Igigi Blogger on
March 13, 2015
She rocks our worlds with her cool and chic styling and her meaningful niche of inspiring women through fashion and faith. Kiah recently reviewed our very popular Adelle Dress in Cobalt Beatnik and was also fabulous enough to grant us an interview.
From The Rez to the City
1. How did From the Rez to the City come about?
I love fashion and decided to share my style and fashion finds to inspire other plus size women.
2. What does “Inspiring Women through Fashion and Faith” mean for you?
My goal is to prove that no matter your shape/size/weight, any woman can be stylish. I believe the key to great style is finding inspiration, being creative and displaying confidence. I also aim to emphasize that inward beauty is most important and my faith helps me with that.
3. How has that worked out?
My blog is growing and I continue to get positive feedback so I think it has worked out great!
(“This dress fit well and was light and comfortable. I just have to say, “Adelle, I adore you”).
3. How do you see the plus-size fashion landscape?
I think that plus-size fashion has come a long way but I won’t be satisfied until I see popular designers making clothes to fit ME! I wanna rock Valentino, Gucci, and Marc Jacobs too!
4. What are some typical questions you get from your readership?
Where can they find a particular piece that they are looking for in plus-size, and questions about my faith.
5. What is your style mantra?
Throw out the rules and have fun with fashion! Oh, and also, too much is never enough!
6. What are some of your fashion faves and faux pas?
I love a good maxi dress. I can do without crop tops – they just don’t get along with my belly. [laughs]
7. What are three spring items you love from the IGIGI collections?
Adelle Dress, Isla Dress, and the Blake Gown in Bright Rose.
8. If you could spend an entire day with a designer, whom would you choose?
(“I fell in love with the beautiful cobalt blue as well as the grid print that has become a hot trend in fashion”).
9. What style advice do you have for plus-size ladies?
Stop allowing the fashion rules that have been put on us concerning fashion dictate your choices. Buy what you like and rock it! Flattery is in the eye of the beholder. As long as your eyes like it, then that’s all that matters!
10. What are you looking forward to in the spring?
I’m looking forward to pink. I’ve never really been a pink kind of girl but this spring I’m going to give the color a whirl (and perhaps a twirl).
–Ozlem Arpaci, PR at IGIGI
Igigi Blogger on
March 4, 2015
Darlene Lebron of Suits, Heels, and Curves is one of our favorite plus-size fashion bloggers. We recently had a chat with her about her start as a blogger, her fashion must-have items, and what advice she has for other fashionistas alike.
Check her out in our coveted items of the season, Louise Jacket and Mariah Skirt in Tahitian Nights!
1. How did Suits, Heels, and Curves come about?
I developed Suits, Heels and Curves due to the lack of workwear fashion featured in the plus size market. I followed many of the great plus-size bloggers but felt very few addressed the need of the corporate plus size professional. Working in a corporate environment, I also felt the need to be more creative with my own style and move away from the traditional, all black suit. Plus size women are thought to hide behind oversized, bland clothing, and I wanted to be the catalyst of change within this space. I want to empower women of all sizes to conquer the boardroom and break free from the uniform.
2. How do you see the plus-size landscape?
The plus-size industry has made leaps and bounds within the past few years, but it still has a long way to go. Larger sizes as well as petite and taller women are often still left out of the spectrum. Fast fashion has provided a new avenue for style expression among plus-size women. But there continues to be a lack of quality and higher end items of key staple pieces. In career wear, we still continue to see lack of color, cuts, and styles. This is why I am a huge fan of IGIGI. The IGIGI Louise Jacket and Mariah Skirt bring a tremendous amount of “wow” factor while still being work appropriate and of excellent quality.
3. What is the most interesting experience you have had as a blogger so far?
I can’t identify one key experience but February marks the one-year anniversary of the blog, and I am still floating on cloud nine. I am in awe of the amazing women that I have encountered along this journey, and to have followers from all over the US, UK, Dubai, Colombia, etc. is just insane to me. I am just a girl trying to look good for work in the morning so when people recognize me at events it still gives me butterflies. My followers truly give me the strength to continue producing new material even if it means taking pictures in frigid weather.
4. What are some typical questions you get from your readership?
“Where is that from and is it true to size?” My readers are always looking for new shopping options so I always share where items are purchased from and how they fit. I will often list the size that I am wearing since that also serves as a helpful reference point. Because I am short I like to note if something is best for a taller or shorter girl. I also receive a lot of questions regarding if a particular item is interview or work appropriate. I love helping my readers find that perfect look that they feel confident and powerful in.
5. What are three fashion must haves?
A perfectly tailored black suit is a “must” in my closet. Styled together or separately, a black suit is extremely versatile and an important staple. For a “wow” bag, it has to fit my laptop – yes, I love large bags, but it also must be special. I love color when it comes to my handbags. If I’m in a black suit you better believe I am walking into the room with a hot pink bag. Shoes that you can conquer the world in. I am a strong believer in comfortable footwear. You can’t take over the world if you are worried
about your feet hurting. I love sensible heels that I can wear for several hours without having to worry. I also love flats! Flats come in so many cute and sexy styles now that you no longer have to pull out the super high heels to get noticed.
6. What are three fashion faux pas?
Underdressing – My mother drilled into me that it is better to be overdressed then to be under so it really drives me crazy to see casual attire at events or functions that are clearly business or formal attire. Sheer anything at the work place without the appropriate foundation garments. No, no one wants to see your bra or the flowers on your
undies. For day, always slip a cami under your sheer top but feel free to remove it at night for dinner with your hubby. Double check your skirts and pants for sheerness and be careful with leggings. Over-sexualized attire for work. Keep the excessive cleavage and booty hugging miniskirts for the weekend. Respect your employer and your colleagues by being mindful of your hemline.
7. What are three items you love from the IGIGI collections?
I am a huge fan of the Louise Jacket and Mariah Skirt. They have a beautiful feminine cut but structured enough to hold their shape for a day full of meetings. I am also a huge fan of the IGIGI maxi dresses. While I am keeping my fingers crossed that one day IGIGI will release the maxi in a petite version (hint, hint), in the meantime, I will just need to pair these gorgeous dresses with tall heels. I always recommend that my readers try IGIGI out with their maxis. They truly make you feel like a princess and it’s an excellent introduction to the line.
8. Which celebrities inspire your style?
I can’t say my style is inspired by one celebrity but more so by many. I love mixing and matching different styles; one day I am in jeans in a T-shirt and other days I’m in a glamourous lace dress. I love fashion and playing dress up is the best. I am also incredibly inspired by the amazing fashion I see every day on the streets of NYC. I am lucky to live in such a style maven where diversity is at every angle.
9. If you could spend an entire day with a designer, whom would you choose?
My top pick is Oscar de la Renta. I am inspired by the life he lived and his amazing journey in fashion. I am of Puerto Rican decent and it makes me extra proud to have such an amazing style icon as a neighbor. His feminine looks really woo me, and the mix of fun florals, gorgeous structure, and a hint of Caribbean flair all make me smile. Plus, his own personal style is something to write about. I love a gorgeously dressed man and Oscar de la Renta fits that bill.
10. What style advice do you have for plus-size ladies?
My number one advice to plus-size ladies is to stand in front of a mirror and take a good, long look at your reflection. Come on – don’t shy away. Once you are done, once you’ve cried, yelled and cursed the lady in front of you, I want you to close your eyes. Once YOU are ready, take another good look at yourself and say – “I love you!” At first it will feel strange and maybe unnatural, but say it. Say it today, say it tomorrow and say it every single day. You can’t love your style without loving yourself.
–Ozlem Arpaci, PR at IGIGI
Igigi Blogger on
February 27, 2015
“I GO DANCING. THAT’S MY CHURCH. I CALL IT MY DANCING CHURCH.”
It’s winter in San Francisco but it’s possible to go outdoors and stay warm from walking while just wearing a T-shirt and jeans. Relaxed with tousled, blond hair, Marina Bulatkina has a sweet, angelic face that compulsively breaks into laughter. As she furnishes her portfolio to share an array of her photography, it becomes clear that she has a disposition well suited for adulthood: self-embracing, principled, open, and prepared. Coupled with a relaxed inflection in her Russian accent, the effect is lovely. The interview moves simply with sensible points in a way that Marina picks and chooses to keep on track. Her calm, leonine trait surfaces throughout our interview as she explores the duality between her academic background (both of her parents have PhDs in math) and her visual, artistic aspirations. Dancing is her credo (or “church,” as she likes to put it. “Dancing church”). Marina gets to split her life between Russia, where she grew up, and New York, where she moved in 2007 to kickstart her fashion career.
Making your clothes
Marina notes that her mother taught her the importance of knowing your figure and knowing how to make your own clothes. As she was endowed with height and muscles from skiing and ballroom dancing, it was difficult for her to find clothes that properly fit: “[My mother] was always creative. She has the same body type as I do so she taught me how to sew clothes.”
The right moves
“Dancing was my hobby. It was my escape. Escape with my time, time for myself. I danced with a partner, I danced by myself. I competed as a ballroom dancer with my partner. So it was something very important. I started at the age of nine and I trained three times a week. So, I moved here, age of 21-22. I even teach on the side. It really built my confidence ‘cause a model has to be confident. There is no unconfident model, especially plus-size. How you sit, how you hold your posture. That’s very important for a model as well. Second, it’s the moves. I learned how to move my body. I learned how to do poses. And when I did my first shoot, like my really first shoot with a professional photographer, my agent, my first agent was there and she’s like, ‘Oh, my god. You move perfectly. Like you did it for a long time. You need to work on your faces.’ [laughs] That’s something that I had to learn, you know.”
When asked about how she feels about the plus-size modeling industry, Marina remains positive amidst the melee of the fashion world: “You always hear something bad, a controversy but people want to talk about everything. It’s [usually] not related to the real situation. The real situation is really good and I’m happy. I’m very happy with my agency, Muse Management.”
Support for local artists and designers
She has a no-barred admiration for small entrepreneurs who are starting off: “Yeah, small entrepreneurs bring some new, crazy ideas that work. It amazes me how they bring changes. They bring new, fresh air to the industry, such as new photographers. These photographers, Rafael Clemente and Victoria Janashvilli, were my favorites to work with.”
Following your instinct
“Follow your guts. Follow what you love to do. Follow what you love to try ‘cause I didn’t make it from the first year as a model. I didn’t make it. Of course it was challenging. There were always ups and downs. Sometimes you feel like, ‘Oh my god, I booked this job. I booked a magazine cover. Oh, it’s so great and I made it. I’m on the flight.” Other times you feel, ‘I don’t think I’m pretty at all.’ It happens in everybody’s life. We are all like that, even models. I talk to other models and they all, even the most successful ones, feel that way sometimes.”
Sometimes it’s in your family, the spirituality. Or religion is, kind of. My parents are scientists so… [laughs] I go dancing. That’s my church. I call it my dancing church. I definitely feel better when I go dancing, when I go to the gym. It brings you back on track, to the right mood. Also, sports and reading good books. I think it’s very important to continue reading books.”
–Jane Yu, staff at IGIGI
Igigi Blogger on
February 25, 2015
Women are crazy about the one-piece!
Our Catalina Jumpsuit was such a big hit when we released it back in the summer that we decided to come back with a remix: the Charmaine Jumpsuit, complete with sleeves and wide-legs!
See what some of our favorite bloggers around the world have to say about the former Catalina Jumpsuit from IGIGI!
“Fashion should be fun and you should experiment with it because around every corner there is a new style or shape that could change your life. Behold the jumpsuit! Now, I am fully aware lots of other people have been wearing these for years but as you may [also know], I have a slight aversion to bottoms/trousers so I have steered clear of jumpsuits/playsuits in the past […] When IGIGI got in contact with me a while back, they asked if I wanted to review some of their garments. I thought I’d give the jumpsuit a go, but I have to be honest, I didn’t expect to feel confident in it or love it as much as I do. I honestly feel like such a minx as posed for these pics!”
–Danielle Vanier, UK
“This is the most amazing jumper from IGIGI.”
-Entre Montreal et New York, Canada
“When you want to look stylish but comfy, this jumper did just the trick! You can always style a jumper up or down because they are very versatile and for my private dinner party, this outfit didn’t only look stylish but elegant enough to wear amongst my peers.”
–Talking with Tami, US
“Always skeptical about how a curvy ‘apple’ like me would wear a jumpsuit, I had to give in to temptation when I saw this one from IGIGI. Catalina did not just succeed it; it exceeded all my expectations. I tried it with colored espadrilles and it works. I styled it with sneakers and it looked hip. I tried it with studded sandals and I looked like a rock star[…] finally I took a walk with a pair of high sandals that led me to heaven.”
–Guapita, Tondita, Italy
—Ozlem Arpaci, PR at IGIGI
Igigi Blogger on
February 20, 2015
“STYLE IS BEING YOURSELF ON PURPOSE.”
It’s the kind of rainy day that qualifies for an umbrella when Catherine Schuller arrives at IGIGI’s headquarters, swaddled yet luminous in a black trench coat, scarf, and a topped cowboy hat with a feather, the latter (borrowed from her driver) matching her ensemble with the same rightness as a monocle bestows on a detective. She shakes off the mist outside as if dusting off lint and we finally greet each other after a few months of correspondence for IGIGI’s signature styling program (coming soon!). A hug, pecks on the cheek. Despite a five-hour flight from New York, Catherine looks pulled together, stepping in a languid yet confident pace. She channels a mystical energy from the multitude of jeweled rings on her fingers to the saucy, sunlit waves fanning her face like a sleight of hand. American Hustle comes to mind and if the way we walked were a testament to our prowess, Catherine carries the spirit of music. I can’t help but murmur, “You look great,” as I take her all in, standing nearly six feet tall in high heels.” She beams. “Thank you.”
As she picks out IGIGI clothes for her two seminars in San Francisco that weekend, our customer service manager, Brandi, joins her and the two are delighted to re-connect. Like any image consultant, Catherine has loads of advice about styling and body awareness. The right fit is key. Activating your style comes with knowing your figure first. Don’t hide your best parts. Her definition: style is being yourself on purpose. Herein lies the charm. In practice, all of this translates effectively as she offers solutions and methods without platitudes or cheerleader rah-rah. She looks at you seriously in the eye and you also feel a similar reverence for your body as a temple, one that deserves the same thoughtfulness and loving attention you’d give to arranging succulent plants for a wedding. Physically demonstrative, Catherine gestures to Brandi about what works for her body type and identifies the correct kind of drape and material to enhance her curves. As equals, they look together for outfits that Brandi can model for Catherine’s seminar.
Catherine is what some would call a magnetic force field, with a crescent smile and Joan Crawford-like cheekbones. At 18, she voyaged to New York, a place she frequented during her college years for a drummer boyfriend. Educated but with an ear to the street, she had a rolodex of friends in the Warhol crowd and proliferating music scenes where she eventually met the nascent frontwoman of Blondie. Yes, that punk band. Don’t let me give you any more spoilers, though. Although the structure of this interview is a Q & A, Catherine writes like Jack Kerouac, narrating her adventures in an honest, moving, and loosely confessional way. She has the right amount of self-examination and momentum, switching gears when it’s the right time. The manifesto of her life unfolds generously and we hear, emphatically, how she staked her multi-dimensional success from her initial setbacks.
1. You initially started off wanting to be an actress and a comedian but had to pave your own way and ended up into the fashion industry instead. What were the reasons for your wanting to pursue a career in media in the first place? Did you have any hesitation because of the lack of “ordinary” representation at the time in terms of body size, awareness, and diversity? Was there such a thing as “plus-size fashion” back then?
I originally came to New York City with my then-boyfriend from Pittsburgh, PA. Billy O’Connor was the best drummer in my hometown and I was tired of going to hear him play cover tunes at mixers and frat parties and weddings. He was too good and was considering a career in music and we talked about going to NYC to audition for a few original bands. I took my dad’s car for the day and drove like crazy to NYC and dropped him off at a friend’s loft in Greenwich Village. He managed to get a few auditions for new and upcoming bands and finally landed a spot in the Stillettoes, an early punk band before punk was punk. One of the girl singers was Debbie Harry who quickly dominated the group and soon became lead singer and changed the name to Blondie.
(Bill and Debbie, 1989)
It was an exciting time in NYC. CBGB’s was just forming and Max’s Kansas City and all the bands who came out of that were playing nightly around the downtown scene. I was instantly addicted to the creativity and self-made aspect of what they were doing. The movement caught on and everyone was coming down to check out the bands. I was the first person to see the Ramones play and I thought they were awful. However, the next night, David Bowie came down to check it out and said, “This is going to be the next BIG THING!” I thought, I’d better pay attention if Ziggy Stardust likes it….I was hanging out with all the Warhol people and got to know Debbie pretty well and all the different players were so fascinating at that time. I thought I had better not just be “the drummer’s girlfriend.” I started to study acting and put my portfolio together, but I knew I was not your typical model body type. I also played the violin but not well enough to join a band. Also, I was still in college as a junior and visiting Billy on a regular basis every month, watching him rehearse and play. I was trying to figure out how to get to NYC after I graduated so it was important to see how he was progressing as I thought he’d be my way in upon finishing college. I had actually auditioned for Debbie when she was putting the girl group aspect of the Stillettoes together. I asked to join and she said, “Too bad you have to go back to Pittsburgh.” I don’t think my mother would have understood my quitting school to join the NY punk rock scene! I shouldn’t have stayed on the sidelines when Debbie decided to form Blondie. We liked each other but I was ten years younger than she was and too reticent to really “include myself”….Too bad I didn’t become a photographer, grab a camera and start archiving everything I saw in those early years. I would be a millionaire in archival footage because I was in all the right places.
(Debbie and Bowie, 1989)
When I did finally graduate in May, I moved up to New York in June and started taking acting classes and putting my portfolio together. I was told at every turn that I had to lose weight as I was 5’10” and 160 pounds. Every agency told me that I needed to get down to at least 120 and my body just wouldn’t go below 140. I went to Ford and one of the bookers in the agency told me to lose 50 pounds and turned around. She literally told me I was “too heavy” and walked back to her desk, leaving me dumbfounded and ashamed. I tried to do what they wanted, but it was a real struggle and even though I was taking dance class and doing everything I could to diet, it was frustrating. I was taking acting classes at the time and got into a few plays and realized that without the demon camera reminding me of my size, I could play any role I was suited for as long as it was my character type. I also learned that I was funny and could make people laugh. Comedy became my forte and I met a few fellow actors and we formed a group called THE NERVE! I thought up that name because I wanted to find the nerve to be myself. I realized that my outcast state of size rejection probably was counterpart to a lot of people not “finding their place” because they didn’t conform to what was the flavor of the month in the entertainment business.
I quickly learned that being yourself is the best way to go ….get known for being who you are and you will define your own category. Debbie Harry was 5’2” and look at the style icon she has become over the past forty years! She etched out her own niche and became the only one of her kind. Much better way to go. So, I was piecing all the lessons together and comedy writing and performing were something I enjoyed because they were creative outlets and something I could control. Build it and they will come. We performed for about six years and I was asked to become a model at Ford during my time on the stage. When they told me I should model I said, “You should write for my act!” But I did check out the possibility and went back to the same agency that had rejected me three years ago, went one flight up to the Special Sizes Division and was signed immediately. I asked them why the booker downstairs hadn’t told me about the plus-size industry that was just forming. Teresa Zazarra who everyone called “T” simply said, “She probably didn’t want to offend you…” Oh yeah, telling me to go lose 40 pounds wasn’t offensive??? Any way, I was well on my way to creating my own path and I never looked back. I even had to pad up for a few jobs…got my portfolio together and the clients were rolling in to the industry. I was one of the first models for the A&S Department store launch of the Liz Claiborne line, Elisabeth. I could see the future and it was looming large…
I was acting and modeling and doing my comedy review. I moved into Manhattan Plaza, the artist’s complex on West 43rd Street, continued dancing and auditioning. I joined Screen Actors Guild and was on my way, carving out my journey. I realized I was a role model early on when I walked the runway and women would stand up and really cheer for me….especially when I was walking with the straight size models. I felt like an underdog, though, in the overall fashion industry. But we were the darlings of the industry because the retail world was in a recession and they realized that 45 million women were being underserved. They started to design clothing that was proportioned just for us…Liz Claiborne was an important first because that was truly a designer who was paying attention to potential customers who she could have felt would bastardize her brand. But she also saw the money on the table and it was realized when her numbers improved 14% immediately upon doing the Elisabeth line.
(Catherine Schuller, 1989)
2. You’re seen as a pioneer. Do you have any advice you’d like to share about body standards and acceptance? What was the environment you grew up in and how were you able to refine your own confidence?
We had a very narrow ideal about what was acceptable as a model’s size. Twiggy was a huge phenomenon and actually was much thinner than the models at the time… I think the designers embraced the straight up-and-down body (it was much easier to design for someone with no curves in the way) and somehow it was acceptable to starve yourself to fit in. It was the days of trend dictation; everyone was wearing the exact same thing in the exact same way. Designers were very powerful and had immense clout in the ’70s. It was difficult to get them to see another standard of beauty. You could just feel the prejudice. Like, as if we would lose weight if we wanted to be accepted. That we “let ourselves go” and were out of control. It couldn’t have been further from the truth. I dieted and exercised, took dance classes, rode a bike around Manhattan, and the best I could do was be a size 14. Well, go figure!! I was raised in an environment where my mother did not want me to be obsessed with my outward looks and she felt my eating disorder was something she didn’t want to deal with and never spoke to me about it. Of course, she was of the generation that didn’t discuss sex with their children, any emotional issues, any “problems” one might have had. It wasn’t dealt with, you were just supposed to conform as best you could and not think about the ramifications. I was fortunate I had wonderful sisters and aunts who were role models for me. They told me I was smart and pretty and funny. My brother, on the other hand, always teased and bullied me. I had a lot of mixed messages in those days. I said I emerged victoriously late in life, almost in spite of all the negative comments I was forced to endure. I said I was “bullied into greatness.” I spent a lot of time enjoying the art in myself and learning to be my own best friend and didn’t really need anyone’s approval and started saying that I enjoyed my own company. People love people who love themselves first. I learned that I was very non co-dependent and that was probably my most attractive trait. I had zero neediness.
3. How have you managed to whittle down all the different styles women can have into 5 categories? Do you think it’s important to stay consistent in your style or to change it up?
I actually came up with five different body shapes first because my mantra was “Know Your Shape, Show Your Shape.” I realized that women needed to understand their figure types before they could achieve balance and proportion in their clothing choices. The style types emerged because the clothes needed to have a message that was consistent with the inner spirit of the wearer. The full-figured woman was really my target for my early image consulting work and I realized that all I had studied at Parsons School of Design after my modeling career was about the missy customer. No one was addressing the plus-size client as a fashion icon in her own right. You know what they say about riches and niches. Once I found that the woman I was as a model was as forgotten in the fashion world as the modeling world, I became a role model and an image consultant, empowering my clients with image based principles that helped them work with who they were inside and out and what they wanted to achieve in their careers and lives. I always create these little sayings that act like laser beams into the psyche. I said that, “Style was being yourself on purpose” and I was helping women discover what their purpose was. My first company was Emerging Visions Enterprises and the acronym was E.V.E. My press kit said, “All About Eve.” I figure she was an iconic woman who wasn’t a size 6 and certainly wasn’t afraid to take a bite out of something!!
So, the five style categories grew out of the studies I did at Parsons with the brilliant book program Style Source and the Universal Style program. That platform identifies the modern styles for women and even men. The approach has a lot to do with your personality, your goals, how you see yourself within the world. It helps define and align who you are and what you want. The five styles are Natural/Sporty, Traditional/Elegant, Romantic/Feminine, Dramatic/Alluring and Creative/Artistic. There is an assessment that you as the image consultant give the client and their style type emerges from the answers they give. No one is just one style for the most part. We are three dimensional creatures and we have hybrid styles that are a combination of the core classic and subcore traits. For example, if you have a casual lifestyle but enjoy showing off the contours of your body, you’d be Natural/Sporty (core) and Dramatic/Alluring (subcore)…there are a lot of different combinations with identifiable traits from the garments so that one’s clothing is truly reflective of what their style is. It’s a fascinating system and makes wardrobe building and pairing a lot easier once you do everything with those guidelines. Just as you should always complement (not cover up) your shape, you should complement your inner spirit by wearing what’s appropriate to your lifestyle activities and goals.
I have always been a Dramatic/Alluring and Creative/Artistic type. I never feel comfortable unless I wear clothes that speak to that style. So, I change up my look but if you notice it’s always based on a combination of those styles and has been that way since I first moved to NYC. I may dress for a role that could be Traditional, but my true essence is more eclectic, free-spirited and unique.
(Catherine wearing IGIGI)
4. You’ve really done a lot of things–fashion design, modeling, image consulting, comedy, etc. Which form of self-expression makes the most sense to you and who you are?
That’s a great question. Someone asked me what I do and I said, “On which day?” I find that as I’ve gone through all the various phases of what I did, I had the umbrella of “plus” to contain it under. And I didn’t throw the baby out with the bath; I just added to the bath water. Like, I used to tell people if you want change, that’s good, but take yourself with the change and don’t change the chicken, change the pot! I now am a Fashion Curator and created an entity called Runway the Real Way… just like what it sounds like–fashion for the rest of us. This job is the sum total of all I have studied and experienced. It’s a combination of modeling, styling, inventing, writing, always keeping myself upbeat and lighthearted all through the trials and tribulations. ‘Cause none of this should be an excuse to beat yourself up more. I wouldn’t be a very good role model if I didn’t walk the walk, and talk the talk. I am constantly trying to TRUST more and not plan too much. I get it organized and then let ‘er rip. I find that leaves room for the universe to surprise me and send a few daily miracles my way. And I LOVE NEW YORK…it’s always been my sandbox and playground. I get a kick out of how challenging it can be, but how worth the lessons you learn are. Like the song says, “If you can make it there, you’ll make it anywhere…”
5. Can you give us an example of how your own personal style evolved? Is there a stark contrast from how you dressed then to how you dress now? What were some of the styling methods you honed and how did you figure out what worked for you and what didn’t? Did it take several years?
My mother was a great seamstress and I used to sew my own clothes and that freed me up to be very creative. My favorite pastime was to look through pattern books in the department store (the stores had fabric departments in those days) and buy remnants for next to nothing and make my own clothes. I had the most amazing wardrobe; I shopped thrift shops and put together these really inexpensive funky looks that were so interesting. High school was just a big fashion show for me. I learned a lot about image and perception. I had people asking me to shop for them and do their makeup when I was 14…. It just came naturally to me. I really wanted to go into fashion and move to New York and go to a fashion school but my guidance counselor met with my mother and told her my grades were too high to go into fashion. I was crestfallen. I had to go to college, so I studied Psychology and Music. I feel like those were wasted years, but I really graduated when I moved to NYC and took advantage of the life my boyfriend was living (and I had helped him get to NYC, so I felt justified…) I always had a personal style and had my clothing reflect that. Clothing was hard to find then, too, cause I was plus-size – all of 145 and 5’10”….and the pants were too short, etc. So, sewing was a great way to make things fit properly. And then I started plus modeling and hardly ever wore clothing in those days that expressed who I was and what I was trying to do in the world. The plus-size stuff was caftans, muu muus and not tailored at all….some brands were great like Tomatsu but I could fit into straight size 14s so I mostly shopped large missy sizes. I felt as though the plus-size industry didn’t realize this customer was younger. The clothes were so matronly in those days…and like I said before, no one thought we were fashionable because their notion was, if we really wanted to fit in to the fashion scene, we would have lost weight…
6. What are some of the takeaways from your seminar in SF (for the people who weren’t able to make it)?
I taught two seminars over the weekend…. One on helping image consultants understand who the plus size image client is and how to service her. I basically taught my Figure&Fit and Shape Shopping program (horizontal proportions) and taught them about the Fashion Fit Formula (which is the vertical proportions) as well as exposing them to sizing chart differentials, shopping and retail resources, and the overall philosophy and approach to wardrobe building for this double digit diva. I gave an overview of my journey, my career and how I made it work to help educate and elevate this customer. I said in the past we would Segregate and Elevate the plus-size woman, telling her to come into the plus-size department and put her up on a pedestal and tell her she is different and special. But now we are in the age of Integrate. I love what I am doing with my Fashion Curating which I’ve named Runway the Real Way. Innovative Integration, Fashion Diversity on the Inclusive Catwalk. All ages, sizes, shapes, genders, heights, ethnicities, nationalities, persuasions. We all need to celebrate our individuality and that fact that we embrace our differences and highlight those as assets, not fitting in to some drab conformity that we don’t understand even.
Teaching them about who this woman is really fascinates me. I’m talking about respect and honor and acceptance and seeing a different interpretation of beauty because style has nothing to do with size. Especially opening them up to shopping for shape and style across the current brands. Sizing charts are confusing, measuring is sensitive, etc. I ended the first day with a mini fashion show using two models, one woman’s petite size 18 and 5’3″ and Brandi, who works in the Igigi headquarters, who is a beautiful, tall size 24/26. The image consultants really appreciated seeing IGIGI’s clothing and how it was designed with details to emphasize and detract from figure features… I had just finished doing a review of the points of illusion dressing and how you can use vertical lines, convergent and divergent stripes, pattern placement and minimize volume and streamline and take the eye where you want it to go when you are dressing for all the differentials. It was a great tie in and illustrated the points of my talk beautifully…
(Model wearing IGIGI)
The other seminar I taught was on Runway the Real Way and how to produce fashion events for fun and profit. I have produced over 60 shows and realize that diversity rules… not only in the style of clothing, but in the models themselves. I have a very ecumenical approach and it is really so far away from the one-size-fits-none mentality…. we are individual and unique and we should learn to complement, not cover up. The Curvy Cooperative is something I’ve always wanted to start. The motto is “Because Unity is a Plus”… it occurs to me everyday and I put it into practice in my daily life and my philosophical meanderings.
–Jane Yu, staff at IGIGI