Interview with Angel Sinclair, Founder of Models of Diversity advocacy group

2 May

Angel Sinclair, courtesy of Models of Diversity

Models of Diversity is a British advocacy group that pushes for the recognition of models of all races, ages, shapes, sizes and abilities in the fashion and marketing industries. It’s various research has found that more than half of women wearing size 18 feel shops don’t offer a range of choices that cater to different sizes. It also found that more than four in 10 women wearing a size 18 or larger find plus-size clothes to be less fashionable than smaller sizes. Founder, Angel Sinclair speaks to Plus Side of Plus Size about some of the organization’s key efforts.

Many people recognize the lack of diversity in the fashion industry, but few actually work to change it—what inspired you to take action?

I was first inspired when I was a contestant on Gok Wan’s “Miss Naked Britain” in 2008 and I saw such diverse beauty present that you just don’t see on the catwalk and in magazines. I think the fact that so few do work to change it means it’s even more of an effort I need to take on.

Why do you choose to gather data through street polls?

It’s the general public that makes a fashion industry possible by buying the clothes and it’s they who consume the media output, yet time and again they tell us they can’t identify with the models presenting the clothes they are meant to aspire to own. It’s only right that their voices are heard.

What are your general findings?

It couldn’t be more plain—people tell us there is not enough diversity of all kinds. When they see a model presenting a look, they want to have an idea how it will look on them. When the average size of a UK women is 14 that’s what people want to see! And yet if a plus size model appears on the catwalk it causes such an uproar.

What is the main purpose of your campaigns and polls?

It’s all about raising awareness and encouraging people to think and talk about the issues. We talk to designers, publishing houses, media companies just trying to get them to think about what seems obvious to us—that the models we see don’t represent the audience. We have about 4,500 members on our Facebook group. And we get coverage from local press, radio and fashion blogs.

Have you presented these findings to the UK’s fashion and advertising industries or any national media outlets, in hopes that it will change their practices?

We are having discussions with the British Fashion Council and hope to influence next year’s London Fashion Week, but progress is slow.

Tell me about your diverse-model fashion shows—particularly last month’s event at Oxford Fashion Week.

We had models of colour, with disabilities, mature models, plus size, petite and male. We invited the public, fashion critics, designers and anyone else  interested in fashion and beauty. Attendees and local press were very positive and I recall one designer saying he had become bored with the other presentations showing the same old shapes and sizes—but he said when our models came on he was thrilled.

Do you foresee plus-size models and clothing appearing in national women’s magazines and on mainstream Fashion Week runways any time soon?

Not really—it is good to see some shops starting to offer their range in larger sizes. But focus from the media tends to fall on a plus-size celebrity model, not including plus size in the mainstream in general. It just hasn’t been accepted yet: at last year’s London Fashion Week, when Mark Fast decided to use size 12 and 14 models at London Fashion Week, some of his design team walked out! It was madness!

What can we expect next from Models of Diversity? Any expansion plans or upcoming campaigns or events?

We’re producing a TV short, which we hope will lead to TV exposure, and we’re looking to put on a plus-size fashion show late summer.

Interview with Susan Georget, founder of Wilhelmina & Image NYC’s Plus Model Divisions

24 Apr

Susan Georget is famous within the plus-size industry for founding Wilhelmina Models’ “Ten 20” Division in 1994, and for launching Images NYC’s “Figure 8” Division this year. During her time with Wilhelmina, some of the industry’s top models were discovered, including Kate Dillion, Emme, Mia Tyler, Julie Henderson and Jordan Tesfay. This week, she spoke candidly with The Plus Side of Plus Size about the modeling industry, the challenges of plus-size, and her favorite part of the job. We’ve included the highlights here.

What do you see as the role of plus-size modeling in the world of fashion?

It’s important to note that there are people who make clothes and there are people who make fashion. The people who make clothes will always need models and advertising, just like anything else. People who make fashion are more particular. The reason we look at magazines and we watch women on the runway is, just like movies, it’s entertainment. So there’s nothing wrong with fashion. For me, it’s not really that, it’s making the clothes that everyone buys accessible to everybody. And more than that, it’s making women feel beautiful and normal in the bodies that they’re born in because we’re supposed to look this way.

Where do you see the largest demand for plus size models?

 For the plus-size retailers, it’s really about selling the clothes in the catalogs, and much less about runways, magazines or ad campaigns. For advertising, there are very few, if any products, really, that will use a plus-size woman over a straight-size woman.

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Who doesn’t love vague and totally uninformative news coverage?

21 Apr

Snapshot, courtesy of My Fox Boston

So Fox affiliate, My Fox Boston just posted this ever-insightful link of its news clip, “Plus-Size Models May Promote Obesity.” Unfortunately, I can’t embed the clip, so you’ll have to click here to watch it. Here’s how the reporter kicks off the story:

“Everyone knows that size zero, fashion models can promote unhealthy body image for girls, but some researchers say average sized or plus size models actually promote obesity.”

What I want to know is what exactly has this news clip accomplished? It didn’t offer an explanation of the study, nor did it explain the findings. But it was quick to jump to “plus size models promote obesity” — which I personally find to be as ridiculous of a statement as “skinny models promote eating disorders.” Neither is solely responsible for people’s weight. Influences from the media, fashion runways and other environmental factors are only part of the larger issues of weight problems — on both ends of the spectrum.

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Designing for Plus Size with Yulia Raquel of IGIGI

14 Apr

Yuliya Raquel, courtesy of Igigi.com

The difficulties of designing for plus size have been highlighted as a key reason companies shy from the full-figured market. The diverse sizes require larger manufacturing equipment, additional floor and storage space in retail shops, and more material in the production process—which makes up 60 percent of a garment’s costs and makes plus size more expensive to produce.

But San Francisco designer, Yuliya Raquel of the plus-size line, IGIGI, says the designing techniques for plus and straight sizes are very similar. Both ultimately strive to create a flattering silhouette with even proportions.

“Of course, it’s much easier to dress a woman who is a size 2 or 4 and 6 feet tall than it is to dress a woman who is a size 22 or 24 and 5’6,” said Raquel. She explains most slender bodies have a similar shape, while larger women tend to carry their weight differently. “For a more voluptuous woman, each design must serve a specific body shape—some for pear-shaped women, who have a larger derrière, larger hips, and a more pronounced waistline, and others for apple-shaped or oval-shaped women who carry their weight in their upper bodies.”

But she assures that if there is a marketable audience for the products, then the additional costs are easily covered. IGIGI designs have been featured in the pages of magazines from Glamour and Marie Claire, to O, The Oprah Magazine, Essence and People StyleWatch, so it doesn’t look like her business advice is too off-track.

Raquel offers The Plus Side of Plus Size an inside look at what goes into designing her fantastically chic—but also practical and comfortable—clothing line. Continue reading

Q&A with Gwendolyn DeVoe, Founder of Full Figured Fashion Week

10 Apr

Gwendolyn DeVoe, courtesy of DeVoe Signature Events

In the United States alone, more than 40 million women wear a size 14 or larger, while mainstream runway models wear sizes 0, 2 and 4.  But Gwendolyn DeVoe, a former plus-size model and longtime advocate for fuller figures on fashion runways, is sick of it. She sat down with The Plus Side of Plus Size to talk about the upcoming, third annual Full Figured Fashion Week (June 16-18, 2011). Here are some of her interview highlights.

So what exactly is Full Figured Fashion Week (FFFW) and what inspired you to launch such an event?

Plus size consumers have been virtually ignored throughout the history of traditional fashion weeks, and we became tired of trying to be accepted and included. So in 2009, we decided to create our own event, Full Figured Fashion Week.

FFFW is a partnership between retailers, independent designers, event planners, and vendors for plus-sized individuals. And we’ve all come together to increase the economic value of the plus-sized fashion industry. But it’s not like typical fashion weeks with scheduled showcases driven by individual designers. FFFW is different. Of course, designers and retailers will showcase their collections at our finale runway event, but intertwined, we also have panel discussions, escorted shopping trips, plus-sized sample sales, an up-and-coming plus-sized designer scholarship competition, and a number of other networking events.

It’s amazing, but for many attendees, FFFW is somewhat of a pilgrimage. We’ve found that 90% of our guests are not even from New York! They come from all over—Australia, Paris, Brazil, Japan and all across the U.S.! It’s really more than a fashion show, it’s like a plus-sized women’s convention.

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Plus-Size: What’s the Big Deal?

4 Apr

Candice Huffine 2010, courtesy of V Magazine

We’ve all seen the articles with “Love your Body,” “Be Confident” and other headlines of encouragement from our favorite fashion magazines. But they’re too often paired with images of seemingly flawless women who are alarmingly smaller than the typical magazine reader. But in recent years, we’ve seen these articles—as well as top fashion spreads—accompanied by beautiful models with full bodies, large breasts and round thighs. These images are evidence of the rise of the plus-sized model, and for the most part, readers have been overwhelmingly thrilled with their arrival.

But what exactly is a plus-sized model? They have perfectly smooth skin and great legs, nothing too deviant from the conventionally thin models, and they’re often tall, another signature model trait. Sure their bones don’t protrude from their backs and knees—in fact, most have been celebrated for their full and curvaceous figures—but they still wear haute couture, have flat stomachs and look fantastic in photos. But many wear a size 14 or 16, the size of the average American woman (it’s estimated that 56 percent of American women wear plus sizes), as compared to straight-sized models who wear a size 0 to 4. But if they look healthy, happy and beautiful, and more importantly wear an average woman’s size, why the title, “plus size?”

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