Shark Tank: Investors Debate Whether "Plus-Size" Fashion Can Be Profitable

Plus-size fashion designer Gayla Bentley appeared on Shark Tank last night to ask for an investment, but one judge wondered, "Is it possible that larger sized women (and don't beat me with at stick) don't care about fashion as much?"

Shark Tank is a reality competition show in which entrepreneurs present their products to a team of "Sharks" (investors), who will make a business deal with their own money if they like a contestant's pitch. In the clip above from last night's episode, Bentley, who sells her clothing for women sizes 12-28 through Neiman Marcus online, asks for a $250,000 investment to start her own flagship store in Houston, Texas. (Thanks to the tipster who let us know about the episode, which is available in its entirety here.)


Bentley makes a great pitch, explaining that 60% of American women who wear a 12 or larger are, "forced to shop in the far corners of the department stores, only to find clothes that don't fit and we don't even like." The Sharks seem interested in her business, and jump all over Kevin O'Leary when he suggests that larger women are somehow inherently unfashionable. Bentley explains that women of all sizes want fashionable clothes, but high-end stores don't sell sizes larger than a 12. Some of the men can't wrap their head around the idea that stores wouldn't sell a product that's in high demand and Damon John, founder of FUBU, has to assure them that it's true.

Luckily, Damon John and the lone female Shark, Barbara Corcoran, understand that there's a huge market for fashionable plus-size clothes (or better yet, "integrating the sizes" as Bentley suggests). In the clip above, Bentley points out to John that FUBU's clientele probably includes larger women and it would make sense for them to do business. Ultimately Corcoran and John offer to become partners in Bentley's business and she accepts. Not only was it great to see the fashion industry's refusal to make larger sizes addressed on national TV as a legitimate problem, it was even better to see someone else in the fashion industry who has realized that making clothes that don't fit the majority of American women just doesn't make business sense.

Shark Tank: Week 9 Full Episode []


Phillipa Marlowe

Yikes. I'm all for more plus-size fashion, but I had a look on her website, and it really doesn't seem all that fashionable. Some cute coats, but it all looks amateurish to me. Maybe fashion schools should have more courses on how to design for plus-size bodies...