A new la­bel by two best friends aims to dress chic, curvy women for the board­room. By GE­ORGINA SAFE

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Contents -

Curvy la­bel Sestre bal­ances business and plea­sure.

When Harper’s BAZAAR calls Ljubenka Milunovic, she’s sit­ting in a log cabin over­look­ing Lake Placid, a five-hour drive north of New York City. Is the in­ter­na­tional plus-size model on hol­i­day? “Wouldn’t that be lovely, but I’m here to work my butt off for the next four days,” she says, laugh­ing. Milunovic’s im­pend­ing shoot for Amer­i­can curvy brand full beauty is the lat­est in a cat­a­logue of work mod­el­ling for the likes of Chico’s and Tal­bots, but when it comes to Milunovic’s own wardrobe, she strug­gles to find the de­signer clothes she cov­ets in her size. “the mass mar­ket is well and truly taken care of with the num­ber of curvy brands out there, but I re­ally wanted to be wear­ing the qual­ity, style and con­struc­tion of clothes that my best friend Di­janna was able to ac­cess, and un­for­tu­nately I didn’t feel I had that op­tion,” she says.

The re­sult is Sestre, a new de­signer brand by Milunovic and Di­janna Mul­hearn aimed at de­liv­er­ing plus-size women lux­u­ri­ous wardrobe op­tions with a fash­ion edge. De­signed by Mul­hearn, a for­mer PR at Prada Aus­tralia and Harper’s BAZAAR, and author of Wardrobe 101: Cre­at­ing your Per­fect

Core Wardrobe, Sestre is named for the Croa­t­ian and Ser­bian word mean­ing ‘sis­ters’ and is fo­cused on fos­ter­ing a com­mu­nity of like­minded and like-sized women. “Ljubenka is half Ser­bian and half Croa­t­ian, and I’m full Croa­t­ian, and we’ve felt like sis­ters ever since we first met,” Mul­hearn says. “plus-size women of­ten feel marginalised when it comes to fash­ion, so we want to make them feel in­cluded and part of a sis­ter­hood.”

With Sestre’s de­but col­lec­tion, the sis­ter­hood can choose from sleek blaz­ers, pen­cil skirts with bold cas­cad­ing ruf­fles, softly tai­lored blouses and ar­rest­ing asym­met­ri­cal cock­tail dresses in sizes 14 to 22, all man­u­fac­tured in Aus­tralia.the brand also of­fers a be­spoke ser­vice for all sizes 14 and above. Ac­cord­ing to an IBISWORLD 2017 study of the Aus­tralian re­tail sec­tor, the plus-size cloth­ing mar­ket last year gen­er­ated $842.7 mil­lion in rev­enue and is fore­cast to con­tin­u­ally in­crease, with 65 per cent of our pop­u­la­tion now fall­ing into the cat­e­gory. Milunovic acts as muse to her business part­ner, who takes in the model’s feed­back to craft gar­ments that cel­e­brate rather than shroud the women who wear them. “I’ve done a lot of pub­lic speak­ing about fash­ion and I’ve al­ways felt help­less when curvy women have asked me where they can find beau­ti­ful clothes in their own size,” Mul­hearn says. “i’m de­ter­mined to cre­ate a curvy la­bel that chal­lenges straight-size la­bels, and I’m us­ing my ex­pe­ri­ence at Prada, which was all about in­tel­li­gent de­sign, to do that.”

Sestre draws its de­sign ethos from ar­chi­tec­ture and sculp­ture, and is es­pe­cially at­ten­tive to women in the cor­po­rate sec­tor. “the curve mar­ket is cov­ered when it comes to ca­sual cloth­ing, so we thought, Who can we help most in a mean­ing­ful way? and we came down to ca­reer women who felt marginalised in their wardrobe choices be­cause of their size,” Mul­hearn says. “it’s a very un­der­val­ued mar­ket we’re ex­cited to ad­dress. ”a pan­elled coat in­spired by the sil­hou­ette of the Chrysler Build­ing that draws the eye in at the waist and out at the hip and shoul­ders, and a struc­tured black dress with a bold cobalt fabric over piece pro­vid­ing a flat­ter­ing ge­o­met­ri­cal line are among the stand­out pieces.

“Of course, you can style our clothes to do any­thing — wed­dings, week­ends, what­ever,” Milunovic clar­i­fies. “but ev­ery one of our pieces is de­signed so that when you walk into the of­fice, some­body says, ‘Wow, I wish I was wear­ing that.’”

Ljubenka Milunovic (left), wear­ing Sestre dress, $770, and Di­janna Mul­hearn, wear­ing her own Acne Stu­dios shirt; The Row pants; R.M. Wil­liams belt.

Sestre top, $185, and skirt, $288; Chris­tian Dior sun­glasses, price on ap­pli­ca­tion; Hunt Leather bag, $895; Chris­tian Louboutin shoes; Gucci watch, both price on ap­pli­ca­tion. Above: Sestre dress, $770; bag and shoes as pre­vi­ous; Milunovic’s own ear­rings, ses­trethe­la­bel.com.

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