No stranger to meeting the requests of its loyal following, ELOQUII released a shoe line in Sept. 2015 specifically with its plus size customers in mind. ICYMI, ELOQUII is a plus size fashion brand that was revived back in Feb. 2014, thanks to the love and support shown by customers, employees, and bloggers across social media, having only lasted a year and a half before then. The brand fills the need within the plus size community for sophisticated statement pieces and fashion-forward workwear. Now, it's met another vital need: Cute wide width shoes in sizes 11 and above.
As a designer and plus size blogger, one of the most commonly asked questions I receive about my lookbook images or personal style photos is, "Where did you get those shoes?" It's a completely understandable query, considering options for wide shoes that aren't totally frumpy (especially in sizes 11 and over) are few and far between. ELOQUII CEO Mariah Chase also says that it was this very question that inspired the brand to branch out into shoes in the first place.
"It was a confluence of customer requests coming via customer service and social media as well as on site search," Chase tells me via email. "Every week, we would measure the number of customer searching for shoes on the site. When we saw this pattern of both direct requests and search continue week after week, we knew there was an opportunity."
After these observations via customer service, social media, and site search, the next step in the process sent ELOQUII straight to the source: Its customers. The brand sent out a detailed survey to gauge what shoppers were looking for in terms of sizing and style. Chase says the feedback was clear: Customers wanted to see shoes beyond a size 10, wide calf boots, and styles that were trendy but could still be worn to work.
"We tried to make sure we had styles and heel heights that represented what we heard our customers asking for in the survey and via social media," adds Chase. "We knew she wanted fashion and trend. We also know we have a customer who is often in the office and needed something work appropriate but chic."
From stacked heel booties to two tone pumps, there's definitely a trendy yet professional feel to ELOQUII's footwear options. However, the shoes aren't just stylish, they are also functional. They come in wide widths and they all have five millimeters of memory foam insole padding inside 'em.
"When we surveyed the existing market to see what was available for the customer, a lot of wide width shoes lacked fashion appeal," Chase tells me. "We want to be clear that our shoes are not for all wide width feet and the fit of a shoe can be very particular to the wearer, but we hope we're bridging a gap in wide width and fashion footwear offerings."
ELOQUII's shoes are currently available in sizes 7 to 12 in all styles. Buying shoes online, however, can be a challenge for plus size women, so I wanted to know more about the fit process for creating these shoes.
"We first fit these on a size 7W and then graded them up to a 10W," ELOQUII Creative Director Jodi Arnold tells me via email. "At that time, we fit three different size 10W women to come to a fit that we thought would represent most women who need wide width shoes."
The struggle for wide width shoes is further compounded when plus size women begin to look for wide calf boots. It's an item I personally dread looking for every time winter rolls around. Both Chase and Arnold say they knew this was something their customers wanted, so ELOQUII delivered both wide calf boots and the even rarer over the knee boot.
"Just like with the clothing, we started from a fashion point of view," Arnold tells me of the design process. "What are the shoes of the season that she needs in her closet? What shoes will work best with the fall collection? Secondly, we looked at what she was asking for and overwhelmingly the answer was wide calf boots. We knew we had to have an OTK as we call it. From looking at the fall runways, it was the one thing that we knew would really push the envelope."
When ELOQUII first released its shoes, it was the Luella Over The Knee Boot that I saw shared most on social media from plus size bloggers. It was clear they had hit upon a need within the community. While the majority of wide calf boots tend to fit a calf that's 20 inches or smaller, the Luella measures at a 22.5-inch calf circumference for the size 8. Arnold says these were fit tested on four different women with varying calf sizes to come up with an average for a size 8. The boots are then graded a half inch either down or up depending on the size.
One of the things that has always impressed me about ELOQUII is its extended size lookbooks. With so many other major brands still only using models sizes 16 and smaller, ELOQUII's lookbooks featuring models sizes 26 to 28 is still a rarity among big retailers. Though the shoes were not featured in past lookbooks, this will be changing soon.
"We are now using all of our own shoes in our extended size lookbooks," says Arnold. "We are launching a new extended size lookbook in the next couple of weeks and you will see there that we used our own shoes for styling."
As one of the members of the body positive community who continues to push for more representation from brands, the significance of seeing these new shoe options on a size 26 to 28 is not lost on me. In addition to seeing the shoes in the upcoming extended size lookbook, Arnold says they are hoping to extend the shoes to a size 13 for their spring collection as they have heard feedback about that. The spring collection is almost completed and features flats with interesting details, booties, and more heels. If there's something you want to see, ELOQUII wants to know.
"We want to keep hearing from the customer," adds Arnold. "We learn a lot here even from the negative comments and we don't take it personally. We just want to give this customer what she wants so keep the feedback coming!"
The best way to reach ELOQUII with feedback is through social media or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, both of which Arnold personally checks. Feedback brought ELOQUII back to the marketplace and it will remain an integral part of the company's makeup.
"ELOQUII is in existence today because the team listened to the customer feedback when the original ELOQUII closed," says Chase. "That's one of our hallmarks and while we don't always get it right, we're really trying to be this customer's fashion leader."
I can't decide if it's the shoes themselves or the company's perspective on feedback that I find more refreshing. Either way, I'm happy ELOQUII is back and listening.
Images: Courtesy ELOQUII