic Destroying the Plus-Size Fashion Market?

The development of weight loss drugs such as Ozempic has not only changed people’s attitudes towards their health and weight management, but has also had a significant impact on the fashion industry.

As weight-loss drugs become more popular, the plus-size fashion market is undergoing a significant shift. This shift has fashion experts, designers, and consumers wondering whether the so-called “ultra-thin” ideal that was a staple of the ’90s and ’00s is making a comeback and whether this spells trouble for the size-inclusive fashion market, business models, product lines, and body positivity movement.

Celebrity Recommendations

Ozempic is a prescription drug developed by leading Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. The drug works by mimicking a hormone that regulates appetite and digestion, which in turn leads to reduced hunger and calorie intake. Combined with its ability to slow digestion, it helps users lose weight.

Kelly Osbourne and Oprah, both using the Ozempic app, at recent events.

Getty Images, Canva stock photos

It was designed to treat and control type 2 diabetes, but has gained popularity for its weight loss properties. Several celebrities are known to have used the drug.

A Novo Nordisk representative said Newsweek that the company is “committed to the responsible use of our medicines.”

“Ozempic is not approved for long-term weight management,” the representative said.

Size does matter

Of the 8,800 looks presented in 230 shows and presentations during this year’s fall/winter fashion season, just 0.8 percent were plus size (US 14+) and 3.7 percent were medium size (US 6-12). The overwhelming majority (95.5 percent) were straight size (US 0-4), according to Vogue Business, a website that focuses on trends in fashion, luxury and beauty.

Lucy Maguire, Senior Trends Editor at Vogue Business, spoke with Newsweek on the data and Ozempic’s impact on the fashion industry. She said: “Typically, it’s the independent brands that always top our size inclusivity rankings in the top four cities. For (Spring/Summer 2024), we’ve also seen some really encouraging moves from the big names. Brands like Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen have entered the top 10 for the first time since we started collecting data.”

A model walks the runway during the Schiaparelli Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2024 show during Paris Fashion Week

Estrop/Getty Images Entertainment/GC Images

Maguire continued: “Last season, many of these brands went back to standard-size models, which reduced the proportion of plus-size models throughout the season. Overall, I see that even brands that we consider size-inclusive are favoring average-size models over plus-size.”

Molly Roakes, who runs a popular Instagram account called Style Analytics, which focuses on “data-driven fashion analytics,” expressed similar sentiments. Roakes explained Newsweek that “while internal retailer research has shown an increase in sales of smaller-sized clothing over the past year, the trend is also evident in search data. For example, in the U.S., searches for size 00 jeans at popular youth-oriented retailers have increased by 8 percent over the past year.”

Newsweek I also spoke with Marcy and Jen, who run The Plus Bus Boutique, a Los Angeles-based business that sells sustainable clothing in a variety of sizes, and she said sales at the business have declined.

While they attributed some of this to people no longer being willing to admit that they “might need bigger pants,” they said it’s also “due to the economy, as our neighbors in our trade district are experiencing a similar crisis.”

They claim that since opening the store in 2015, they have “always encountered customers who wanted to lose weight.”

They explained that they had heard about Ozempic for some time but were “not sure if it is any different from other weight loss medications or fads that come and go.”

They added that “the crazy thing about selling clothes to people who are losing weight or have already lost weight is that they more often than not come back with the weight gained back.”

Fashion trends

“Right now, size inclusivity is going backwards season by season,” Maguire said. “Of course, there’s a lot of discussion right now about Ozempic and its impact on the public consciousness. As influencers and celebrities (both male and female) shrink before our eyes, some critics say it gives designers permission to go back to regular-sized models. And it also influences consumers to have a more uniform idea of ​​beauty. And that’s where we’ve been moving away from!”

Molly Roakes of Style Analytics believes that weight loss drugs like Ozempic are “definitely” undoing the progress that has been made in terms of size inclusion, as well as the work of the body acceptance movement.

“Ozempic has made it more accessible to many to be extremely thin, but it has also erased the progress that has been made to make fashion more inclusive of all body types,” she said. Newsweek.

Newsweek contacted a representative of Novo Nordisk, the manufacturer of the drug Ozempic, by email for comment.

Maguire agreed that ultra-thinness is coming back into fashion, adding that male designers are playing a big role in this process.

“I think male designers unfortunately have a very homogenous view of the female body,” she said. “For example, most fashion is not designed with a bra in mind. No one ever wears a bra on the runway.”

The owners of the Plus Bus boutique had the same feelings about the idea of ​​ultra-slimness, saying Newsweek that: “Ultra-thinness always seems to come back. Our American obsession with thinness will likely never go away. While we are making progress, fatphobia is rife in our society.”

What’s next?

In light of this, it’s likely that the size-inclusive fashion industry will continue to face obstacles. The women behind The Plus Bus Boutique told us that they believe that weight-loss drugs have “contributed to making obesity biases more ingrained in public discourse, making being openly fat and living in a fat body that refuses to become thin seem much more dangerous.”

Roakes noted that “fashion aesthetics like ‘indie sleaze’ and ‘heroin chic’ have gained popularity on platforms like TikTok and Pinterest over the past year.”

She told us that “while these trends haven’t fully manifested themselves in mainstream fashion yet, they could be on the horizon.” She explained that these trends, “especially when combined with cultural factors like the influence of Ozempic and the increased use of cigarettes in the U.S., could be poised to make a comeback in the next few years.”

Roakes added that “there are a handful of fashion brands that have introduced medium and plus-size models to the runway when it was in line with the demands of their audience and the body-positive movement.”

“Many of these brands have continued to deliver on these promises in the face of Ozempic’s arrival, however it will be interesting to see which brands continue to make these casting improvements as Ozempic usage continues to grow.”

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