Model talks about starting plus-sized company | Watch 'Our America: In the Black Conversations'

Lauren Chan is the former founder and CEO of Henning, a company designed to give luxury clothing options to plus-sized women.

ByNzinga Blake, Luke Richards, Jason Honeycutt, Alexis Johnson-Fowlkes, Emma Newman WLS logo
Wednesday, June 26, 2024
'Our America: In the Black Conversations' | Watch Episode 2
Lauren Chan is the former founder and CEO of Henning, a company designed to give luxury clothing options to plus-sized women.

As a model who grew up feeling physically different from her peers, fashion model Lauren Chan often faced difficulties finding clothing that fit her. In response, she decided to fill the need she saw within plus-sized fashion by creating her own company, Henning.

Henning, a company that Chan no longer has ownership of, was founded with the goal to provide women who wear sizes 12 and larger in clothing with luxurious options. While the majority of American women are plus-sized, Chan noticed that the fashion industry didn't reflect this.

"I started from the place of, 'I'm a plus-sized person, I work in fashion, I don't see anything that serves the intersection of that identity within myself out in the world, and I'm gonna go build it,'" Chan said to Arlan Hamilton in her summer, "Our America: In the Black Conversations," series.

Chan used her creativity and experience in modeling to build the company from the ground up, despite her lack of experience in the business and financial side of entrepreneurship. She also had to overcome barriers that block LGBTQ+ people, women and people of color from being on the receiving end of financial funding.

She decided that Henning would use the phrasing, "for sizes 12 and up" in order to make her clients feel seen and respected.

"Language has so much to do with emotion and people," Chan explained. "What I dislike is terms that either infantilize or condescend or play to different emotions, and so then we get into all these descriptors that are just skirting what you're trying to say, which insinuates that what you're trying to say, which is just a clothing size, has a bad meaning in the first place."

She later sold the brand to Universal Standard, an acquisition that she described as life-changing.

"What [the acquisition] did proved to me that somebody who is not what you picture when you think of a founder can succeed," Chan said. "I think it showed me that my mission to make plus-sized people, largely people of color, feel as valuable as their peers, and then to prove business-to-business wise that plus-sized fashion is a viable business, that was the most life-changing thing to me."

In all of her endeavors, she hopes that her status as a successful, wealthy women who is also plus-sized, a person of color, and gay will provide hope for other marginalized people.

"Hopefully to everybody watching, hopefully to the next people that want to start a company in this space, hopefully when, you know, someone like you [Arlan] has that much money and is looking at who to invest, they can reference Henning and say, 'Well, there's a plus-sized company that did succeed,'" said Chan.

Watch episode 2 of "Our America: In the Black Conversations" with Arlan Hamilton and Lauren Chan now in the video player above or wherever you stream this station on Roku, Apple TV, FireTV or Google TV.

Luke Richards, Jason Honeycutt and Alexis Johnson-Fowlkes contributed to this report.