It is said children are like sponges, absorbing everything around them. For Yuliya Raquel, the artistic environment in which she was raised, served as the perfect backdrop for her creative talents. The Ukrainian-born designer recalls being fascinated by her mother’s fashion magazines when she was three years old.
Transfixed by the notion of creating fashions, the young Yuliya learned how to sew at age five. By age seven she had mastered the sewing machine, crafting her first masterpiece—an apron. The local educational system supported her passion for design, as it was commonplace for young students to learn skills such as drafting simple patterns. As a teenager, Yuliya used her accomplished skills to create original designs for family and friends.
Upon moving to San Francisco in her adolescence, she started designing couture clothing for private clients. This proved to be a great training ground for the self-taught designer. Among Yuliya’s clients were plus-size women who craved sensual and feminine clothing just as thinner women do. The lack of fashionable choices in larger sizes became even more apparent when she and her plus-size mother were shopping at full-figured women’s stores. Yuliya was shocked at the lack of stylish options available for her mother—it was then that she recognized a personal and professional calling.
When interviewed, Yuliya has expressed, “When designing, I always imagine how a woman will feel in the garment, I try to determine if the clothes will make her more excited about where she is going. Will she feel more feminine? Sensual? And seductive?” she continues, “Many customers write to say my clothes make them feel virtually invincible, like a goddess. That’s what makes it all worthwhile to me.”
When asked how her friends would describe her, Yuliya explained, “They would probably say that I am an eternal optimist and an “unrealistic” dreamer who believes there is absolutely nothing impossible in this world. Also, I would guess they would say that I am a force to be reckoned with!”
When asked why did you aspire to become a designer for full figured women, Yuliya responds without pause, “Ultimately, every woman wants to accent their best features, deemphasize their areas of concern, and be able to strut confidently in clothes they love. My job is to do just that!”
With a vision set in motion, hard work and dedication, IGIGI opened its doors in February 2000, making stylish apparel easily accessible to all beautiful, curvy women and to aid their mission in transforming the world’s view of beauty.
Q&A With Yuliya Raquel
How did IGIGI come about?
Fashion design has been my passion since I was five years old. In 1997, I had the pleasure to design professionally for private couture clients, which enabled me to gain valuable experience in the fashion industry. Somewhere during my journey, I realized a drastic void in the market.
The awakening moment for IGIGI came when I went shopping with my mother – a very beautiful, amazing, and voluptuous woman. We were extremely disappointed at the lack of stylish, form-fitting, feel good clothes available for women with curves. Questions began to fill my head and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. Why were these beautiful women being subjected to wearing tent-like clothes? Why weren’t there more clothes or more stores offering stylish apparel? What were they afraid of? It was then and there when I realized it was my mission to transform the world’s view of beauty.
Where did you get the name "IGIGI?" What does it mean?
Praise the goddess, the most awesome of the goddesses.
Let one revere the mistress of the peoples, the greatest of the Igigi.
She is clothed in pleasure and love.
She is laden with vitality, charm, and voluptuousness
“Igigi” is the name of the ancient god’s civilization; and the main goddess of the group was Ishtar - the goddess of love and fertility. Coincidentally, the poem that I found described perfectly who and what IGIGI is all about.
IGIGI is pronounced “ee-zhee-zhee”. Think of the French Name “Gigi” and the way it’s pronounced. Now add the “I” and combine the two to make “IGIGI”.
Why do you design clothes for plus-size women?
There’s definitely a void in the plus size apparel market that needs to be fulfilled. Granted there are other amazing competitors out there who also have amazing designs. But, if you’re looking for something truly unique, fresh, trendy, and high quality, IGIGI is the place to shop!
You have had couture clients before who wear straight sizes. How is designing for a voluptuous body different than for a straight size body?
There isn’t much of a difference in designing for a voluptuous body versus a straight sized body. Ultimately, every woman wants to accent their best features, deemphasize their areas of concern, and be able to strut confidently in clothes they love. My job is to do just that.
How do you get inspired?
High-fashion runways and magazines, literature, traveling, and my inner passion to produce the one-of-a-kind clothing that my customers truly love.
How would you describe the IGIGI customer?
She is a stylish, confident and empowered woman who appreciates the beauty in all things in life.
What is your vision for designing for voluptuous women?
IGIGI is here to transform the world’s view of beauty. The way it’s defined. The way it’s seen. We’re here to change the world!
Who is Yuliya on a personal level? How would your friends describe you?
They would probably say that I am an eternal optimist and an “unrealistic” dreamer who believes there is absolutely nothing impossible in this world. Also, I would guess they would say that I am a force to be reckoned with!
Who are your style icons? Who would be a dream person to design for?
First and foremost was my grandmother. She is truly a graceful and elegant woman who inspired me to see clothing as a means of self-expression and self-celebration.
Also, I’d love to design for amazing celebrities like Queen Latifa, Oprah Winfrey and Camryn Manheim.