The shift is here…extended size ranges imminent

As you know, I’m passionate about ensuring every curvy woman knows not only what looks good on her, but where to find it. In my journey to help women “Love your shape!” I’ve worked closely with Australian plus-size designers and consulted with Retailers and plus-size Brands for years, helping them to understand their target market, developing their brand and encouraging them to market realistically and identifiably for best results.

My instinct has always been to push the boundaries and deservedly position plus-size fashion where it belongs – readily available in bricks & mortar stores/boutiques across our beautiful country, online and beyond!

In my past work as a wholesale agent for brands such as 17 Sundays, I’ve slogged across the countryside, samples in tow and visited hundreds of boutiques – only to discover that boutique after boutique are stocking the same labels as their competition across the street! Where is the variety? Where is the choice? I’ve marvelled at how some boutiques have managed to make a dollar whilst offering and competing with the same product. This just doesn’t make sense to me.  And not only that, but I’ve watched curvy customers walk straight past boutique doors, as they know that there is nothing for them there. What a missed opportunity!

In October 2014, IBISWorld released their report on the plus-size Industry stating the plus-size Industry is in the growth stage of its life cycle. Annual growth from 2010-2015 stands at 3.7%!! In simple terms, it’s the only retail sector with growth!

These are statistics you can’t ignore! Time for retailers to quit their complaining about how slow things are.. and open their doors to the curvy customer who has been ignored for far too long!

Now I’m not talking those great retailers who already stock plus-size fashion and extended size ranges, I’m talking about those boutiques that you and I walk past everyday, and we walk past them because we KNOW that there is NOTHING in there for us – they stock to a size 14-18 maximum (and we all know that those are not actual true PLUS size garments – just sized up from a mainstream size block!). Sigh.

I have a solid understanding of what the curvy customer wants and equally an understanding of what retailers’ challenges and rewards are, so it was only logical to put myself to work on making a change.

Over the past few months I’ve been busy busy with United Curves, a wholesale fashion agency I created exclusively for Australian Designer brands in sizes 12-26+. Now you might ask, why start at a size 12?  The answer is simple. I wanted to attract the businesses I am talking about above, the boutiques that would benefit immensely from extending their size ranges, as well as the already converted plus-size specialists.

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I spent a lot of time considering my approach, it’s was logical that I would source Australian plus-size designers, and to date I’ve built up a suite of brands including, Beyond The Sea, Hope & Harvest, huudaverti, Sonsee Woman, Lisa Kerr Designs and Plus Maternity Australia, AND I have a waiting list of over 8 more labels.

The opportunities have come at us thick & fast, which is hugely exciting. In March I sat in the Head Office of one our major Australian Retailers, talking to them about these brands.  At the table were buyers and marketing representatives, and I was astounded at how well they knew their customer. Previously the feeling was that it was all about the $’s and not about the customer (which incidentally if you get it right DOES equal more sales!), but I digress.  I nearly fell off my chair when one of the ladies, the head of marketing, said “no Janine, we’ll be photographing the garments on different sized figures”… wait, WHAT?? I was so conditioned at having to debate with these companies about realistic & identifiable representation of garments that I almost launched into my spiel, but instead I was stopped in my tracks – wow that felt good :-) YES!

I paused, took a breath, and then asked if she could please repeat that? and she did! My face lit up and I said “Now, that is historic!”.  There was a lot of smiles, laughs and excitement as I explained the usual dilemma I had faced in the past and my joy at finally finding a retailer who get’s it! Seriously, I have spent over 7 years talking to the major retailers about how they market their wares (this one included incidentally), how to attract the curvy customer, how to make her happy… this is the first time that any major brand (apart from the pioneers like Hope&Harvest who have been realistically and identifiably marketing on real size bodies for their designs since forever) has actually got it! There is definitely a shift, and the success of the past few months has reinforced that.

Shortly you’ll be seeing some impressive changes in where you can buy some of these great Australian designer brands, the shift is happening, retailers are opening their doors and finally understanding the benefits of marketing  to, (instead of ignoring) over 50% of the nations women – who ARE curvy…. stay tuned and keep your eyes peeled.

I want to keep this shift moving and have decided to create a campaign to invite bricks & mortar stores nationwide to open their doors, extend their size ranges and usher us, the curvy customer through the doors.

I’ll need your help too – if we can create excitement, and more importantly education, we can create change.

Please feel free to call, email, facebook or post below your ideas on how we can work together to achieve this.

Love your shape!

Janine x

The Curvy Couture Roadshow 2015

Did you hear it? The thunderous applause emanating from the ACMI lightwell at Federation Square on Saturday night? Or perhaps you heard the excited chatter of guests as they queued up at the steps of the Collingwood Town Hall to gain entry to the designer market on Sunday morning.  I’m guessing if none of the above your newsfeed on Facebook and Instagram has been humming with all the goss, images and video feeds of the weekend.

The weekend began for me at the Bloggers Brunch. 11 lovely ladies met at a café in the CBD, excited and ready to go. Jess & Erin from CCR hosted our brunch and we were given an outline of the events over the weekend, invited to come backstage to meet the designers and models as they prepped and rehearsed that afternoon, and of course to stand in the media pit, front & centre at the show. The bloggers brunch gave me an opportunity to finally meet some of my fellow writers, we were a merry bunch and all bring something different to the Industry. Thanks for the opportunity to meet and chat about the event prior to the show, it was fantastic, and so was the smashed avocado & feta toast, coffee and fresh juice – LOVE

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There was much debate on social media about what everyone was going to wear. I chose my comfy Autograph Jeans and kimono with a blast of Red with my favourite boots.

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Organisers Erin & Jess chatting to the bloggers over brunch about the event.

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Our Media passes and the yummy juice!

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(Left-right) Erin, Jess, Me, Melissa, Lily, Natalie, Omega, Ashley, Olivia, Elyse, Sam, Hayley

The Curvy Couture Roadshow blew us all out of the water this past weekend. You may remember me writing about the 1st Roadshow that was held in Perth in 2013, it was my wedding weekend, and although I was in Perth I couldn’t make it :-( Last year I was overseas and missed it again, so this year I was determined to be front and centre, and boy am I glad I didn’t miss it. By all accounts this year was bigger and better than ever.

You’ve heard me banging on for over 6 years now about “realistic & identifiable” representation of plus-size garments and how ONLY doing this will truly sell to the target market. The CCR proved this point – ten fold!

From the minute you entered via the red carpet out the front, the excitement was undeniable.

Sarah & I

Sarah & I

I was lucky enough to be gifted a ticket and invited Sarah from Body Positive Australia as my guest for the evening, we loved the chance to grab a photo together before we entered the venue. I was proud to wear my beautiful kaftan by Kaftans by Annalisa, a Melbourne designer, I love it, I felt comfortable all night, but also felt fabulous! (Wish I could say the same about my shoes, my feet were killing me! but hey they looked nice right?!)

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Miss Scarlet Did It

The catwalk show began with a BANG – BOOM Suzie the gorgeous red-head stormed out of the curtains to begin the show in Miss Scarlet Did It lingerie, followed closely behind by a bevy of beauties of all shapes and sizes – not one body shape was missed – everyone in the room could identify with at least one of the models. To start the show with lingerie was a stroke of brilliance, it proved to the crowd that CCR is serious about making their mark, and more importantly making the point that plus-size fashion is relevant, it’s now, it’s shaking and that curvy women love their bodies and want to wear sexy clothes. It wasn’t only the catwalk that was full of body positive women, the room was full of incredibly beautiful women, inside & out.

The next 2 1/2 hours were a mesmerizing plethora of designs, I loved that each brand represented had something unique to offer, they all had their own unique spin on representing their garments, and the passion of the designers, the quality of the designs and fabrics made you want to run so far away from what I call “The Usual Suspects” (you know, the brands that are available in the shopping centres) that it wasn’t funny. In fact, the CCR was a chance to be convinced (If you weren’t already that is) that spending your money at any store BUT these designers was just, well, it’s just crazy!

Being a preacher of “love your shape!” and a firm believer of identifying your own personal style and dressing for YOU, it only makes sense to buy from these brands, not only to support local Australian businesses, but to take advantage of some seriously amazing garment options. I have a “must buy list” that is a mile long (and will take me years to afford), but the fact that I have a list now, is just sensational. I can’t remember the last time I went shopping and wanted to buy EVERYTHING!

My personal favourite was Hope & Harvest, this label is on fire! The H&H anorak and animal print bomber jacket just begged me to buy them, but seriously EVERYTHING that came out on those amazing models, and to the beat of the jungle theme just wooed me in :-) The styling and choreography was brilliant, H&H are already a front runner in realistically & identifiably representing their garments in all their marketing, and this flowed on through their segment with streets models wearing all their designs. BRAVO!

Hope & Harvest

Hope & Harvest

Hope & Harvest

Hope & Harvest

Meri by Design/Eder+Berk were amazing, stylish, stylish, stylish. The cape jacket will be mine! This seasons’ range is a serious option for those of you who are looking for great options for corporate attire too, I only wish they were around when I was in the corporate field years ago. Sigh.

Meri By Design

Meri By Design

I hadn’t seen Lisa Kerr’s range before the night, my first reaction was LOVE for their marketing, the models came out with signs “I am Inspirational (which is a size 18-20) and another “I am Confident” which translates to a Size 14/16 – their Measurement guide is wonderful and brilliant marketing to me, their target market. The designs were chic and fun with great accessories. This is a label I want to know more about.

Lisa Kerr

Lisa Kerr

huudaverti appealed to my gypsy side, my need to look and feel unique & extraordinary. Whilst one of the designs I felt belonged in my kitchen (I just can’t get my mind around a dress that looks like an apron), all the other designs blew me away! The fabrics are incredible, so unique, just like the designs, and although the styling was more “unique” than I would style them, the beauty was I could see lots of key pieces I could incorporate into my own wardrobe that would not only suit my style, but finally allow me to express it more, as there truly isn’t another label that is coming at fashion from this angle in the plus-size market. The Designers (3 sisters) behind this brand are so fantastic, and I loved how they acknowledged their mum in the front row beaming proudly at them at the end of their segment.

huudaverti

huudaverti

I love the quirkiness of Misty Belvidere, her show made a big impression with bold colours and fun, exciting patterns. This is a brand to watch!

Misty Belvidere

Misty Belvidere

Bombshell Vintage opened with the incredible green emerald dress, I can still see the luxury of the colour and fabric in my mind, and teamed with the gorgeous red tresses of model Suzie with her smooth moves on the catwalk, I was in love! Vintage isn’t my thing, but if it’s yours, you NEED to visit Bombshell Vintage.

Bombshell Vintage

Bombshell Vintage

Harlow, it struck me is a true Melbourne brand as us Melbournites are known for our love of wearing black. Harlow didn’t disappoint with some great styles in black, monochrome and deep reds with some pretty cool accessories.

Harlow

Harlow

Oh my goodness I could just go on forever about each brand that showed on Saturday night, but I just can’t fit it all in!, so here’s of list of the other incredible brands that showed, please show them some love by clicking on the link and subscribing to their mailing lists to stay up to date.

Seraphim, Pho Sizzle, Nyata, Camilla Jayne, Big Blossom PJs, Icelandic Blue, The Professors Daughter

Sonsee Woman made a huge impression too, suddenly out strutted models in their underwear, tights and crop Sonsee T-shirts – full of confidence and fierceness! It was an incredibly empowering segment of the event. I personally own a couple of pairs of Sonsee, and wrote a post about them last winter, if you haven’t tried them yet – get on it! They are the ONLY tights I will ever wear again!

Sonsee Woman

Sonsee Woman

Beyond The Sea, I wish I had seen this range before my recent Bali trip – I would have found my new swimsuit straight away! LOVE that Beyond The Sea not only understands design, but offers fantastic quality fabric in DESIGNS! Yep, not just plain old black. Loved the fun presentation of this brand on the catwalk.

Beyond The Sea

Beyond The Sea

The reaction from the crowd during the show was fantastic, there was clapping, cheering, gasps, squeals, you name it, it kept coming as thick and fast as the realistic models pounding the catwalk. The buzz during the intermission was so great, and the show finished with a bang, with one look from every brand represented on the catwalk which was greeted with thunderous applause. And then it was over. Sigh.

I was lucky enough to head upstairs to the after party where I got to talk some more with the other bloggers, meet some of the models and speak to the designers. It was hard to sleep that night, the buzz of excitement was infectious and kept my mind and body going for hours and hours. Sunday was the Curvy Couture Designer Market at the Collingwood Town Hall where as a Media VIP I got to meet and greet all the designers with a glass of champagne in hand an hour before the general public arrived. I took full advantage of that hour to scoot around and see as many people as possible, I made it half way before the doors opened and the stalls & designers were inundated with people eager to do the same!

The VIP guest for the Runway and Market this year was Tess Holliday, an inspirational woman who has made history this year by being the first plus size model to be signed to Milk Management Agency. Tess was front and centre with her man at the Runway, she was clearly enthralled by the brands on show and hugely supportive. She was so humble and generous, happy to pose with guests for photos and speaking with them. I finally got the chance to say hi to Tess myself at the Market, and I bought one of her fantastic t-shirts with #effyourbeautystandards on it! I wore it for 3 days straight, I just LOVE it and what it stands for. My 11 year old son said to me on Tuesday morning when I pulled it on over my jeans to do the school run “Mum, you really love that t-shirt don’t you!?” LOL

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I think my only criticism (for want of a better word) in relation to this event was that there was no MC. I wanted to hear a welcome, an introduction, someone to work with the excitement and anticipation that was building in the room as we waited for the event to start – to bring it for us and at the end, after the fantastic finale walk by all the models and brands, I wanted someone to thank us for being there, and to tell us to mark our calendars for next years event. That was missing for me.

I’d like to take a moment to congratulate the organisers of this years event, it was fantastic! Congratulations to Jess, Erin, Kate, Teresa & Karyn. I know the huge hours and effort that it takes to pull something like this together, and you should be congratulated. Thank you for raising the visibility of our Australian Designers, for giving them an important platform to showcase to their target market and to the public in general. I just know that this event will go from strength to strength as it is an important vehicle for fashion for curvy women of Australia.

Congratulations to the designers who put in a huge effort to have incredible & show- stopping designs to showcase, for all the long hours you put in to be there all weekend and for being so welcoming and sharing your brand with us. You did us so proud! I hope that you’ve felt the love and pride from all of us, your customers.

BRAVO to the models, the Industry Models from Bella Model Management, and to the street models who worked hard to practise, practise, practise to ensure a smooth performance. It wasn’t just smooth – it was AWESOME!

BUY AUSTRALIAN, SUPPORT AUSTRALIAN, we have so much to offer.

LOVE YOUR SHAPE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Janine x

Haute Couture… my experience

Every girl has an image in her head of that special dress for her special day. When Pete proposed to me on my 40th birthday in July 2011, I suddenly I realised I had to start thinking about what MY special dress would be? Our plan was for an intimate wedding with close family & friends, in the bush in Western Australia. What style of dress will best reflect me and our marriage?

I started googling dresses, typing in the words “plus size wedding dresses” bought up thousands of options, but as I scanned the images hopeful for some inspiration I didn’t see one dress that looked like ME.

I was keen to have a more relaxed, less formal style dress, I knew I wanted some type of lace detail and I was keen for it to be white, but I wanted something say, boho. So I started googling BohOriginal Ideao wedding dresses.  This image caught my eye. I loved the casual cool cotton with relaxed detail, chic and beautiful, but relaxed. Obviously the dress was designed with a non-plus-size figure in mind, but my mind was adapting the feel and working out how to apply it to myself and what would work for me.

I was grateful for the kind offers of a dress from many Australian plus-size retailers and brands, very grateful. But to be honest, none of the designs were what I wanted for ME.

Then suddenly it hit me, I needed to have my dress made, for my body. Mmmm, took me a while! So I made a call to my girls at Hope & Harvest. Now most of you will know Hope & Harvest have their own amazing plus-size designs, but I was really asking a huge favour, would they do me the honour of designing a dress just for me?

A phone call later and the gorgeous Harvest was almost more excited than me that we were designing a dress together! YAY!

The first step was to share the images I had sought with the girls, and we talked about roughly what I was hoping to achieve. The wheels were in motion and the excitement was building.

Step two was to select the material. I had already decided that I wanted a simple white cotton for the main part of the dress but I was looking for some lace embellishment to make it special. Harvest & Ainsley met me at Clegs in Brunswick one warm Melbourne morning in April and we spent a lovely morning exploring the options.

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Ainsley holding up the lace I chose.

Funny thing is, during this process of choosing material, the original design I’d had in my head had already started to morph into something else. I remember I had butterflies during the whole morning, it was really difficult to pick fabrics for my idea, to be honest, I didn’t even know if it was going to look good on me or not.

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Harvest explaining to me the options within our design with this lace

Reflecting on this whilst I was walking around Clegs, I realised something. When you walk into a store there are usually more than 2 garments you are attracted to and want to try on. Often, I try them all on, and often the one I thought would suit is the one that didn’t or vice versa! So to be smack bang in the middle of a process that was making a dress from an image of a dress style I’d NEVER tried on was really a little crazy! I started to relax a little and went with my gut. Harvest was amazing, she truly understood what feel I was after, and she understood my body shape. Even more impressive (and I wasn’t to truly understand this til further down the process), Harvest has an incredible talent for haute couture, it’s like the design just flows out of her.  The lace I chose that day was calling to me, I fell in love with it, and it became the foundation of the design with the dress evolving around it.

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With my lace – very excited!

There was plenty of time, so we planned the next stage. I would visit H&H HQ for my first fitting a week later.

The first fitting day was quite an experience, not only was it FREEZING COLD, but I really didn’t know what to expect. When I arrived, the girls had made a “toile”, which is the beginning point of a Haute Couture design where you make a “test garment” sewn from the same material. The toile was hanging on a hanger, it looked like a bag or sack with pieces of cotton loosely threaded at different points around the pieces. Quite confusing for someone who had never been through this process before.

I peeled off my warm clothes and subjected myself to the elements. Goose bumps appeared – not only because I was cold but because I was nervous! Don’t get me wrong, these girls are amazing, and I KNOW that they knew exactly what I was after, but I just couldn’t get my mind around this sack of material turning into the dress I had imagined!

Trust the process I kept telling myself… and boy am I glad I did.

The process was amazing. In front of a mirror, the talented hands of Harvest fluttered around me as she placed, pulled and prodded the material into place around me. We tried this and that, gathered, ungathered etc. and finally we all agreed that this wasn’t it! Slowly, I began to see in front of me, with the help of this toile and the talents of two amazing designers, what would look great on me and so in front of my eyes the design evolved into something completely different! I went from wanting an unstructured dress with a boho feel, to a very structured dress with a boho feel! I GOT IT! This process of Haute Couture although quite scary, was truly remarkable. Harvest worked tirelessly and seemingly effortlessly to draw all over the toile and pin here and there, until she was satisfied. Then it was quite an effort to get out of the toile without pricking myself! Reassuringly, the girls told me they’d work their magic and see me in two weeks!

Visit three saw me arrive to a more complete toile, which was sewn in the structured design we’d come up with. I was amazed at how a sack with lots of pins and pen marks had been transformed into a toile that fit like a glove! I turned toward the mirror and realised this was IT! Hooray, the design was taking shape. I gave the ok to go ahead and MAKE the dress! That felt incredible. The next step was to work the lace into the dress once the base was complete.

Fitting four took place the morning after my Hen’s Night. We were all very tired but excited to weave some magic with the lace.

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Harvest working on the sleeve with the lace. This part of the process was all about looking at what worked and how I felt.

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Harvest & Ainsley working on applying the lace to the skirt. I just LOVE how they made it flatter me, there was a beautiful “tail” at the back where the lace kicked out, and it draped over my hips to a point at the base of my back.

WOW, This was looking amazing. I was so excited, and couldn’t believe how different, yet how perfect this had all come together. Off the girls went with my dress pinned and ready to be completed.

The final stage was another visit to H&H HQ where we had the big reveal.

One of the important steps to having a dress that is made well and fits well is to chose correctly fitted foundation undergarments. I did a lot of research on foundation undergarments and spent a lot of time trying to find the right fit for me. In desperation I even purchased two control wear garments online from overseas, but when these arrived I had to contort myself into such strange positions to get them on that I just knew that that wasn’t going to cut the mustard! Interestingly, even after visiting some specialist stores I still couldn’t find THE perfect fit – that was until I visited my local Autograph store. I know right, not where I was expecting to find what I was looking for in undergarments, but I was wrong. I’m happy to say that I found exactly what I needed and left the store with a beautifully fitted Rita Lace Underwire Bra in Pearl (oh and I bought one in red too because I loved it so much – but that was for the honeymoon!), and the Essentials Panty Girdle in Café. Now I ummed and ahhed about the Girdle as I just think it’s not that attractive right? But I hate having separate garments with shapewear, I’m a bodysuit girl (but that’s another story). The Girdle is beautifully made, very comfortable and the wide elastic silicone trim on the waist sat perfectly under my bust and bra band and didn’t roll, not even once (and the lace detail at the top of the leg made it feel a little less ugly)! It felt as though I was wearing a bodysuit and it worked well to create a great silhouette under my dress. So for me, this combination worked a treat and added value to my dream dress. Having the foundations in place BEFORE building the dress was an important part of the process.

Two weeks before our wedding I very excitedly drove to H&H HQ and picked up my dress. The feeling I had when the girls helped me put it over my head and zip it into place is indescribable! We put everything into place and then I turned around and looked into the mirror – HOORAY! I felt amazing, I felt beautiful, this was my dream dress! All three of us cheered and hugged with tears of joy.

 
Ainsley, Harvest and I celebrating – the finished product!

JANINE WED

Mum gifted me a beautiful citrine & diamond pendant for my birthday this year, it’s just stunning, exactly the same setting as my engagement ring but it’s oval instead of diamond shaped. I found my string of pearls and the pendant clipped perfectly into place, the most gorgeous adornment for my dress.

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The beautiful pendant given to me by my mum for my birthday and as a wedding gift.

Flash forward to our special day, surrounded by family & friends, I walked down the “bush” aisle with my gorgeous son Zac and beautiful mum Dianne, I felt amazing, special, beautiful, curvy and loved, but most of all HAPPY. I did my own hair & make-up (and after many hair trials with curls, and all sorts of do-dahs, I decided I wanted to look like ME so I went for my usual style!).

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Entering the ceremony walking down the aisle with my son Zac and mum – so happy! (Image by David Entz)

Bottom of Dress & Shoes

I loved the detail of the tail of my dress! We stood in a heart shaped with rose petals (Image by David Entz)

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Married to my Superman Pete and wearing “Janine” by Hope & Harvest, Dryandra Village, Western Australia 14th September, 2013.  My bouquet was specially made for me by my sister-in-law Donna out of native flowers from my parents-in-laws’ garden. My shoes were purchased on e-bay and are Beige Leather Bernardo Farfalla – just loved them! – Perfect x (Image by David Entz)

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to have such an amazing wedding dress made just for me. THANK YOU Harvest & Ainsley, you were both incredibly amazing during this whole process and I am forever grateful for the experience and honour of wearing one of your designs.

Thank you.

Love your shape!

Janine x

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