Fashion’s future is already here. This September, we ask What Is Fashion Now? by exploring the people, concepts, and ideas that are pushing us forward in times of unprecedented change. In this story, we talk with seven plus-size fashion trailblazers about how far the industry has come and what they hope to see change.
There is no longer a question about whether or not plus-size fashion is “worth the cost.” Over the past decade, trailblazers within the industry have proven it is, growing the market, now worth more than $21 billion, and sparking an intersectional movement that cannot be silenced.
But the journey to now has been far more complex. Yes, the success of mainstream models like Ashley Graham and Paloma Elsesser has brought size inclusivity to the runways. But since 2008, numerous individuals — mostly Black women — have paved a path for the next generation of size inclusive advocates, like me, to follow. Instead of just fighting for a seat at preexisting tables, they threw caution to the wind and created their own. These “tables” established what is now not only an immensely profitable market, but a community that will stop at nothing, not even amid a pandemic, to bring much-needed change to the industry and society at large.
Their determination and fearlessness is what inspired me to launch my own table this summer, called The Power of Plus, a size-inclusive digital community aimed at proving that fashion is for every body. The fashion industry has been tasked with finding a new normal in the time of COVID-19, so Teen Vogue spoke with seven plus-size trailblazers — designer and influencer Gabi Gregg, And I Get Dressed creator Kellie Brown, model Tess Holliday, CurvyCon cofounder CeCe Olisa, 11 Honore in-house design director Danielle Williams-Eke, Henning founder and former fashion editor Lauren Chan, and photographer Rochelle Brock — about the work they’ve done over the past decade, the push for luxury and sustainable size-inclusive options, and how they’re passing the torch to the next generation of game-changers.
Teen Vogue: Although the roots of plus-size fashion are in the 1980s and ’90s, much of what we have today is because of what each one of you have contributed over the past decade. What inspired you to create your own tables within the industry?
Gabi Gregg: When I launched my blog in 2008, the conversation from the internet forums I was in was focused on body positivity, which definitely changed my life, but it wasn’t as focused on fashion, and so I thought that element was really missing. We were creating our own community and creating our own place at the table. That being said, I still felt like we weren’t taken seriously by the fashion world. So in 2011, I created the first-ever plus-size conference for bloggers called YFF Con, and that was the first time that plus-size influencers connected with brands in a real way.
Cece Olisa: I launched my blog in 2008 as well, and I started my blog anonymously because I was insecure about the way I looked. I was in this community of dating bloggers and I was the only plus-size girl there. Since then, what has been the impetus to any business that I’ve built to serve plus-size women is that, for me, being plus was always an isolating experience. I didn’t have any plus-size friends in high school, college, work; I was the only one. So the minute social media introduced me to the women on this roundtable, my life changed.