Women cel­e­brate size in­clu­siv­ity at al­ter­na­tive fash­ion week

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By Leanne Italie

To woots and cheers from the crowd, women with bod­ies not of­ten seen on fash­ion run­ways strut­ted with smiles on their faces wear­ing pieces from Loft’s new plus line, in­clud­ing five cast from hun­dreds who at­tended an al­ter­na­tive New York Fash­ion Week event, The Curvy Con.

Size in­clu­siv­ity was on the minds of th­ese women, about 1,000 from around the world who flocked to the three-day cel­e­bra­tion at a Mid­town venue decked out with a pop-up shop and booths filled with fash­ion and beauty prod­ucts. It was the fourth an­nual Curvy Con, the sec­ond to co­in­cide with fash­ion week.

The gath­er­ing, with panel dis­cus­sions, fit­ness ses­sions and work­shops on style, was co-founded by style in­flu­encers Chastity Garner Valen­tine and CeCe Olisa.

“We saw a need for plus size fash­ion and in­clu­siv­ity to be aligned with main­stream fash­ion,” Olisa said af­ter the Loft show Fri­day. “The lack of plus size fash­ion op­tions doesn’t make us an­gry but it is a very clear call to ac­tion for the work that we do. We wanted to show that there’s an ap­petite for plus size fash­ion. There are women who are ready and will­ing to shop and buy at all lev­els, from su­per cheap all the way up to de­signer.”

This year’s guest speak­ers in­cluded ten­nis pro Venus Wil­liams, who has her own ac­tivewear line, EleVen by Venus Wil­liams, de­signer Tracy Reese, who sits on the board of the Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica, and Lizzo, a singer, rap­per and body pos­i­tive ad­vo­cate.

“I’m so ex­cited that it’s start­ing to catch fire,” Reese said of more op­tions th­ese days in larger sizes. “I be­lieve in mak­ing ev­ery­one feel beau­ti­ful.”

Her com­pany first started show­ing larger sizes in 2016. She and other ad­vo­cates ac­knowl­edged there’s a long way to go, how­ever, in terms of equal pric­ing and equal style above size 16.

“The av­er­age Amer­i­can woman is larger than the sizes that are car­ried in de­part­ment stores by and large. It’s so ridicu­lous. The missed op­por­tu­nity is just bad busi­ness. There’s a com­plete dis­con­nect there,” Reese said.

At 6-1, wear­ing sizes 8 to 10, Wil­liams doesn’t see in­clu­siv­ity through a lens of siz­ing so much as the idea of “meet­ing a need” that runs deep among all women. Her name­sake line has em­braced larger sizes.

“I spent a whole life mov­ing my body,” Wil­liams said dur­ing one panel, “The Fu­ture of In­clu­siv­ity,” hosted by the on­line plus size re­tail ser­vice Dia & Co. and the CFDA. “Life is about do­ing some­thing pos­i­tive with your body. That it­self is where you get your self­es­teem . ... It’s about what you do for your­self. That’s where you get your con­fi­dence.”

Reese, also on the panel, sees the size move­ment mo­men­tum as de­mand­ing ba­sic “rights” for larger women. The move­ment owes a debt to so­cial me­dia blog­gers and other in­flu­encers like the CurvyCon founders, along with de­sign­ers and brands who have come around, she said.

Count Loft in the lat­ter cat­e­gory.

The com­pany launched plus siz­ing (up to 26) back in Fe­bru­ary on­line with styles and price points iden­ti­cal to its smaller sizes. The roll­out to brick-and-mor­tar stores be­gan Sept. 4 in 50 lo­ca­tions around the coun­try. More will fol­low.

“We heard it from our cus­tomers,” said Laura Ja­cobs, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer for Loft. “We didn’t change the line. We didn’t change the aes­thetic. In Fe­bru­ary when we launched, we sold out some pieces in two weeks.”

At the run­way show, the Loft mod­els had no in­ter­est in the usual dead-eyed dead­pan com­mon on run­ways. To Aretha Franklin’s “Re­spect,” they hap­pily walked in Loft wrap dresses in lively prints, short looks with flouncy hem­lines, black trousers and pantsuits, and jeans with a touch of added stretch. The com­pany also met an­other fit need, in out­er­wear, with wool jack­ets in bur­gundy and pow­der blue.

Did Loft get the siz­ing right? Much is made about “deficits” in plus siz­ing.

“We fit on plus mod­els,” Ja­cobs said. “Our siz­ing is true.”

Reese is push­ing for ini­tia­tives to bet­ter ed­u­cate de­sign­ers on the fash­ion school level. To­day, thin is how they learn to draw and cre­ate, she said. She also ques­tioned the no­tion of “size ghet­tos” in stores, where plus sizes are se­questered rather than mixed in with smaller sizes.

“Ev­ery­body should be shop­ping where their per­son­al­ity fits,” Reese said. “Not by their body size.”

Dia & Co. and the CFDA have part­nered on a new ini­tia­tive, #TeeUpChange, to fund size-in­clu­sive fash­ion ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams. Wil­liams, Lizzo, Reese, de­signer Chris­tian Siriano and emerg­ing de­signer Marissa Pet­teruti have con­trib­uted lim­ited edi­tion graphic T-shirts with mes­sages of em­pow­er­ment and priced at $35 each, ex­clu­sively in sizes 0X to 5X to help fund the cam­paign. The shirts are avail­able at teeupchange. com.

The mo­men­tum in ad­vo­cat­ing for change is per­sonal, Lizzo said. She re­called the mo­ment a few years back when she re­al­ized the world was start­ing to get it.

“I fi­nally saw my­self in the me­dia. I saw my­self on In­sta­gram. I saw my­self on a blog. I saw a web­site, Swim­suits for All, where I could pur­chase some­thing and I could feel just as cute as a size 2 su­per­model,” Lizzo said. “That made me feel re­ally beau­ti­ful.

The Loft spring 2019 col­lec­tion is mod­eled dur­ing Fash­ion Week Fri­day, Sept. 7, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Ha­gen).

The Loft spring 2019 col­lec­tion is mod­eled dur­ing Fash­ion Week Fri­day, Sept. 7, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Ha­gen).

The Loft spring 2019 col­lec­tion is mod­eled dur­ing Fash­ion Week Fri­day, Sept. 7, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Ha­gen).

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