JC Penney

For the FW collection JC Penney delivers a distinctively menswear Big & Tall flavored collection with the sharply tailored suits, shirt and ties etc. which are set to become the menswear must-haves of the season and will go on to inspire big and tall men around the nation.

With Shaquille O’Neil at the helm of his eponymous JC Penney menswear brand, the collections appears almost as a fantastical merging of classic, artistic and geographical research. The well-received collection of Autumn/Winter 2019 sets a great example; it has taken inspiration (and rightly so) from the big and tall market segmentation.

The iconic creation has now inspired a series of styles with its own unique heritage, collectively known as the JC Penny Shaquille O’Neal XLG collection. With big and tall men in mind, each piece is designed with the same practical and tailoring elements that made the first collection iconic. These suits from the foundation of the JC Penney big and tall suit business which, since its launch onto the market, has propelled itself onto the international fashion scene, showing twice yearly in NYC and establishing itself as an affordable luxury brand.

JCPenney, in partnership with its Big & Tall Style Ambassador, Shaquille O’Neal and model agency Wilhelmina Models, recently launched its first-ever big and tall model search, “Shaquille O’Neal’s Big & Tall Model Search presented by JCPenney.” This nationwide search addressed a growing need in the fashion industry for big and tall models as a third of American men today identify as either big, tall or big and tall, representing 10% of the U.S. menswear business (Source: The NPD Group). This issue directly impacted Shaq when he launched his tailored clothing line, Shaquille O’Neal XLG, exclusively at JCPenney in 2018, and was challenged to find big and tall men to model the collection, forcing Wilhelmina to literally hit the streets to find guys that fit the bill.

JC Penney

At the end of March, Shaquille kicked off this model search and received over 15,000 entries in just one month, resulting in 10 men being awarded contracts with Wilhelmina’s Big & Tall Titans division, as well as the opportunity to model alongside Shaq in the Fall JCPenney Big & Tall campaign.

Wilhelmina Models is partnering with JCPenney and its big & tall style ambassador, Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal, to launch “Shaquille O’Neal’s Big & Tall Model Search presented by JCPenney.” Through this unique collaboration of industry leaders, the nationwide model search addresses a growing need in the fashion industry for big & tall models.  One-third of American men today identify as big, tall or big and tall, representing ten percent of the U.S. menswear business. “When I launched the Shaquille O’Neal XLG collection exclusively at JCPenney, it was a challenge to find big & tall guys to model for the campaign, so we asked our friends at Wilhelmina to hit the streets to find a few good men who are larger than life,” said O’Neal. “Through this exciting partnership with Wilhelmina and JCPenney, we’re hosting the biggest and tallest model search around to help big, sexy guys like me finally get the recognition they deserve.”

Winners from the Shaquille O’Neal Big & Tall Model Search will be signed to Wilhelmina’s “Titan” division of big and tall male models. The winners will also be featured alongside O’Neal in the JCPenney fall marketing campaign, wearing O’Neal’s namesake collection along with the retailer’s popular big & tall private brand, The Foundry Big & Tall Supply Co.

“We’re proud to partner with Shaquille O’Neal and JCPenney to provide more opportunities for big and tall models,” said Bill Wackermann, CEO of Wilhelmina Models. “Wilhelmina is founded on the philosophy that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.”

Wilhelmina, and its other subsidiaries, is an international full-service fashion model and talent management service, specializing in the representation and management of leading models, celebrities, artists, photographers, athletes, and content creators. Established in 1967 by fashion model Wilhelmina Cooper, Wilhelmina is one of the oldest and largest fashion model management companies in the world. Wilhelmina, a publicly traded company, is headquartered in New York and, since its founding, has grown to include operations in Los Angeles, Miami, London and Chicago. Wilhelmina also owns Aperture, a talent and commercial agency located in New York and Los Angeles.

J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE: JCP), one of the nation’s largest apparel and home retailers, combines an expansive footprint of over 860 stores across the United States and Puerto Rico with a powerful e-commerce site, jcp.com, to deliver style and value for all hard-working American families. At every touch point, customers will discover stylish merchandise at incredible value from an extensive portfolio of private, exclusive and national brands. Reinforcing this shopping experience is the customer service and warrior spirit of approximately 98,000 associates across the globe, all driving toward the Company’s mission to help customers find what they love for less time, money and effort. For additional information, please visit jcp.com.

I recently had the privilege of speaking with legendary Shaquille O’Neal & Jeff Useforge, SVP for Men’s and Children’s at JCPenney about what men are seeking today in Big & Tall offerings, why they thought it’s important to build a Big & Tall modeling network and what kind of style features are the Big and Tall community asking for in their apparel!

Joseph DeAcetis: Talk to Forbes about Shaquille O’Neal’s Big & Tall Model Search presented by JCPenney and Wilhelmina. Why did you spearhead this search with JCPenney? 

Shaquille O’Neal: When I launched my Shaquille O’Neal XLG collection with JCPenney, it was a challenge to find big & tall guys for the campaign. Wilhelmina Models had to hit the streets to help us find a few good men that fit the bill. I couldn’t believe there was such a shortage of guys to model my collection.

The model industry has changed when it comes to real women, but not so much for men. JCPenney and I decided to take this issue head on and partnered with Wilhelmina to give big & tall guys the recognition they deserve, and that’s how Shaquille O’Neal’s Big & Tall Model Search was born.

The search was really successful and in just one month 15,000 big, sexy guys either submitted their pictures online or came out to our live casting calls. Not only did JCPenney discover three new models to be featured with me in their fall campaign, but also Wilhelmina ended up signing 10 new big & tall models for their Titans Division. I hope this shows my fellow big guys that doors are opening for them. Plus, this is going to really help other retailers who want to use real men in their advertisements, just like JCPenney.

Joseph DeAcetis: Talk to us about the history of Shaquille O’Neal XLG, exclusively available at JCPenney. How has your personal background and size correlate to this brand? 

Shaquille O’Neal: As a tall guy, there aren’t many places for me to go shopping, and I wanted to partner with a retailer that understands what big & tall truly means. Some retailers offer big and not tall styles, while others offer tall but not big styles. JCPenney understands that and offers both, which made the partnership a natural fit. I used to have a hard time finding clothes that fit me, but it was even harder finding things that also looked good. My brand XLG, at JCPenney, offers big & tall guys comfortable suits and dress shirts without sacrificing style. The price point is also something that’s always been important to me. Growing up I couldn’t afford expensive things and I’ve never been one to overcharge, so everything in the collection is under $200. Sexy at affordable prices, it’s the Shaq way.

Joseph DeAcetis: In your words, what are men seeking today in Big & Tall product offerings? How about in the fashion industry as a whole?

Shaquille O’Neal:The big guys just want to look sexy, too, and not go broke doing it. We want the opportunity to wear the same styles that the ‘little’ guys wear, whether it’s florals, stripes (I’m talking horizontal too!) or loud colors.

Joseph DeAcetis: You have the floor: Talk to my viewers about why it’s important to build a Big & Tall modeling network. And, why they should try XLG? (Details) 

Shaquille O’Neal: The big & tall guys want to be represented in ads. Sometimes I see guys that are modeling “big & tall” clothing and think, ‘they’ve got some growing to do!’My model search is the beginning of a new era. We’re breaking the rules that the true big & tall guys can’t represent themselves in fashion. Soon, you’ll see these guys on the cover of magazines, too. And, they can model clothes made just for them. Just like the “little” guy collections, each Shaquille O’Neal XLG garment has performance features like cooling fabrics and stretch accents like a flex collar to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible.

JC Penney Big

Joseph DeAcetis: In your words, what is JCPenney’s competitive advantage in the big and tall market?

Jeff Useforge, SVP for Men’s and Children’s at JCPenney: JCPenney is a one-stop shop for the big and tall man. We offer him a variety of trends and styles in one location. We have brands that he can only find at JCPenney – The Foundry, Shaquille O’Neal XLG, MSX by Michael Strahan – along with a great assortment of the national brands he wants including Levi’s, Nike and IZOD.

JCPenney has a world-class product development, design and sourcing team with over 200 in-house designers that create our private brands, including The Foundry. The Foundry is designed as a true big and tall brand, rather than just extensions of styles found in the men’s department. When designing this collection, we also use big and tall fit models and gather feedback from focus groups, which result in a true big and tall fit. We intentionally have more production time when designing for big and tall. It’s critical to get the fit right and we don’t want to rush it. 

Joseph DeAcetis: What kind of features are the big and tall community asking for in their apparel? (Flex collars, moisture wicking, etc.?)

Jeff Useforge, SVP for Men’s and Children’s at JCPenney: The big and tall man wants to wear the same trends and style as his friends. He does not want to look or feel any different. Flex collars, moisture wicking, stretch and performance features are among the important elements to the big and tall man – just like his friends shopping in the men’s department.

Joseph DeAcetis: How are you marketing to big & tall consumers?

Jeff Useforge, SVP for Men’s and Children’s at JCPenney: JCPenney personalizes our marketing to the big and tall man. We’re calling him by name in our emails to him and we use past purchases to inform what new product we show him. We reach him through a variety of marketing vehicles including direct mail and email.

JC Penney

Joseph DeAcetis: Talk to Forbes in detail about the current big and tall offerings and why it is important for this consumer to be aware of the brands?

Jeff Useforge, SVP for Men’s and Children’s at JCPenney: The JCPenney big and tall shopper will find three big trends in our shop now and throughout the fall – active, comfort (knit-based comfortable pieces that look stylish but are still comfortable for him to wear) and technology (moisture-wicking, stretch, zippers, etc.).

Joseph DeAcetis: What’s ahead for JCPenney in the big & tall space?

Jeff Useforge, SVP for Men’s and Children’s at JCPenney: We will continue to bring him the styles he wants for an incredible value.


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