Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 18th 2014 Contents SBG14 | CASE STUDY
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 18 • 2014
Stellars Fashion Boutique had quietly made a
name for itself in local fashion circles as the
place to get designer clothing that was hip,
cool and sexy. Ryan Charles, the owner, lead
designer and creative force behind the bou-
tique's D-Lux brand of clothing, had originally
opened the business in 2002 to cater to the needs of wealthy
This fulfilled a lifelong dream that he had to own his own
high-end fashion studio. Over time, the range of clothing had
evolved to cater to younger consumers who were interested
in purchasing unique items that would make them stand out
from their peers. Sales in the early years were slow as Ryan
struggled to establish his brand and gain a foothold in the
marketplace. Things had dramatically improved for the business
in 2006 when Ryan had been asked to provide outfits for the
contestants of a local beauty pageant. The publicity garnered
from that event had led to a sharp increase in sales as people
became aware of the brand and it was not uncommon for
customers to refer to their clothing as a "Stellars outfit."
In a recent newspaper article, however, while being inter-
viewed, Ryan had jokingly sated:
"My clothes are meant to be worn by the pretty people in
society. People who are well groomed, fit and photogenic. We
don't cater to the fatties."
Asked by the reporter to clarify this statement, he had gone
on to explain that he did not design clothing for the mass
market but for individuals with discerning tastes who looked
good in their clothes and could serve as brand ambassadors.
According to Ryan, "obese is not the image I am striving
for; that is why I don't offer plus sizes in my store."
Ryan Charles had grown up in the Caura Valley as the
youngest of three boys and as he recalled, "my earliest memories
are of typical boyhood adventures, like playing in the river or
stealing mangoes from the neighbour's tree. But I also remember
wanting to sew my own clothes so I could look sharper than
everyone else. I guess I was born to be a designer."
He was an average student in primary and secondary school
and after graduating had opened a
small tailoring shop where he started
experimenting with his own design
ideas. To further his skill, he got a
job cutting patterns for a well-
known local designer and eventually
got an opportunity to showcase a
few of his own designs at various
fashion shows which received
favourable reviews. This led to him
quitting his job to open his own boutique in 2002.
The public's reaction and company response
After the article was published, reaction to Ryan's comments
was swift and largely negative.
Social media Web sites exploded with comments criticising
Ryan for being prejudiced against plus-sized women and con-
tributing to the negative stereotype of overweight individuals.
One group of outraged individuals created a Facebook page
inviting members of the public to sign an online petition
demanding a public apology from Ryan and that Stellars
Fashion Boutique begin offering plus-sized clothing for cus-
The store was not without its defenders, however, with
some of the store's current customers arguing that as a small
business owner, Ryan had a right to sell to whoever he wanted
to. In fact, some industry analysts believed that the store's
success was tied to the feeling of exclusivity that customers
felt when they purchased one of his outfits. They viewed this
as similar to the strategy adopted by luxury brands such as
Chanel or Rolls Royce who price their products to limit their
availability to the general public and thereby make them more
desirable as status items.
Despite the controversy, Ryan chose not to respond to any
of the comments being circulated online and instructed the
store's employees not to speak to anyone about the issue. He
appeared unfazed by the negative publicity and expressed the
view that people were blowing things out of proportion and
the issue would soon disappear from the public's radar.
But, two weeks after the article first appeared, prompted
by declining sales, Ryan finally addressed
the issue by posting a statement on the
store's Facebook page. In his post he claimed
that his previous comments had been taken
out of context and that Stellars Fashion
Boutique was opposed to all forms of dis-
crimination. This statement did little to
satisfy his critics who viewed it as too little
too late and fuelled further anger against
Ryan and the store.
In the face of the controversy over the company's target
marketing practices, Ryan could make the decision to offer
more sizes, which would change the public's perception of
the boutique as discriminatory. Adding a greater variety of
sizes could also attract plus-sized customers to the store and
allow Stellars Fashion Boutique to gain market share.
Arguments could also be made in favour of maintaining the
current practices. Widening the target market for instance,
could negatively affect the brand's image and reputation for
exclusivity while catering to plus-size women would increase
costs as more fabric is needed to produce larger sizes.
Moving forward, it became clear that Ryan had difficult
decisions to make about the strategic direction that the company
1. Why did Ryan's comments trigger the re-
sponse that it did?
2. How should the company have responded
to this crisis?
3. What strategy should Stellars Fashion
Boutique adopt to respond to this contro-
Case Study: Stellars Fashion Boutique
New strategy needed
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