As a young girl, Lizzo tried intensely to, literally, fit in.
The now-superstar would wear body girdles and skin-tight corsets to school, contorting the shape of her body — an experience she said was incredibly uncomfortable for a preteen.
“It was a really painful, shameful experience … because I grew up in a society where as soon as I was aware of it, I was made to feel ashamed of how I looked,” said the 33-year-old singer and Detroit native, in a recent Zoom interview.
Eventually, Lizzo says, she abandoned the girdles and embraced her plus-size body: “I got to a point where I was like, ‘F–k that,’” she laughed. “I stopped wearing bras even. I went all the way to the other side, to liberate myself and find my self-love and body positivity.”
That’s when Lizzo started experimenting with her own version of shapewear.
“I started to have fun with creating different shapes and silhouettes and looks and realized, ‘Oh, this is actually not a bad thing if I’m not doing something bad to my body,’” she recalled.
Next month, Lizzo will launch her own shapewear line — called Yitty, after a childhood nickname for the singer, whose actual name is Melissa — through a partnership with the athletic apparel maker Fabletics.
The line marks Lizzo’s first business venture, beyond 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 colors, bold prints
The launch follows three years of work and many meetings with Fabletics co-founder, Don Ressler, Lizzo said.
She decided to team up with Fabletics to capitalize on what she saw as limitless potential with the brand. Other potential partners saw Yitty as just a small capsule collection or a limited-time offering.
Fabletics also knows a thing or two about working with superstars. The retailer launched with actress Kate Hudson in 2013 and has since collaborated with other celebrities including singer Demi Lovato and comedian Kevin Hart.
With its selection of workout gear and lounge wear, the retailer aims to fill a space in the apparel market between more high-end brands, such as Lululemon, and cheaper labels, such as what you can find at Target.
Fabletics’ VIP members pay a monthly fee toward their clothing purchases, similar to a subscription model, and can opt to skip a month so credits don’t pile up.
“We’re known for prints, for different colorways … we’re known for taking risks in the space,” Ressler said. “And that’s what we’re going to do with the Yitty brand and Lizzo.”
Shapewear pieces are most often worn under a woman’s clothing, but that doesn’t mean they have to stick to neutral colors, Ressler said. That’s where Yitty is going to stand out from other brands already on the market — by offering options in bold neon colors and patterned fabrics.
“Others that have come into the category — and have made a big difference, no doubt about it — it’s still a lot of the same old,” he said. “We’re taking risks.”
When asked how large Yitty could scale over time, Ressler said the company is thinking in billions, not millions.
The shapewear category is already celebrity-studded.
Kim Kardashian’s Skims underwear label 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 only a selection of shapewear in 2019, Skims has expanded into categories including pajamas, lounge wear and swimsuits.
Singer Rihanna has also had a successful run with her lingerie line Savage X Fenty, which is known for embracing and catering to all body types. The company is reportedly mulling an initial public offering at a valuation of over $3 billion. A representative from Savage X Fenty declined to comment on the IPO talks.
Last year, Fabletics was reportedly eyeing its own IPO, a process the company declined to comment on. Its prior holding company, TechStyle Fashion Group, spun off Savage X Fenty in 2019 and JF Brands, which included 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 come as you are’
Yitty will debut on April 12, online and in Fabletics stores, with three collections of items: Nearly Naked, a selection of everyday shapewear; Mesh Me, which is designed to wear as underwear or outerwear; and Major Label, which includes pieces that are more fashion-forward but also super soft, says Lizzo.
Sizes will range from XS to 6X, and prices from $14.95 to $69.95.
The team added that although some of the current pieces can be worn during workouts, Yitty is already working on a more athletic-focused collection, too.
During the Zoom interview, Lizzo stood up and turned around to model 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.
“More than a product this is about the mentality of having liberation,” the singer said. “The way that we feel about ourselves and the way that we dress ourselves, every day, it doesn’t have to be painful and it doesn’t have to be shameful. It can be fun and exciting and sexy.”
“I want anyone who hears about Yitty — who’s a fan of me — to know that this is not an invitation to change something about yourself in a negative way,” Lizzo added. “This is come as you are. And if something doesn’t feel comfortable, don’t wear it. Don’t do it”