Thursday, April 12, 2012

Again Indie Alt designers.

I was just cruising Twitter and saw a post by Kambriel (an indie designer I have been a huge fan of for a long ass time) about a comment she made at the magazine Coilhouse.

Now for a bit of background when Coilhouse launched I was really excited and bought some issues. I pimped their links etc etc.

Full disclosure I lost my excitement about Coilhouse for the same reasons I've lost interest in 99% of any Alt. Media type things.

No diversity. Very few if any clothing lines I might be able to buy something from.

Today I don't want to talk about that.

I want to talk to you indie/alt designers about how to make your larger sizes succeed and I'm going to use places like Old Navy and Lip Service etc as an example of how not to do it.

Also I do not want to hear any whining here.

This is consulting services for free.

All right let's get started.

First of all take an objective look at your collection and then an objective look at people, not just models regular people who wear things similar (and let's not be too sensitive, nothing is that original) to your aesthetic.

Understand, really understand that as I have said many times before your personal preferences for your body and the bodies of people you're attracted to aren't an issue.

You make to make that money. More money. A fat or otherwise non normative or non normative in your world body is not going to ruin your vision or product.

Second use the googles. Click this link which is a search for the term "fat fashion bloggers" read some of those blogs. Hell if you don't want to read just look at some of the pictures. Understand that the pervasive idea that fat people don't have any kind of taste or aesthetic is straight up bullshit.

Third if you decide to go ahead and offer larger sizes don't do any of these things:

  1. Do not call plus sizes cute names. 
  2. Do not create a line of plus size clothing that has nothing to do with your general aesthetic. When Lip Service resurrected their "Voluptuous Vixens" (awful name) line of plus size clothing it was not recognizably Lip Service. None of those pieces had the same aesthetic as any of the main Lip Service offerings. This is one reason why it was a big old flop.
  3. Do not make the pieces hard to find if you must make something that is not along the same lines as what you regularly offer. Using Lip Service as an example again, when their super special plus size things were launched they were hard to find on the site.  Frankly a lot of people I know don't want to spend five minutes searching and clicking around to find a product. Old Navy took their plus sizes out of their stores and made buying them and returning them etc a really difficult process and though a lot of us still buy those sizes, a lot of us stopped.
  4. Do not expect people to flock to your products if no one knows about them. Marketing 101 if you aren't actively promoting and if these are new sizes prominently promoting an expanded size range people aren't going to flock to it. As in, if I have looked in your shop six times in the last say year and not once have you had something that would fit me. Most likely I the shopper am not going to come back to surprise expanded size range.
  5. Do not base an XL on a "straight" (as in non plus sized) clothing. Use plus size specific size charts. This means you're going to have to do some research. Lots of stores have plus sizes or are plus size exclusively. Look at their sizing charts to get an idea of what a plus size range can look like starting from about a size 14 on up through 32 so you have a working knowledge of what you can do.
Now I know that it's a lot to take in. You're awesome. You can do it.

Now here's what to do.

  1. Do find a fit model/someone fat to talk to/blogger you like and ask them if you can ask them questions about fit etc. 
  2. Do start with one or two garments. Perhaps if you make skirts, offer a couple of your skirts in larger sizes. I do have some sewing experience and it's not that hard.
  3. Do yourself and your customers a favor and post an accurate size chart. If the sizing in your line varies, measure each garment in each size you list. Now I also highly recommend if you make items with stretch, please list minimum and maximum measurements when stretched and not stretched. From personal experience this makes a HUGE difference for me as a shopper. I would rather know that something stretched will fit than buy something that most likely won't.
  4. Do be welcoming and not condescending. 
  5. Do ask for honest feedback from your new customers.
  6. Do reach out to plus size models or just hot fat people on the internet. 
Other tips.

If you are the type who needs a fit model don't tell me there are no fat ones.

Go to the googles again and find those fat fashion blogs. Contact a blogger and say Hi my name is X and I am an indie designer from Narnia. I am looking to start including plus sizes in my line and I really need some help finding fit models. I can't (skip this part if you can) afford to give away clothes but I can offer some swag, some TFP work, stickers, discounts, etc. I have been reading your blog and really enjoy it. Could you possibly put out the call here to help signal boost so I can get this done?


That. Easy.

The thing is designers that us fat asses have money. Some of us like myself are Old Goths and pine for a time when it was far easier to find commercial Goth wear in a plethora of sizes. With Torrid going Pink and most of your day to day goth wear shops carrying brands that no longer make larger sizes we're screwed.

Old Goths like me are relegated to making it work with shit from where ever I can find it or just going without something really nice.

And do not give me that DIY aesthetic bullshit. DIY is highly time consuming, not everyone (as you designers know more than anyone) has the skills and frankly even though I have some of the skills I don't want to have to refashion or make everything ever.

So the quick and dirty is this. Make the things and we will buy. Well probably not me often because I'm poor but a lot of fat folks (another thing you can do, check out some plus size fashion sites. Plus size clothes, beautifully made quality fashionable plus size clothes are expensive.) have money and want to give you that money.

Don't treat plus sizes like they are the worst thing ever. They aren't I promise.

If you as a non fat designer take a minute and say god damn it, I want ALL THE FAT ASSES in my clothes, those of us with all the fat asses will start loving you.

Can't take the word of one lone Old Goth who happens to be fat?

Take Kambriel's word, out of her post this bit at the end sums it all up beautifully.

It is not so much harder to offer things in a wide range of sizes, especially when working in an independent fashion. It does not need to be prohibitively more costly, nor do I believe the failure or success of a startup depends on keeping the offered size range small. I think there are too many myths we hear enough times and start to believe in ourselves, and it’s up to us to kick those myths to the curb and say things can be different, and we can be the ones to change the status quo.

Now the fact that anyone, much less someone with such a good reputation has to say this in an "alt" capacity depresses me but whatever.

So designers. To quote Tim Gunn make it work.

Don't be like every other douchebag mainstream designer who has a temper tantrum if a woman with some ass n titties wants their clothes. Don't become Karl Lagerfeld.

If you don't like fat bodies keep your comments to yourself.

If you don't approve of fat bodies wearing high fashion keep it to yourself.

Have whatever opinion you want just keep it away from my ass.

Now all this consulting has been free but if you have questions come on and ask. Need help finding references? I might help.

Now I turn it over to the most awesome people on the internet, my Homies.

So Homies, do you have anything you want to tell indie designers?

Tomorrow or next week I'd like to continue this conversation with an eye towards talking to designers about things. I have some more free advice for how to behave with fat customers for designers and some words for those who can't keep their fat hating mouths shut.

Homo Out.



rebecca said...

I would say, not only is it not necessarily true that including fat sizes would break a fledgling small business, but that it could MAKE a fledgling small business. It could be the difference between success and the failute all too common for small businesses. Hey designers, think of it this way: you'd be tapping into a market that is wildly underserved. Your potential customers who are fatties have way fewer choices of other places to go besides you. If you make duds for us, we could actually be the reason your business makes it.

witchyvixen said...

I've said the following before... A LOT. Why does it seem that almost every seller of big fat clothing everywhere is hardwired to believe that fat folk want to drape themselves in garments that look like someone shot grandma's couch? "Oh hai! You gots big ass and gargantuan boobs! How 'bout we use this print with the enormous hibiscus blooms on them! We can make sure they hit each cheek and nip like big old target circles!!! It'll be FAB!" Yeah, no. I'm big. If I'm going to look like a truck walking down the street then by God I'm going to look like a pretty truck. A fashionable truck. An, oh-holy-shit-that's-cool truck. I'm so sick of being excluded from anything that doesn't look like my mom or my granny picked it out. Make it myself? Are you fucking with me??? I dropped out of Brownies because they tried to teach me to sew! I wanted to learn survival and camping and tracking and shit and they gave me sewing projects! I don't have much money at all, but what I do have I would totally spill out on someone willing to give me groovy funky would kick a puppy (gently) to have it clothes.

Lady Bethezda @ Bethezdas Preoccupations said...

OMFG soooo true.
And how about we not call it fat but just frigging normal. Sorry but I don't know one person in my "real" world that is a size two.
It's such a shame that Torrid is "going Pink". :(

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