The African-American woman is a fashion force to reckon with, and Ebony magazine and Spiegel Inc. are tapping her distinctive style and consumer power with E STYLE, a new clothing and accessory catalog.
The catalog debuts this week, going out to 1.5 million African-American women. It features career, casual and evening wear as well as head-to-toe accessories.
E STYLE picks up on the current trends but gives some of them an ethnic edge with prints and patterns that celebrate African heritage.
Colors are chosen to flatter richer skin tones, and tribal weaves are used to trim contemporary designs.
E STYLE's strongest selling feature, however, is clothing that is sized and manufactured to fit African-American women. Spiegel and Ebony cite research showing African-American women, on average, have distinct proportion needs that vary from standardized missy and women's sizes. Some critics have taken exception to the notion of a black figure type.
"Every time someone comes up with something exciting, innovative,there will be someone trying to shoot holes in it," says Linda Johnson Rice, president of Johnson Publishing Co., the parent of Ebony enterprises.
"I sat down with girlfriends, and even in off-the-cuff conversations, the main complaint was fit, that they couldn't buy off-the-rack without spending a fortune in alterations," says Ms. Rice, who adds that a lot of serious homework went into producing E STYLE.
Brigitte Nash, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority's publicity chairman for Baltimore's Ebony Fashion Fair extravaganza, says there's always room for a fresh catalog.
"I'm classic in dress, but I dress for different settings," says the fashion fan and career woman, "and every now and then I like to make a statement."
E STYLE clothes are available in misses 8 to 18 with many styles in women's sizes up to 28.
The price range is varied, with the average suit starting at $99.
To order a free catalog, call 1-800-2-E STYLE, ask for offer No. 1350.