Oh, what a weekend it was! Full figure fashion took centre stage in the Fashion Capital of the World. In its second year, TheCurvyCon proved to be a mammoth force to be reckoned with. When asked about the game changers for this year both CeCe Olisa and Chastity Garner Valentine gave many thanks to the loyal social media fans and new partnerships with JCPenney and StyleWatch.
It’s the personal touch in addition to a great message and style that has created such a strong following. “I respond to every comment. If you snapchat me, I’ll snapchat you back!” Cece said, “It’s an amazing thing that people are willing to support what you do not only on social media for free but come to spend their hard-earned money investing in what we are doing. It’s something we never take for granted and we are so grateful.” Ticket holders no matter how much they spent were treated to endless excitement all weekend long.
Penney’s debuted their plans for a sleek in-store shopping experience, Boutique +, which is sure to shake up the brick-and-mortar retail arena. VP of Brand Management Nathan Laffin explains the genesis of the revamp. “One of the things we are trying to address with Boutique is pulling it all together in an environment that doesn’t feel shoved in a corner, doesn’t feel forgotten, doesn’t feel ‘less-than’… The plus community was speaking loud and clear and if there is one thing we pride ourselves on it’s being able to answer the needs of all of our customers and we felt like it was our honour and our obligation (to create Boutique+).”
Laffin continued by explaining why they chose to work with Ashley Nell Tipton. “We were actually in talks with her before Project Runway. We love Ashley – such a pleasure to work with. We think her spirit of fun and empowerment is a perfect example of how we would like all of our customers to feel about shopping and getting dressed.”
When we sat down with the designer herself, she said she was thrilled to be working with JCP, where her line drops in September and will go to a size 30 (size 34 online). “There’s going to be stripes. There’s going to be sequins. There’s going to be everything I imagine a plus size woman having in her wardrobe – effortless pieces that do all the work for you.”
I wouldn’t doing this if I didn’t know it was going to be affordable to everyone, great quality, great fit. I worked on this line for 6 months…we made sure that it was true to my vision and even if we wanted something that cost more we worked around it so that customers could still get the best price.”
The Project Runway winner is not resting on her laurels or forgetting her vision. “(Fame) comes with a great amount of responsibility…it’s been amazing to be crown this winner for plus sizes. It puts us out there. It shows that we can be fashionable, we can be funky…we can be all these things. For me, (going after a career in plus size designs) was never a roadblock. I saw it as an opportunity. Others said ‘oh, you’re so smart to get into plus sizes since they need that, but for me it was common sense. I’m a designer. I know how to stitch and sew, so why not do this full time? I’m not working anymore. I’m doing what I love.”
The breaking news, didn’t stop there. On the first night, Platinum ticket holders, VIPs, and press – sippy cups of rosé in hand- were loaded on to party buses to the GwynnieBee headquarters in Queens where the upcoming collab with Rachel Antonoff was unveiled. A theme I’m starting to notice is: it’s all about listening to you, the customer! Once again, public demand was credited in shaping plans and inventory. GwynnieBee founder Christine Hunsicker explained that the idea behind GB was to give women variety and opportunity to have a wardrobe that can accommodate you even if your size or taste fluctuates. Hunsicker approached Rachel Antonoff because customers wanted it but that aesthetic was not available already in the plus community. “We already carry many higher end brands like ABS and Johnny Was…and want to provide people with a lot of variety, so we will continue to add in better and better designers into the mix.”
The handful of Antonoff’s fruity, flirty summer pieces were unleashed down the runway Friday night and will now be available to put in your GB closets online or via the new GwynnieBee app! After the show, we caught up with Rachel, who is as laid-back and cool as her designs. For someone as petite as she, I am surprised to find that she is genuinely excited to serve the plus community. When asked if she would be doing more releases for GB, she said “Yes! Absolutely! For as long as they will have us!”
“I loved fashion growing up…it’s about fun. It’s about being silly and dressing up and expressing yourself,” she explains, but when she got a taste of the exclusivity of the fashion industry she felt she needed to break the mould so that women of ALL sizes can express themselves. “(Doing a plus line) is something I’ve always wanted to do.” She also plans to have more size diversity on her runways. “It needs to be not considered a novelty. ” We hope many other designers follow suit, Rachel!
We also go a chance to get to know Lisa Arbetter who is with another major co-sponsor at this year’s CurvyCon, StyleWatch magazine. Chatting about curvy celebrities and the changing face of mainstream media, Arbetter was quick to explain how StyleWatch includes size diversity. “We want to show all sizes…we include plus sizes through out our magazine.” They do have staff committed to editorial content as well as collaborating with famous bloggers, but Lisa mentioned something really exciting. “Anyone who wants to share their view –whether if it’s what they’re wearing or something more- can contribute online on TheOutfit.com.” We will be watching StyleWatch to see how they shape the media front to include all women, but until then, I know I will be heading over to TheOutfit!
Saturday was all about the panels. Bloggers like Nadia Aboulhosn told the crowd how she got started. Style stars Nicolette Mason and Amina Mucciolo did a lunch panel on finding your own style. Earlier in the convention, when I spoke to Amina I learned that she is so much more than her fierce style and legendary tassel banners. She also has started to open up about other issue dear to her heart on YouTube to break down myths about mental illness and open real dialogues about body image.
Celebrities like comedian Michelle Buteau, Grammy-winner Tasha Cobb and TV queen Sherri Shepherd closed out the day with witty, ernest views on their experiences being full-figured and famous. All women had one thing in common: confidence. “Find the one thing that makes you special, makes you the love of someone’s life and hold on to that,” Shepherd said, later on telling a story about how someone once told her she was basically too fat for TV, “I never saw her again, but I am sure she’s seeing me!” Buteau had a similar story and even when judged on appearance by men she said, “If you don’t want to hear from me, you’ll hear about me!” These moments of motivation and sass were met with overwhelming applause.
When I met Sherri Shepherd in the green room, she was as approachable, honest and funny as her public persona. She said she was so excited to be at TheCurvyCon and seems to have a real passion for spreading her energy and experience with the rest of us. “I’m real excited to be around my curvy sisters! People try to tell us that we are not enough, or in our case, too much….(but) you can do anything you want! OUR time is now!”
Yes. Yes, it is.
The Vendor Roundup:
Metropolitan Center was set up to the max with the biggest brands on the biz. Most of them you should be very familiar with like always-on-trend ASOS, Eloquii and Simply Be, while some of them are shopping mall stand bys like Catherine’s. What I found really interesting were the independent brands and online-only brands that gave me a rare opportunity to browse and try on.
First off, Fashion to Figure took a lot of my money. They are an affordable brand but with so many cute dresses, I just couldn’t help myself but to stock up on brightly coloured bodycons and cute kimonos.
The ability to physically see the merchandise is particularly important with lingerie. Curvy Couture has beautiful underpinnings that are good for daily use, but I really loved Yandy! They have quality, special occasion lingerie with the design and feel of the likes of Agent Provocateur. So if you are in the market for a silky, lace teddy with a unique look, peruse Yandy’s plus section.
Rachel Roy’s pop-up was very popular as expected. She has a very sleek, modern take on 1970’s chambray and peasant tops. Her freeform and flowing suiting and high-quality fabrics infused a Saks vibe into the shopping section of the convention.
Small independent vendors also piqued my interest. Ask Fashion of Boston specialised in punk-rock inspired, anglophile styles like partial Union Jack designs. Love Lianca of California is a boutique that carries brands like Junarose and independent designs. The owner explained that she cobs the garment district of downtown LA looking for great wholesale items and she even carries deigns that you won’t find anywhere else like her could-shoulder “shimmy shrug.” (pictured on her)
If all of these shops overwhelmed any attendees, stylists from Dia & Co. were on hand to help you find your personal style. Their service brings personalised, curated boxes of fashion delivered to you door. Love it? Keep it and they will charge your account. Not your style? Send it back!
theCURVYcon organizers announced that theCURVYcon would move from Full Figure Fashion Week to New York Fashion Week beginning in 2017. The 2017 event will take place on September 8th and 9th during the 2017 New York Fall Fashion Week (Details and tickets are now on sale here). Have suggestions for 2017? Connect with the team at www.thecurvycon.com/contact/