Eloquii, the plus-size clothing line launched by The Limited in 2011 and quietly closed last summer, has returned as an independent retailer with big plans for its future.

Eloquii, the plus-size clothing line launched by The Limited in 2011 and quietly closed last summer, has returned as an independent retailer with big plans for its future.

The brand will focus on its online store this year and hopes to add a bricks-and-mortar presence as the brand re-establishes itself.

Although the revived line is no longer part of The Limited, it is being run by former Limited employees who saw potential in the underserved plus-size fashion sector.

The new Eloquii has offices in the Easton area and in New York, plus a fulfillment center in Groveport. The company has eight full-time employees and a handful of freelance workers and consultants.

"We were very, very pleased with our progress under The Limited," said Steve Zawada, one of the former employees who is chief operating officer of the new Eloquii.

The Limited launched Eloquii as a plus-size clothing line in October 2011. But before Eloquii reached the two-year mark, Sun Capital Partners, which owns The Limited, decided to focus on "core brands" and get rid of the rest, Zawada said. Thus, the clothing line was shut down in the middle of 2013.

"We knew there was still a lot of opportunity," said Mariah Chase, CEO of the new Eloquii, who was a co-founder of Send the Trend, an e-commerce site for female shoppers.

"Within days of the closing announcement, we were contacted by private investors interested in starting up a plus-size brand," Chase said. As they discussed starting a new brand, they realized that the Eloquii name had built equity among its target audience, so they bought the rights to the name from The Limited.

The name Eloquii is a made-up word meant to imply style "with elegance," an official said when The Limited launched the line.

"We knew what we had done right, and we knew what we had done wrong," said Julie Carnevale, vice president of merchandising and a former member of the original Eloquii management. "Most importantly, we had learned the customer, the demographic, and knew the pricing model, the fabrics, the styles, what things translated from other sizes and what didn't."

Other former employees of The Limited who are running the new Eloquii include Jodi Arnold, creative director; Minty Zhou, director of technical design; and Duffy Sweeney, vice president of information technology.

Sizes range from 14 to 24 and include apparel and accessories. Prices range from $18 for a basic tank top to $198 for a hand-embellished dress.

During the original launch, some shoppers complained that the line wasn't widely available and that, in many parts of the country, women were forced to shop online, which made it difficult to try on clothes.

To mitigate that, the new Eloquii offers free exchanges. Carnevale and Zawada brought in a new fulfillment center, Innotrac, to aid in the speedy delivery of merchandise, a change from the original Eloquii, whose fulfillment center was in Cincinnati.

In addition, to help women see how a dress looks on someone from the real world, Eloquii.com is aggressively pursuing social-media connections, particularly on Instagram. Anyone using #XOQ on Instagram, for example, will have her photo wearing the company's merchandise posted on the Eloquii website.

The market for fashionable plus-size clothing has been growing for years but had attracted only modest interest in the industry.

The average woman wears a size 14, up from a size 8 in 1960. Plus-size sales account for about $18.5 billion of the $110 billion U.S. women's apparel market.

Eloquii is aiming its apparel at the younger side of what it views as a relatively untapped market.

"We thought, if we focus on 25-year-olds, we're really not competing with anyone. Lane Bryant is a bit older in its focus," Zawada said.

The plus-size fashion chain Lane Bryant also has a link with Eloquii. The executive who launched the original Eloquii line, Linda Heasley, left The Limited a few months before the shutdown to become CEO at Lane Bryant.

"Is Lane Bryant a competitor? Probably," Chase said. "The plus-size customer doesn't have the number of shopping options that other sizes have, so the universe is smaller, so of course Lane Bryant is a player in it."

Women who wear smaller sizes are served by many brands and have lots of choices. The market for plus-size clothing is developing and has fewer players -- "so we're all going to play."


2014 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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