Target is overhauling its approach to plus-size with Ava & Viv

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Target has come under fire from its plus-size customer base in recent months, having grown increasingly upset at the lack of options for them in stores as well as the retailer's recent decision to carry plus sizes from its forthcoming Lilly Pulitzer collaboration exclusively online.

What they didn't know is that Target was already working on its first dedicated plus-size line, Ava & Viv. "We are constantly scouting for new business opportunities and this market is growing," says Stacia Andersen, Target's senior vice president of merchandising. "We just didn't have our fair share; we felt it was time to enter this market in a really strong way."

To date, Target's plus-size offerings have been a bit random, limited to extended sizes of regular-size merchandise carried in other departments. "What was happening was it just didn't have a clear point of view, so when you walked onto the floor you couldn't build great outfits," Anderson says.

As a result, Ava & Viv is completely designed by an in-house team to create one singular focus for the plus size customer. There are 90 pieces in the first collection, spanning from denim to workwear. "We just wanted it to have a point of view but be broad enough that many people could wear it," Anderson explains.

They also picked three plus-size bloggers -- Nicolette Mason, Gabi Gregg and Chastity Garner -- to consult on the line and to model the first lookbook. Garner was an especially interesting choice, considering that she spearheaded the call to boycott Target for failing to offer plus-size options. The retailer contacted her about Ava & Viv not long after. "Target contacted me and said, 'We don't want you to completely discount us and we want you to consider what we have coming out,'" Garner says.

"I'm always happy to be involved with any progression of plus-size clothing and offerings - for them to even bring us in and get our feedback, I think that's a huge step forward and it shows much much Target wants to get it right," she adds.

All three bloggers agreed the best part of Ava & Viv is that it fills a need for the plus-size customer at the Target price point, which had previously been a huge blind spot. "We have so much workwear, we have so much clubwear, but there is a huge gap in the market when it comes to cute casual clothes, things you can mix into your work wardrobe but also wear on weekends," Mason says. "I think it's something the customer desperately wants, and that she's [now] getting."

And while the spring collection had already been completed by the time the bloggers came on, they offered advice on fit and design for the fall line. "I'm really happy with the colors and the youthful feel," Gregg says. "There are definitely pieces I would never wear, and I told them that too -- that's what I love about working with them, their team is so receptive to feedback. I already see the improvements for fall."

Anderson assured me that Ava & Viv would be in every Target store in its own dedicated floor space, with the plan to update the pieces every month. The lines which previously occupied the plus-size space - extended sizes of brands line Merona and so on - will now be carried exclusively online.

Ava & Viv begins arriving in Target stores in mid-February and hits Feb. 22. To see the full gallery, click here!

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