Lauren Chan Turns A Beat Into A Business

Former Glamour editor & founder of Henning, Lauren Chan has turned a career advocating for size inclusivity into a new womenswear brand making the luxury fashion that plus-size women deserve.



Lauren Chan Turns A Beat Into A Business

“Until now, the plus-size demographic has only been offered things at a fast-fashion price point and fast fashion quality. Really, that is a reflection of what most people in charge of fashion brands think of the plus-size demographic. If we are only offered things that are under fifty dollars, the message that we absorb is that we are only worth under fifty dollars.”

LAUREN WEARS THE BALC IN BLACK

“My goal with Henning is to bring luxury to a market that has not previously been offered it. To take a stand and say that women like me deserve this.”

Former Glamour editor and plus-size model, Lauren Chan now introduces herself as the founder and CEO of Henning: a new fashion brand that makes luxury womenswear in sizes twelve to twenty four. After a career advocating for size inclusion in the fashion industry – with countless successes and continual frustrations – Lauren has rolled up her well-tailored sleeves to design her own sartorial solutions.

“Women above size twelve deserve to be included in conversations about fashion. We deserve to be included in the world of luxury. We deserve to have things that are well made and make us feel good. We deserve to be on par with women that are under size twelve. We are equal human beings, so I do not see why anyone would think that a woman above a size twelve would not have somewhere to go in a $595 jacket that is sewn in the same factories as Theory.”

Having helmed a major fashion publication, Lauren knows better than most that the right clothing can make a woman feel powerful and confident. Items like a perfectly tailored blazer, however, are some of the hardest things to find in plus-sizes. Getting dressed for work often made Lauren feel on the fringe of the industry she was making waves in.

LAUREN WEARS THE BALC IN BLACK

“It happened every day, over and over. When I went to work [at Glamour,] my peers were wearing all the designer clothes that we were reporting on and I wasn’t able to, because I was anywhere from a size twelve to a size twenty. It wasn’t lost on me that I was shooting, reporting on, attending shows having to do with fashion I wasn’t able to participate in.”

“I grew sick of that. [Size in fashion] became my daily focus. My personal beast. I was on a mission to bring more size inclusivity, in every which way I could, to the Glamour brand – and to the fashion industry as a whole. It was a conversation that was important to me on an emotional level. There were a few others talking about it, but it definitely felt like my beat.”

Lauren’s accomplishments at Glamour made a change in the right direction. She had a monthly print column about size in fashion, wrote the cover story for her friend Ashley Graham, designed a collection with Lane Bryant, and was on Good Morning America and The Today Show talking about size on behalf of Glamour. After all these important moments, however, there was still work to be done. The idea for Henning began to feel like the next step in her journey.

“I said everything I wanted to say, I worked on all the hero projects I wanted to work on, I partnered with all the brands in Glamour’s scope that I could partner with… and I was getting a little bit itchy to make product of my own.”

LAUREN WEARS THE SCOOP IN TAUPE

Lauren established Henning’s social media presence and email marketing six months before the brand officially launched, allowing her to start a conversation with her community and include them in the process.

“We, as plus-size shoppers, can feel alone in our experience – but as soon as you talk to other women that are in the same demographic as you, you realize that, in fact, it’s the opposite. Everyone is having the same terrible experiences. Everyone is being mistreated by the industry. Nothing [I heard from our community] surprised me, because the experiences were so similar [to my own]. The one thing that did surprise me was how similar these realities really were.”

“Brands are making plus-sizes, but not acknowledging them in their marketing. They are using plus-size models to advertise, but not actually making that model’s size. They are using one type of person to advertise, which does not reflect the demographic. Brands will lend clothing to editors, but ask them not to credit the brand; they don’t want the association. The list goes on. There is so much wrong with the way so many businesses speak to this customer.”

“Our business is such an emotional one, so when [Henning] hits the nail on the head with messaging, our customers let us know. We feel good about that. They are saying that they have never felt so engaged and respected. That every single person they interacted with that day noticed how confident they were behaving in their clothes. That they’ve never felt as good as they do when they put on [Henning] clothes.”

LAUREN WEARS THE SCOOP IN TAUPE

As Lauren dives deeper into the design and business side of the industry, she is noticing new gaps to solve for. While she has been intimately involved in these conversations size-championing editor and plus-size consumer, Lauren has found that there are massive education gaps in the realities of the industry and the reasons for slow progress.

“Until I started a business of my own, I didn’t know things like why garments are priced the way they are or why there is only one model in a photoshoot, instead of seven models if we make seven sizes. It all comes down to finances. When I was a journalist, I would get the answer, ‘Because of the bottom line.’ And I would back off. It’s interesting now to understand the full depth of what that means.”

“There is a lot of education that Henning wants to do for our followers and customers. It’s a delicate conversation because we are absolutely not defensive, but it’s interesting to see both sides of the coin now. [These decisions] are all about finances. If I don’t make decisions that are best for the business, I won’t even be around for the important work.”

LAUREN WEARS THE SCOOP IN TAUPE

Lauren’s relationship with her body has been woven into her career, but when we asked her about her relationship with her boobs, she surprised herself by reflecting how long it took her to give her breasts and undergarments the right attention.

“I feel like I’ve come to the middle ground with my boobs, but it’s interesting to sit here and think about how I felt about my chest over the years. There have been so many mental stages. From wearing Victoria Secret pushup bras, because that’s what you saw in magazines and advertisements, to rebelling against that and wearing sports bras all day, every day.”

“Then I had a stage, where I had gone from a teenage body to more of a young woman’s body. I was just wearing old bras that were too small. I didn’t have a bra that fit for a long time. As I hit my mid-twenties, everything kind of leveled out. I felt more at peace with my body, so I started buying bras that fit and feel good.

“It’s remarkable to say all of that in a few sentences, and realize that I didn’t give the attention to my undergarments that they deserved until I was in my mid-twenties. Now what makes me feel good is a bra that fits. Although it seems like that should be the baseline. A bra that fits.”

LAUREN WEARS THE BALC IN BLACK


Fit – a long-time frustration for Lauren – is now the baseline of her business. As she makes the jump from editor to designer, the holes in her closet have become powerful design opportunities.

“I designed some tuxedos for our holiday collection: a classic power outfit that would be amazing to wear to a holiday party, but well beyond that. If a tuxedo is James Bond’s power outfit, then I want one in my closet, too.”

Interview by Kate Mack. Article by Molly Virostek. Photographed by Stephanie Lavaggi. Styled by Emily Newnam

Tags: bodytalk , Purpose

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