Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Exclusive Interview with Monif C.

I have always been a fan of plus size designer, Monif C., but when she debuted her most recent line, I was seriously blown away (I die for the swoop dress). This is definitely my favorite collection of hers to date; as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to interview her and find out her inspiration. Thanks to Monif for taking the time out to answer some questions for YFF! (By the way, that gorgeous model is Fluvia Lacerda, whose interview is coming soon!)

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to become a plus size fashion designer?
If you asked me 10 years ago if I would be a designer, I probably would've looked at you like you had ten heads. My family is from the Caribbean, Barbados to be exact, so I grew up with my grandmother and aunts being seamstresses, but it wasn’t my passion at the time. What many people do not know is I actually have a math and science degree and I worked in corporate America and then later ran a youth nonprofit organization. The thing is, I’d always been frustrated with plus size clothing. I’ve been a big girl all my life, so I would always say, "if I was a designer, I’d do this or I’d do that." Never did I think I’d actually be one! I guess that’s that speaking it into existence, huh? About 6 years ago I became frustrated with my career path and thought to myself “there’s got to be something better for me”. My mother encouraged me to follow my passion for fashion and business, and that’s when Monif C. was born.

What is the biggest challenge plus size designers face today?
Finding retailers and department stores that want to take a risk with fashion forward plus size clothing. I tell people all the time, if I designed this line for straight size women, I’d be a millionaire by now. And anyone in the fashion industry will tell you, that’s the truth. But plus size clothing is my passion, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Our aesthetic is so different from what "society" says a plus size woman should wear, so our on-going challenge is getting stores to believe that the women will actually buy the clothing. Would you believe that even now in 2009 we hear from boutiques and department stores "plus size women are trying to lose weight, they don’t like colors, they don’t like fitted clothing, they don’t want to show this, or they don’t want to show that", and the biggest one you hear is, "they don’t spend money". So imagine myself as I design--I want to push the envelope because I believe the market is there, but it’s hard, retailers want you to dumb it down. When I say dumb it down, it’s like, "beautiful dress, but can you add sleeves to it?" Do you think Donna Karan has to worry about adding sleeves to everything because her customers feel uncomfortable with their arms? No, but sometimes we have to do it to make it more palatable for retailers.

How would you describe your personal style?
I like classic shapes with a twist. I ADORE color and print, so you’ll always find that in my collection. I also do primarily dresses as you know because I believe one piece dressing is easy and you always look fabulous. I myself wear a dress everyday. The only time you’ll ever see me in a top is when I wear my “Marilyn” Convertible Dress as a top.

What inspired your fall line?
Wow, there are so many things that inspired this collection. I wanted to do pretty, but edgy, even slightly vamp. We took a darker approach this season, you will notice there aren’t as many colors as we are known for, everything is well tailored and chic. We usually come up with a theme, and it usually involves outfitting the Monif C. woman for every occasion. So you’ll find your day outfit, like the “Charlie” Jumpsuit with Tie Belt, and then you’ll find your night outfit, like the “Carmen” Leopard Ruched Dress, and then your knock em’ dead outfit is the “Tina” Sequins Party Dress. We paid special attention to detail this season with zippers, ruching, and beading. And of course we extended our assortment this season with jumpsuits and outerwear.

What would you say to the people who complain that your prices are too high?
The first thing I would say is that when I started the line, I set out to create a contemporary, designer plus size line. You have to remember that at the time the only options were LB, Torrid, Strawberry, Ashley Stewart, all on the lower end, and then the higher end designers that sell in Saks and Neiman Marcus where dresses are $600 each. I wanted to do a line for that woman who wanted better quality but couldn’t afford Saks, and believe it or not there are a lot of women that want that quality. Some of the higher end designers like myself may get some slack but I think that’s because there are so few designers out there, that women want more options. If you look at the straight size market, there’s Forever 21, Bebe, Intermix, Bergdorf, all different price levels and their clothing is embraced throughout.

I will also expose you a bit to the challenges of an independent designer because it costs a lot of money to compete with larger retailers and produce clothing lines. People think "oh, fabric is $10/yard, how much can a dress really cost?", but they don’t understand that patterns, samples, marking, grading, photo shoots, websites, staff, promotion, and producing clothes in the USA opposed to in Asia like most large companies do costs a lot of money. It would be astonishing for some of your readers to hear. Let’s just say a beginning clothing line can blow through $200,000 (on the low end) easily within one year. So that’s one factor in cost. Then add on the fact that in the plus size market there are maybe 20 stores that may carry your clothes compared to straight size lines that sell in 600 stores, so your costs are inevitably going to be high because you can’t produce as many units as another company. It’s things like that, but I understand the consumer’s perspective, and I always say, do your best to support independent designers. Even if you can’t purchase at full price, buy it at the sale price because those sales allow us to keep doing what we are doing.

What future plans do you have for Monif C?
Expansion! I see so many areas of need in the plus size industry, so I just plan on expanding and adding new product lines. Our swimsuit collection is coming out soon, so stay tuned for that!

What advice do you have for the YFF readers?
Well, whenever I come on this blog, it makes me feel good to read the comments of the women and everyone sounds so much more positive, confident, and fashion forward than what the media portrays us to be. I say keep doing that and expose your fellow curvy sisters to the fashion out there. A lot of women don’t know about the independent lines and online retailers that are out there, so enlighten them so they can start looking as fabulous as you! Thanks Gabi for this interview, YFF rocks!

Cynara in Bust

Sorry for the lack of posts. I've actually been wearing pretty cute things lately (just received another dress from Jen's Fashion Plus and bought this amazing acid wash jacket from the thrift store), but I haven't taken any pictures. I'll remedy that ASAP! I also just got a much needed haircut--this time by a professional--and I'm stoked to show you guys (though if you follow me on twitter, you have already seen it).

Anyway, I'm posting because Cynara, one of the past YFF Girls, was just featured in Bust Magazine! I love that Bust has no problem showcasing fat girls' style (I was previously mentioned on their blog), and Cynara is definitely looking fab. Make sure you read her interview, girl is fierce.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Torrid's House of Dreams Fashion Show

Thursday was Torrid's House of Dreams Fashion Show featuring the seven lucky winners of their 2009 model search (pictured above). Unfortunately, I didn't have the funds to make it to LA, but they've posted part of the show on their website. The looks shown were very in line with Torrid's typical style--mostly graphic tees, jeans, and cropped jackets. I think the outfits probably appeal to teens, but it all seemed a bit too young for me. (Ironically, the look I like best is the Barbie tee with the mini skirt). I'm really interested to see the gowns that FIDM students made, but sadly those aren't on Torrid's website just yet. For a humorous recap of the event by someone who actually attended, check out LoveNati's blog.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kanak Plus Sizes

While reading SKORCH Magazine's blog, I discovered the Spanish retailer, Kanak Plus Sizes. Their edgy yet wearable designs are reminiscent of CarmaKoma (which is definitely a compliment), and I'm more than happy to add Kanak to the list of plus size stores that offer a fresh, young perspective. They just released their latest collection, and my favorite looks are below.

I promise they do have more than just black leather, but of course I tend to gravitate toward that aesthetic. Browse the entire collection at their official website.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jimmy Choo for H&M Sneak Preview

We all know I always preach "make it work" when it comes to shopping in straight size stores. One of my favorite shops is H&M; even though it technically only goes up to a size 16--and I'm lucky to find 12s in store--I still often find pieces that I can make work for my size 18/20 body. (Remember that ruffle bodycon skirt I wore? H&M size 10.) And, for the record, I have size 24 friends who shop there too. So, when I saw the sneak peak of Jimmy Choo's new collection for the store, I was more than thrilled to see (what seems to be) elastic waistbands and stretchy fabrics. I love that high end designers are collaborating with low end retailers left and right, and this line does not disappoint. I can't say it's exactly inspiring or different from what TopShop and others are already offering, but it's wearable, on trend, and wallet-friendly. I'm digging the fur and fringe, and I can't wait to try these looks on. (Now I just need to find a way to make those over the knee boots fit my calves!)

The line is set to be released November 14th

Mark Fast Uses Plus Models in LFW

I'm a terrible fashion blogger. I literally haven't reviewed one show from New York Fashion Week. I planned on doing so, but I got so behind that now I'm way too overwhelmed. Plus, I assume those of you who actually care have already seen all the shows. And if you haven't, well, go ahead and read any fashion blog out there to see the highlights (or do it the old school way and browse If you want a plus size perspective, Christina has written a few reviews that you should check out.

London Fashion Week has now begun, and the thing everyone's talking about is the fact that designer Mark Fast incorporated three plus size models into his show, a choice that caused his stylist (Erika Kurihara) to quit. According to Grazia Daily, Mark Fast is working on a "project to get designers to make clothes for different shaped women." Sarah Mower of writes "Mark Fast courageously followed through on his convictions. 'A lot of people think it's not appropriate to use plus-size models,' he said. 'But I met these girls and I loved their charisma. They're just jewels, you know?'"

Photo credit: WWD
Some people say the designer is doing it to get publicity, others complain that these girls aren't really "plus size," but I, for one, applaud Mark. In my opinion, seeing body diversity on a mainstream runway is always a good thing.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I caught the re-run of VH1 DIVAS today (if I recall correctly, something better was on when it first aired Thursday night) and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the majority of "divas" this year were curvy girls! Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Kelly Clarkson and Adele (whose performance literally brought me to tears) all graced the stage, and I thought I'd show off their outfits here. In my humble opinion, Jordin killed it. I'm not so sure about the rest of them. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mimmi and Peppi

Photo Credit: Niko Rakkolainen
I may just have a new favorite fat fashion blog. Mimmi (on the right, above) and Peppi (left) are two stylish girls from Helsinki, Finland. They write the blog More To Love (which came before the terrible reality TV show), and as Finland's only fat lifestyle blog, it has skyrocketed in popularity. I must admit, it's one of the most refreshing fat fashion blogs I've seen in a while; from Mimmi's sneakers to Peppi's high-waisted skirts, these girls definitely have well-defined personal style. They love leggings, acid wash denim, bright colors and fun accessories, and their bubbly personalities are more than apparent in their photos. It's sad that their blog is in Finnish (I tried Google Translator, it's still barely comprehensible), but the style shown in their pictures totally makes up for it!

Names: Mimmi and Peppi
Ages: 25 and 24
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Sizes: Mimmi: 16-18 Peppi: 10-16
Favorite places to shop: Ivana HELSINKI, Nanso, Flea Markets, Gina Tricot, H&M
Fashion Icons: Mimmi: Björk, Lily Allen and oldschool rappers. Peppi: Beth Ditto, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Lady Gaga
Current Obsessions: Mimmi: Wool, printed cotton bags, vintage skirts, colorful sneakers, funny jewelry, hairbands and hair jewelry, and animal prints. Peppi: High-waisted skirts, biker jackets, big black jewelry, Finnish Design, geeky glasses
Advice to other YFF Girls: Hi sisters! Remember that fat people are harder to kidnap! ;)

Diva Magazine's Fat Issue

I am ecstatic that this October's issue of Europe's #1 Lesbian Magazine, DIVA, is deemed "The Fat Issue". Unlike Glamour, DIVA features actual fat (size 28) models and discusses fat positive topics like Health At Every Size. From fashion to fatphobia, this issue seemingly covers it all. I read the first few pages online (that's all I could view without paying) and I gotta admit, I'm impressed so far. With enticing titles like the ones pictured below, I am seriously considering shelling out the cash to read these articles!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

More Plus Models in Glamour

There's been so much talk recently about plus size models, I don't know where to begin. The highest paid and most well known plus model, Crystal Renn, has been seen everywhere lately because of her newly released book, Hungry. The release just so happened to coincide with the buzz surrounding this picture of the amazingly beautiful Lizzi Miller that was featured in Glamour's September issue:

Well, since the picture got rave reviews from readers, Glamour decided to include more body diversity in the future. In fact, they just finished shooting an editorial for the November issue which featured nude plus size models. In addition to Miller, the shoot included Crystal Renn, Anansa Sims, Ashley Graham, Jennie Runk, Kate Dillon, and Amy Lemons, (seen below).

I seriously cannot wait for this issue to hit the stands. I realize these ladies aren't exactly size 20s, but I truly believe this is a step in the right direction for larger women. (Kate Harding wrote a great article about this very topic for Jezebel). I honestly feel a positive shift occurring in the fashion industry regarding plus sizes. It's small, but it's there. And apparently I'm not the only one. Renn's agent told The Guardian, "I have been in this business for 11 years and I have seen this debate ripple through the fashion world a number of times," he said. "This time, though, the momentum of the debate feels different."

Here's to hoping he's right.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Kohl's Back to School Giveaway!

I'm happy to announce that YFF will be giving one lucky reader a $100 gift card to Kohl's! This season, Candies featuring Britney Spears, Abbey Dawn by Avril Lavigne, and Mudd are all selling their back to school collections exclusively at Kohl's. These three lines are fashionable and better yet, budget friendly.

The reason why I love gift card giveaways is that you get to choose what you want. Not feeling their tops? Buy a dress. Not digging their accessories? Grab some Converse. They even have dorm room gear so you can spruce up that bedroom of yours.

To enter, all you have to do is follow me on twitter and tweet "By retweeting this, I just entered @gabifresh's YFF giveaway to win a $100 giftcard to Kohl's! Details here:"

I ask that you comment here to let me know that you have done so! This giveaway is, obviously, sponsored by our friends at Kohl's. Good luck, girls! Happy shopping!

This contest will end Saturday, September 12 at 11:59 pm EST.

The Leather Jacket

(Crystal Renn is wearing the LB Jacket #5 shown below)
I think I've made it pretty clear that I love a good leather bomber--I truly consider it an essential wardrobe piece. I've had multiple comments and e-mails asking about where to snag a great one, so I've compiled an (admittedly messy) collage featuring plus size leather-look jackets for you to fawn over. Hope this helps! (FYI: I'm partial to numbers 6-9).

Friday, September 4, 2009

Beth Ditto vs. Karl Lagerfeld

I don't normally post much "fashion news" here, but as you all know, Beth Ditto's position in the mainstream fashion world definitely intrigues me. She's the only fat girl I know of who has had clothing custom made for her by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Gareth Pugh. I found this short piece about her relationship with Lagerfeld (who is very openly anti-fat) especially interesting, and I wanted to pass it along:

"Beth Ditto found meeting Karl Lagerfeld one of the biggest challenges of her life. The Gossip singer - who recently designed her own range of clothes for British high street store Evans - found meeting the outspoken Chanel creative director difficult because of his strong opinions and views. She said: 'Being face-to-face with people like Karl Lagerfeld was one of the most challenging things I have ever done.' Earlier this year Karl slammed German supermodel Heidi Klum, branding her too fat for the catwalk. Beth, who is known for her rounded bodyshape and eccentric outfits, explained she found it hard to connect with the designer because of her individuality.

She explained to Scotland's Sunday Mail newspaper: 'I never knew what resistance was really like until I entered the mainstream. When you are in a punk scene and everybody around you thinks like you, talks like you and walks like you and you have the same ideology, that sort of resistance doesn't exist. It is much more dangerous to be a feminist and stand in front of Karl Lagerfeld and look him in the eye. That felt like resistance far more than being at a punk show full of people who already know about politics and feminism.'

Previously, Beth admitted she preferred the designer's work to his personality. She confessed: 'What if, come tomorrow, he hates me? Well, I don't really care because he's not my friend. It's not like a break-up. He's just a person who makes dresses for me sometimes. I wouldn't say he's a really cool person but he's a really cool artist. I appreciate a lot of art by really shitty people. And I'm not so weak to think that this is going to last or they're going to love me forever.'"

I don't know about them, but I'll love you forever, Beth.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Meet Kristi, the Canadian girl whose effortlessly chic style is totally enviable. She has that whole Mary-Kate Olsen I just woke up and threw this on fabulousness that not everyone can pull off. From rompers and lace to blazers and mini skirts, Kristi manages to be trendy without looking like every other girl on the street. Plus, hello killer legs.

Name: Kristi
Age: 23
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Size: Anywhere from a 16-22
Favorite places to shop: Aritzia, H&M, Urban Outfitters, Small Boutiques, Nordstrom and Torrid are some of my favorite, but I don't really limit my shopping habits to just one store. You can find amazing stuff from Saks and you can find amazing stuff from old navy it just depends on how you look for things.
Fashion Icons: Audrey Hepburn, Zooey Deschanel, Coco Chanel, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. There are so many more I have at least a gig of fashion inspiration saved to my hard drive.
Current Obsession: I bought this crepe silk suit jacket with no buttons. It was pricey but the best purchase I've ever made. Other than that I'm currently lusting over: platform peep-toes, studs, lace, leather, and a beautiful deep orange color nail polish perfect for fall.
Advice to other YFF Girls: Never second guess your personal style. Sure big shoulders are in, but if you don't feel like you can rock em, don't. Confidence is the key to style and you will never be more confident than when you're in your own element.

Wanna be featured on YFF? Email me your pictures:, you might be chosen next!