In this op-ed, Teen Vogue writer Gianluca Russo explains why so many in the plus-size community take issue with Ashley Stewart’s curve collaboration with Kendall + Kylie, citing the Jenners’ fatphobic past and why brands need to be more thoughtful when launching collections.
Gone are the days when brands could extend 10% of their selection up to a size 18 and be joyfully praised for it. Now, after almost two decades of change — thanks to fat activists and influencers who are constantly advocating for the fashion industry to become more size-inclusive — plus women are smart, savvy and able to detect foolery from a mile away. So it was no shock that many of them instantly took issue with Kendall and Kylie Jenner launching a “curve collection” with plus-size exclusive retailer Ashley Stewart.
Yesterday, Ashley Stewart announced that they had dropped a collection with Kendall + Kylie, marketing it as “an exclusive collab you can’t miss.” Available in sizes 10 through 24, the seven-piece drop features simple designs including a faux leather dress, cheetah print dress, and sequin top and pants that when work together appear to be a jumpsuit. The pieces range in price from $79 to $129.
Soon after the drop was announced, backlash ensued. Many on social media began asking why Ashley Stewart — a plus-only retailer who often makes great strides for the community, including a collaboration with Loni Love last week that was met with great results — was collaborating with two thin women on a holiday collection that offers simple, basic and lackluster — except for the sequin jumpsuit, I suppose — clothing. “Kardashians are so anti-plus it’s not even funny, so why would we spend our fat dollars on a collab with people who have no respect for fat bodies?! Disappointing to say the least,” plus-size model Kat Stroud tweeted. Another user tweeted, “I have several questions. First one, how dare you?”
“The entire partnership feels disingenuous,” writer Sarah Conley of the plus-size fashion blog Rascal Honey tells Teen Vogue. “The Kendall + Kylie brand Instagram feed has about as much diversity as a Revolve influencer trip. Not to mention the fact that the sisters aren't seen associating with any plus-size people and neither of them has promoted the launch on their personal social channels.”
Conley was not the only one that felt that way. In fact, many on social media shared similar concerns, including plus-size model Ady Del Valle. “If the Jenners wanted to collab, it would’ve been nice to put out a quality, well-thought-out capsule collection with true fashion pieces and statements pieces mixed with timeless ones,” he tells Teen Vogue.
On the other hand, some on social media — particular Instagram — were excited about the collection. “I’m glad they chose to do curvy sizes,” one follower commented. However, the overall response as seen from the comments leaned towards negative. The main issue that many in the plus community — myself included — had with the collection was the complete erasure of the Jenner’s fatphobic past. Not only do the Jenners and Kardashians constantly reinforce unattainable and unrealistic beauty ideals — whether on their reality show or through their businesses — but they often promote laxative teas as ways to appear thinner and lose weight, showing complete ignorance to the impact that these harmful products have.
“Between fit teas, lollipops, sweatbands, waist trainers and more, the Jenner/Kardashian clan has created a brand out of looking ‘snatched,’ and by snatched, I mean thin,” says fat activist Jude Valentin. “It does feel like a stab in the back.”
The collaboration at most seems like a cash grab. As plus-size fashion rises to be worth more than $21 billion dollars, more and more designers — whether they truly care about size inclusivity or not — are pushing into the community. It’s no surprise that Kendall + Kylie would do this, frankly, as many others who traditionally only sell straight sizes have also tried to do similar in recent years. The shock, however, comes from Ashley Stewart. Founded in 1991, Ashley Stewart is one of the first plus-size retailers and has since developed a firm reputation within the community. It seems that by collaborating with Kendall + Kylie, the brand ignored that community and failed to recognize the impact it would have.
We are at a crucial point in history for plus fashion. As more designers and brands see the worth in our market, we must be wise in where we choose to spend our money. Plus-size fashion has always been more than just clothing. In many ways, it is an act of rebellion against outdated beauty ideals within fashion that “thin is in” and “fat can’t be beautiful.” Plus-size fashion is not just a $21 billion dollar industry but is also a barrier-breaking one, constantly advocating for inclusion and celebration of size.
As someone who regularly reports on plus-size fashion, I have long been an admirer of Ashley Stewart. But in this case, I wholeheartedly agree with the backlash that ensued. The Kendall + Kylie collaboration was a surefire miss, and I’m genuinely surprised to see Ashley Stewart missing the mark. But I hope it serves as a lesson going forward: Gone are the days when plus women would settle for any clothing at all. Plus legacy brands like Ashley Stewart need to constantly be engaged with their audience to stay relevant and knowledgeable about what their consumers truly want.
Blogger and activist Alysse Dalessandro explained it best: “The Kendall & Kyle x Ashley Stewart collaboration shows me that they do not know their audience. Plus-size consumers are naturally skeptical and they can spot a money grab. This collection lacks a genuine connection to what the plus-size community wants to see: collaborations with plus size celebrities and designers. If Ashley Stewart has the money to pay the Jenners to collab, it would be nice to see that money invested back into their own community.”
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue