As a young girl, Lizzo tried intensely to literally fit in.
The now superstar would wear body belts and form-fitting corsets to school, contorting the shape of her body — an experience she said was incredibly uncomfortable for a preteen.
“It was a really painful, embarrassing experience … because I grew up in a society where, once I was aware of it, I was ashamed of what I looked like,” said the 33-year-old singer and Native of Detroit, in a recent Zoom interview.
Finally, Lizzo says, she let go of the belts and embraced her body with a bigger size: “I got to a point where I thought, ‘Fk that,'” she laughed. “I even stopped wearing bras. I went all the way to the other side, to free myself and find my self-love and body positivity.”
Then Lizzo started experimenting with her own version of shapewear.
“I started to have fun creating different shapes and silhouettes and looks and realized, ‘Oh, this is actually okay if I don’t do something bad to my body,'” she recalls.
Next month, Lizzo is launching her own shapewear line — called Yitty, after a childhood nickname for the singer, whose real name is Melissa — through a partnership with athletic apparel maker Fabletics.
The line marks Lizzo’s first business venture, in addition to her work in music and entertainment (she also stars in a reality dance competition series streaming on Amazon Prime Video), and her personal investments.
Bright colours, striking prints
The launch follows three years of work and many meetings with Fabletics co-founder Don Ressler, Lizzo said.
She decided to partner with Fabletics to take advantage of what she saw as unlimited potential with the brand. Other potential partners saw Yitty as just a small capsule collection or a temporary offering.
Fabletics also knows a thing or two about working with superstars. The retailer launched in 2013 alongside actress Kate Hudson and has since collaborated with other celebrities, including singer Demi Lovato and comedian Kevin Hart.
With its selection of workout gear and loungewear, the retailer aims to fill a space in the apparel market between more high-end brands, like Lululemon, and cheaper labels, like what you can find at Target.
Fabletics VIP members pay a monthly fee for their clothing purchases, similar to a subscription model, and can choose to skip a month so the credit doesn’t pile up.
“We’re known for prints, for different colorways … we’re known for taking risks in space,” Ressler said. “And that’s what we’re going to do with the Yitty and Lizzo brand.”
Shapewear pieces are usually worn under a woman’s clothing, but that doesn’t mean they should stick to neutral colors, Ressler said. That’s where Yitty sets itself apart from other brands already on the market – offering options in bright neon colors and patterned fabrics.
“Others that have come into the category — and made a big difference, there’s no doubt about it — it’s still a lot of the same,” he said. “We take risks.”
When asked how large Yitty could scale over time, Ressler said the company thinks in billions, not millions.
The shapewear category is already littered with celebrities.
Kim Kardashian’s underwear label Skims saw a successful debut shortly before the Covid pandemic and is now valued at $3.2 billion, double what it was a year ago. Since launching with just a selection of shapewear in 2019, Skims has expanded to include categories including pyjamas, loungewear and bathing suits.
Singer Rihanna has also had a successful run with her lingerie line Savage X Fenty, which is known for embracing and caring for all body types. The company is reportedly considering an IPO at a valuation of more than $3 billion. A Savage X Fenty representative declined to comment on the IPO talks.
Last year, Fabletics reportedly looked into its own IPO, a process the company declined to comment on. The previous holding company, TechStyle Fashion Group, spun Savage X Fenty in 2019 and JF Brands, including JustFab and ShoeDazzle, in 2020. The company’s name then changed to Fabletics Inc., now the parent company of Fabletics and Yitty.
Fabletics declined to comment on the business structure between the retailer and Lizzo.
‘This is coming as you are’
Yitty will debut online and in Fabletics stores on April 12 with three collections of items: Almost Naked, a selection of everyday shapewear; Mesh Me, which is designed to be worn as underwear or outerwear; and Major Label, with pieces that are more fashion-forward, but also super soft, says Lizzo.
Sizes range from XS to 6X and prices from $14.95 to $69.95.
The team added that while some of the current pieces can be worn during workouts, Yitty is also already working on a more athletic-focused collection.
During the Zoom interview, Lizzo got up and turned to fashion her own bright neon yellow bra with matching biker shorts from the first Yitty drop — an outfit she said would withstand a sweat-heavy workout.
“This is more than a product about the mentality of liberation,” said the singer. “The way we feel about ourselves and the way we dress every day, it doesn’t have to be painful and it doesn’t have to be embarrassing. It can be fun and exciting and sexy.”
“I want everyone who hears about Yitty – who is a fan of mine – to know that this is not an invitation to change something about yourself in a negative way,” Lizzo added. “This is who you are. And if something doesn’t feel comfortable, don’t wear it. Don’t do it.”