A look from the Lela Rose for Lane Bryant collection. Courtesy Lane Bryant
Rose, clad in a long-sleeved black mini-dress, chatted to a small group of reporters and bloggers at The Park bar as her Yorkshire terrier ran underfoot. The designer, who has dressed straight-size celebs like Claire Danes, Eva Mendes, and Amy Adams, is known for her ultra-feminine looks, and her special line for Lane Bryant is no exception—there was a swingy sleeveless floral dress; a citrine cocktail sheath trimmed with black lace; plus a slew of dressy, polished separates.
Sarah Chiwaya, who blogs about plus-size style at Curvilyfashion.com, was impressed. “It doesn’t feel watered down, it feels like Lela Rose. The prints are gorgeous. The silhouettes are pretty and they’re not just ticking the plus-size fashion must-dos, where everything has to have a nipped waist and a sleeve. What she’s done feels authentic to her brand, which is exciting.”
“When a designer like Rose, who is respected in high-fashion circles, begins to be more inclusive, it’s a great thing for plus-size shoppers and sends a message that plus-size is not some big taboo,” says Chiwaya. “Lela Rose knows that designing clothes for more women is not going to hurt her original brand or her ready-to-wear label.”
But while the lovefest for Rose and Lane Bryant continued, Chiwaya and others expressed fatigue at how two major fashion brands—Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein—have handled their most recent advertising campaigns.
Mellie Davis, the blogger behind the site TheFatApple.com, was even among those who stripped off in protest of Victoria’s Secret ‘Perfect Body’ campaign. She posed in her underwear alongside women with more varied body types to rebut the lingerie brand’s message. “Designers and their PR teams aren’t understanding who their customers actually are. The average woman is a size 14,” says Davis. “And money doesn’t have a size.”
Both Davis and Chiwaya were cautiously pleased with Calvin Klein’s decision to show the size 10 model Myla Dalbesio in their most recent campaign, but are disappointed that Calvin Klein does not also advertise their well-regarded plus-size clothing. “It was great what they did to include a size ten model,” says Davis. “I don’t want to diminish that. But Calvin Klein does do plus size clothing, so you should probably have a plus size woman, somewhere on your runway, somewhere in your ads. Otherwise, yeah, it’s going to annoy some people. Is size ten as big as you can go without worrying you’re going to hurt your brand?”
Chiwaya, who often posts pictures of clothes she likes with the hashtag #plussizeplease, says it’s frustrating when fashion labels try to have it both ways, selling plus-size pieces under the radar in order to “protect” their main lines. “I’m not worried about a size ten model. That didn’t really bother me, especially because they didn’t call her plus-size. My issue with Calvin Klein is that there’s not really any marketing for its plus size clothing, which is actually really beautiful and well designed. They’re some other brands like Michael Kors that design for plus size too. There’s this idea that plus size is going to drag you down, and that’s unfortunate.”
Lane Bryant, meanwhile, has been hard at work drafting two separate campaigns for spring, one a general celebration of women and style, and another that’s more vocal about body positivity. Mindy Hoskin, a creative director for the brand, says that women have responded really well to the latter. “We’ve been in the market for such a long time, we’re a hundred year old brand and we experiment with our messaging. I think the public is clever and they know when [a message] is too transparent,” says Hoskin. “I think it’s important to be really committed to it.”
For her part, Lela Rose says she has often had clients come to her and ask her to make her clothing in larger sizes, but that retailers generally say they don’t want plus-size. “I think part of the reason why is our retailers, I don’t want to blame them, but retailers say there’s not a demand for a plus-size $2,500 gown. Though we’ve had people come in and ask to do custom work.”
Rose adds that controversies like the latest over the Calvin Klein model may just amount to white noise. “Anyone with a computer can say anything they want these days. I think the thing we always have to keep in focus is that clothes should make us feel good and feel happy. I honestly don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what people might think of me doing plus size. I think my philosophy is the same for ready-to-wear and for this collection: women want to look beautiful.”