Ask any millennial (or any previous generation): the last decade of plus size fashion has easily surpassed the previous 20-30 years. For a while there we were moving in a positive direction – but then something happened.
Maybe it’s the return of the early 2000s aesthetic (thanks, Miu Miu), or maybe it’s the re-emergence of the Tumblr girl. For some reason, the conversation – and action – around body inclusivity has fizzled.
Nowhere is this more apparent than on the runway: According to Fashion Spot’s annual runway diversity report, in spring 2020, 86 curvy models crossed the four fashion capitals, but as the catwalks got smaller and as brands pulled out of fashion week during the pandemic, those numbers dropped. There are some signs of change on this front, but these statistics serve as a reminder that fashion will always thrive on some level of exclusivity. We hate to admit it out loud, but you have to be rich/white/thin enough to really succeed on some level. The hope (or naivety) was that as the industry saw the success of brands like Selkie and Good American, it would decide that the potential profits – reports predict that the plus size fashion industry will be worth $696.7 billion by 2027 – outweigh fatphobia. . What happened, instead, was that fashion got to a certain point and just… gave up.
Of course, we had representation, of a handful of models like Paloma Elsesser and Precious Lee walking for major European luxury houses and Lizzo calling Donatella Versace for bespoke dresses. But most of the time, fashion remains closed to most big guys. Mainstream theories point to Covid-19 and a lack of interest from heavy consumers as the culprits. To the former, we say: Duh, the whole fashion industry took a hit during Covid-19. For the latter, it’s a “chicken and egg” situation: retailers don’t sell plus-size clothing (or they don’t carry clothing above a certain size), plus-size customers don’t show of interest (or just don’t know how to look at it), retailers use it as proof that it doesn’t work. It’s a repeating pattern, Charlie Brown.
This is where Tiktok comes in.
Social media has always been transformative. In less than a decade, he has effectively democratized the fashion industry. Now, freelance designers who didn’t have the funds or connections to traditional court gatekeepers can appeal directly to their target audience (if you can go viral, of course). This includes dynamic young women designing for fat bodies.
Sabrina Edelen’s Wasil clothes are, ironically, the kind of bright, playful, edgy, whimsical look that would have garnered thousands of re-blogs at the time. The difference? Wasil is a size-inclusive brand, offering sizes XS-5X as well as customization for larger bodies at no extra cost.
The young designer identifies as medium height and says it was a no-brainer to make clothes in larger sizes: “It has always been my priority and heart [of my business]. It’s still going to cater primarily to plus-size clothing.”
Edelen is transparent about her journey as a freelance designer, a tactic that works well on Tiktok. (Her videos in the studio garner thousands of views.) In a November 2021 post shot in the popular “day in the life” format, she shares the process of creating a cloud-print puffer jacket, noting that she doesn’t doesn’t yet have a drafting table or a special brush to clean his serger (a type of sewing machine) – but that doesn’t stop his shape from creating a great garment “Delia’s but make it couture”, which unfortunately is sold out online.
Women designing for fat bodies is not a new phenomenon. As the digital body positive movement grew legs, we needed the right pants to pull them over. Fat bodies finally wanted to be seen, and brands like Zelie for She Jibri and (now defunct) Rue107 made clothes we wanted to be seen in. the brands did.
These garments and the big bodies that wore them were a major source of inspiration for designers like Doyeon Yoni Yu of C’Est D, an independent brand that currently offers XXS-6XL.
“I was born and raised in South Korea, which has very, very strict beauty and body standards,” she says. “If you’re not size zero, you’re fat. I hadn’t found any plus size designers…there was no representation of body diversity. I really didn’t have any type of influencer or creator that I could relate to.”
Scroll to continue
Yu arrived in the United States to attend fashion school at the height of the #BOPO movement. In an effort to market her brand, she has become something of an influencer herself, amassing over 62,000 followers on Tiktok by sharing both her brand and her personal experiences with weight discrimination in fashion and her culture. . One such video sees Yu appearing on a green screen on a beach in Korea while wearing a bathing suit. “My parents are like ‘cover your belly’ URM NO 😆,” the caption read. It has over 400,000 views and 100,000 likes.
Yu was also open about her experience designing for fat bodies at Parsons, where she graduated in 2018. The inclusion of the body in fashion education has become a more pressing topic in recent years, with students begging these schools to do more. (To Parsons’ credit, they made accommodations for Yu and have since updated their curriculum with body diversity classes at the BFA and MFA levels.) Yu originally launched C’Est D in the size range XS- 3X fairly standard, but promised buyers that later collections would expand to 4X, 5X and 6X sizes. And she did: Every piece featured in Yu’s debut show late last year was available from XXS to 6XL – even a pair of dazzling tie-dyed gloves, underscoring the need not only for clothing suitable for fatty substances, but also accessories.
If smaller brands like C’Est D and Wasil Clothing can offer larger bodies more options while operating with fewer resources, it begs the question that big influencers and advocates like Sauyce West have been asking for years: why? can’t big brands do it? Why does inclusive fashion stop at 3X?
There’s evidence that if you make clothes for the big guys, we’ll buy them. Since the launch of 4X to 6X, they have become C’est D’s most popular sizes, Yu says, “I know there are so many customers who need this inclusiveness.”
Fast fashion brands like Shein, PrettyLittleThing and Boohoo – all of which have recently, albeit quietly, expanded their size ranges – are also raking in the dough. These brands, however, don’t offer many sustainable options and have been kept away from their working practices. If you’re big but want to buy more sustainably, the choices are slim.
Taylor McCaw, a criminologist turned fashion designer, has made sustainability a key goal for Hone the Label, her small size-inclusive, ethically-sourced brand. The idea came from a frustrating search for clothes that fit her: “[I said]”Let’s see if we can come up with sustainable fashion that also celebrates our bodies as they are.”
McCaw is quick to note that her desire to create sustainable clothes is not a warning to big buyers of fast fashion, an opinion she often shares on the brand’s Tiktok page, which launched before the first collection. of the brand.
“Fast fashion has become such a big topic…and I feel like it’s been weaponized against our plus-size community,” she says, noting how saving money is rarely an option if you’re overstretching. a certain size, and price is a big hurdle for many people, no matter what your dress size is.
That’s why affordability was his brand’s other focus. Sustainable fashion is often more expensive than fast fashion, doubly so for those of us who live in fat bodies. McCaw was determined to find the intersection of sustainability, inclusion and (relatively) affordability.
“With our price, we’re between $79 and $179 AUD ($56 – $128 USD),” she says, “so in terms of our position in the Australian market, that would be [a] average price.” The icing on the cake? Sizes on offer are AU14-28 (US10-24), and McCaw is looking to expand further in the future.
Affordability and extended size are two things a big brand with an established supply chain could easily manage. They might even find ways to be more sustainable, but the realization we’ve come to is this: they don’t want to.
Armed with a sewing machine, the latest trending sound from Tiktok, and a dream, the next generation of designers are here. And they are not interested in the self-imposed limitations of the fashion industry.
Want the latest fashion industry news first? Sign up for our daily newsletter.