Sunday, July 18, 2010

My Feature Article for Ruby Magazine

This was the feature article for the SPI magazine launch project (which we finally named Ruby Magazine). From the feedback we got from Ariel Foxman (who was an absolute pleasure to meet!), we changed the focus of the mission statement away from weight loss and toward fashion for plus size women. I was assigned the position of executive editor, so I wrote this article (with the help of my team). Enjoy!

Runway Recap: Full Figured Fashion Week 2010

The second annual show proves curvy girls can catwalk
June 23, 2010

Long gone are the days of shapeless muumuus and poly stretch pants. Full Figured Fashion Week shows off what’s hot in plus size fashion.

From June 16 - 19 in New York City, hundreds of fashionistas turned out to celebrate the second-annual Full Figured Fashion Week (FFFWeek). The sold-out and star-studded event began last year as a way to showcase the new collections and trendy plus size designs that are serving a growing market of fashion-forward, full figured women.

The four-day event featured runway showcases, a modeling competition, discussion panels and seminars, and even a guided shopping excursion. Notable guests included plus size supermodel Emme Aronson, America’s Next Top Model winner Whitney Thompson, and Biggest Loser contestant Carla Sheridan. Thirty-five sponsors supported the event, including big names like Revlon and Lane Bryant.

Similar to other fashion shows, the air buzzed with infectious energy both behind the scenes and on the runway. But unlike these shows, the voluptuous models looked relaxed, healthy, and in high spirits as they confidently strutted down the runway in feathers and sequins.

Rather than strained silence, the packed crowd at FFFWeek’s opening runway loudly expressed their approval for their favorite look. The music, drinks, and cheering crowd created a celebratory atmosphere.

There must be something strong in those raspberry lemonade Sonsi-tinis - cocktails aptly named for sponsor Sonsi.com, an online destination for plus size shopping.

Gwen DeVoe, founder and executive producer of FFFWeek, hosted the event’s opening ceremony at the exclusive New York City club Boulevard. DeVoe, donning a fitted white number adorned with rosettes, worked the crowd in preparation for a runway showcase featuring plus-inclusive designers and design collaborations with large-scale retailers.

“Every curvy girl that has a dollar is willing to spend that dollar,” she told the energetic crowd. “And so we as curvy customers [are] loyal customers. I know that at a lovely size 18 and a size 12 shoe, when I see something I like, I buy four, five, and six of them, because I can’t stand the drama of looking for it again.” Judging by the crowd’s cheers, many attendees could also sympathize with the hassles of shopping for plus size clothing.

The plus size community has been underserved and largely ignored by the mainstream fashion industry, and FFFWeek is its long overdue response. On a business level, FFFWeek is a way for retailers and designers to meet with their plus-size customers. From a greater perspective, the event serves as backlash against the exclusive nature of the fashion industry and a push for size acceptance in the fashion community.

A market valued at $18 billion, plus size fashion is a booming business opportunity. However, the fashion industry at large has been slow, and sometimes even resistant, to capitalize on this market. Recent news surrounding American Apparel’s decision to stop producing certain items above a size 6 and fashion designer Julien Macdonald’s disparaging comments about plus size modeling continue to perpetuate size discrimination.

However, retail giants like Walmart and Target are recently stepping in to fill the plus size fashion void. Both retailers debuted their latest plus size clothing collections at FFFWeek’s opening runway showcase. Walmart’s Just My Size previewed their younger, trendier sister line Evolution by Just My Size, which included fun tops in animal prints and bold colors with price points under $20. Angelina Mortarotti, the designer behind the Pure Energy line for Target, created a collection with floral and plaid tops, denim staples, and on-trend jackets.

FFFWeek showcased 25 diverse designers who specifically cater to the full figured woman. Angel L. Myers of The Angel Alternative had only been sewing for the past 10 months, but her retro-inspired pieces looked as though she had years of experience. Jaspher Knowles of edgy, fashion-forward Drapery flew in all the way from the Bahamas to take part.

Fashion designer Susan Moses has styled an impressive clientele of celebrities, including Queen Latifah and Gabourey Sidibe. Her collection hit the right trends: sequin mini dresses, silky jumpsuits, and a metallic, peplum stunner that hugged all the right curves.

Deb Malkin, owner of boutique Re/Dress NYC, had her eye on the Susan Moses collection. “She’s branching out into a lot of party and evening wear, and it blew me away. Her collection is really extraordinary,” she said of the celebrity stylist.

Another designer that impressed Malkin was Project Runway alumnus Qristyl Frazier, whose collection included off-the-shoulder column dresses. Frazier’s dresses played with the draping and wrapping of fabric around the shoulder, across the bust, or tied around the waist.

But Malkin’s standby favorite was IGIGI by Yuliya Raquel, a plus size design brand with 10 years of experience. “Lots of incredible prints, really well proportioned clothes. They just know what women want,” she remarked. IGIGI’s graphic print wrap dresses were easily among the night’s best pieces.

Malkin, a plus-size woman herself, understands how frustrating shopping and fashion can be for the full figured woman. “I was right there in the struggle of finding it really hard to find clothes and really understanding the role of fashion as it relates to the social standing of bigger people,” she revealed.

“I don’t think we have a sense of the collective fun of shopping because so much shopping happens online for plus size women, and that’s not really the same experience that other women have where they get to go shopping together and have a good time,” she shared.

Fortunately, FFFWeek provides another much-needed outlet through which the curvy community can come together to celebrate their shape and have fun with fashion. Malkin nails it on the head with her parting advice: “dress yourself for today and really express yourself through the creativity of fashion.”

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