NEW YORK: Macy's, the department-store chain, is responding to the "huge wakeup call" facing fashion brands and retailers, as millennial and multicultural shoppers favour very different styles and sizes than their predecessors.

Tim Teran, the company's svp/consumer insights and strategy, discussed this subject at the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) 2014 Industry Leadership Forum.

"The look and feel for 50 years of fashion was Skinny Minnie," he said. (For more, including how the firm is adapting to this shift, read Warc's exclusive report: Macy's makes a play on multicultural, millennial consumers.)

"It was the blonde-haired girl from Greenwich with blue eyes, and she couldn't be any thinner, and she could never be thin enough and skinny enough."

Now, by contrast, the skinny-blonde look is being replaced by a richer, fuller-figured role model - a change that has profound implications for Macy's and its peers.

"The world of beauty and the world of fashion have changed dramatically over the past 40 years," said Teran.

Macy's has seen that transition play out in its own business, as sales data from the shop floor indicate how attitudes and preferences are evolving.

"Over the past five years, the fasting-growing wearer size of clothing hasn't been 'Missy'," said Teran.

Rather than small sizes, the new hot-seller is "plus" sizes. "And it's not just the spreading of America as they get older. The fast growth is among millennials," he said.

This means that many women are now going up in size to fit the new body that is becoming the admired norm.

From marketing messages to the clothes they sell and the mannequins in store windows, fashion retailers will thus have to reconsider various aspects of their business.

"It's a huge wakeup call that says, 'Yes, the mindsets are different'," said Teran.

Data sourced from Warc