Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Like A Great Bra

Wilbur, Dee Dee, & Ashanti at WWD book signing party.

I may be experiencing some issues with finding a distribution channel so that my dresses are available for women living outside of New York City.  But I refuse to dwell on what I do not yet have and instead focus on what must be done next.  I am impassioned by my efforts to bring more fashion to the curvy woman and I know that the universe is creating a pathway for that to happen.  In the meantime, I press forward and rely heavily on my circle of sisters, the wonderful women who comprise the curvy fashion community and nurture my creativity and support me emotionally.

Keicia Derry wears WILBUR.  Photo: Jeff Fasano

On Monday afternoon, I had lunch with Tara Taylor. A makeup artist with limitless talent, I'd spotted her work posted on facebook.  Talk about beautiful!  I was awestruck.  And she is more lovely as a person than her skills could ever be.  We officially met at the 5 year anniversary celebration for another plus designer, Monif C., a couple of weeks ago.  And I told her that I just had to have her share her talents on my next project.  And so she's agreed to collaborate as I prepare my collection for Fall 2011.  But more than the work, Ms. T was there with assurance to let me know that, despite my less-than-stellar showing with Bloomingdale's, there is a plan and I just have to remain steadfast and focused.  After our 3-hour afternoon chat fest, I felt like there was a renewed sense of hope.  And for that I was grateful.

Wilbur & The Curvy Fashionista - Marie Denee

During our meeting, Tara informed me that The Curvy Fashionista, a blogger who'd written a lovely post about me a little over a month ago, was going to be in town.  I begged her to arrange a face-to-face meeting since The Curvy Fashionista, nee Marie Denee is west coast based and I wasn't sure when the next opportunity might arise.  Tara, who is connected to everybody fabulous in the curvy community, reached out to Madeline Figueroa-Jones, the founder and the creative mind behind the online glossy Plus Model Magazine.  It just so happens that the ladies along with Alissa, Ms. Stylish Curves herself, were all together for a style symposium hosted by Just My Size.  So before they made their way to dinner, I made my way to their hotel where we chatted and had a love fest.  It was just an awesome experience to be in the company of these positive curvy role models.  And feeding off their energy just inspires and motivates me.

So this group of women is really like a great bra.  Their support makes me look good and I look forward to a relationship where I do the same for them.

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Bridge Is Out

Yesterday I noticed that there is a serious divide going on in fashion.  I think I've always known it, but it became more evident as my day progressed.  Plus size is still fashion's ignored stepchild.  Despite the 62% of women who are a size 14 and above, it seems like the chasm may be permanent.  My fashion mogul friend and founder of Full-Figured Fashion Week, Gwen DeVoe, pretty much tried to convince me while we were laughing and chatting over cocktails a few weeks ago. "Wilbur, the big boys still have not invited me to the table," she said explaining that high fashion is an exclusive club reserved for the fabulously skinny.  Sporting my rose-colored glasses, I really didn't want to believe her.  After all, I have received so much attention for my creative efforts concerning the curvy woman.  Just to name a few recent gains by the curvy community - -  during New York Fashion Week this past September, One Stop Plus staged the first runway show dedicated solely to contemporary fashions for the curvy woman.  Clingy and sexy dress designer, Monif C. recently celebrated her fifth year in business.  And big girls continue to make "special" appearances in mainstream magazines.  But so many people don't want to embrace the curvy.  A couple of weeks ago when I was in Re/dress, the Brooklyn-based destination emporium for all things vintage for the curvy woman, I met a lovely young lady named Jessica.  Jessica and I fell into a deep conversation like we'd been forever friends when she confessed to me that she had recently gone down to a size 14 from a size 24.  And she shared something with me that has stayed on my mind since.  Jessica thinks clothing manufacturers do not put a lot of effort or style into plus fashions because most women consider the weight temporary and are always striving to become a more socially acceptable size 6 or 8.  Hello Oprah!  I immediately disagreed with her because if that is the case then my career choice is a big mistake.  But maybe there is a little truth to it?  Yesterday afternoon I met with the buyer at Bloomingdale's.  I felt empowered by the many women whom I have met online and in person who have asked me when and where they'll be able to buy my dresses.  So I carefully pulled out each of my confections explaining how we could accommodate her customer by adding sleeves or changing colors and fabrication.  I explained to her that the customer wants to celebrate her curves and is looking for pieces that caress her curves, not tent-like frocks that do nothing for her shape.  "She wants more fashion," I added.  I informed her that I have over 500 followers on facebook.  I write a blog that goes out to about 250 readers.  And we maintain a website as well. When she calculated the retail price of one of my dresses, she thought it was a bit pricey for the Bloomingdale's customer.  I assured her that the Bloomingdale's customer is not resistant to price if she is getting value and fashion.  She told me that she'd never seen a line like mine before - a statement I found a little ambiguous to be sure. When I left that meeting, the buyer said that she was unwilling to change the status quo and add a new designer to her mix of vendors for now.  I was disappointed as I walked to Bloomingdale's to inform the sales team who had been so supportive over the last couple of months.  As I rode the escalator up to the 3rd floor, I saw a lot of fashion happening in other departments that were bustling.  In the women's department it was quiet and overflowing with a lot of the same clothes by the same vendors like Jones New York that are found in other stores such as Lord & Taylor and Macy's.  So although I am on the front lines talking to the customer doing my best to accommodate her fashion and style needs, she's losing in the long run. The message that is being conveyed is that because she's bigger, her access to more fashionable items should and will be limited.

Later in the evening, I had the opportunity to attend the book signing of WWD@100 at Bergdorf Goodman.  Populated by fashion industry superstars, my model Dee Dee and I along with Ashanti were a breath of plus size freshness.  And we did get snapped by one of the evening's photographers.  But Dee Dee commented that the atmosphere was very "clique-ish".  I am not sure how to infiltrate the fashion cognoscenti's sphere of fabulousness, but I am looking to build a bridge so that plus-size fashion is no longer an oxymoron.

Peace & Fashion!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Riding The Wave

So it's been a month since my line of dresses for the curvy fashionista made its debut.  And what a validating experience it was.  So many supporters and friends came out to catch a glimpse.  But in the days that followed it was a bit of a comedown.  After working so diligently on the project for 4 months almost non-stop and surviving mostly on adrenaline, creativity, and expectations, I was like a junkie fiending for its next fix.  But I had to slow my roll and adjust my inner machine.  Moving on to the next phase was no longer about creating, but taking the dresses and seeing if my investment was going to finally pay off.  Sure, I was interviewed for a couple of online publications.  And even on Life Size Radio.  Check out and Daily Venus Diva to see what's been said about me. But mostly I need to see if I will finally realize one of my dreams having my dresses hang on racks in fabulous stores.  A verdict has not yet been reached.  But Ashanti and I are making inroads, it seems.  A couple of major department stores are giving us the opportunity to meet them face-to-face.  I don't want to speak out of turn, but I promise that as soon as I know something, you will too.  For now, I am just riding the wave to see where this road leads.

Peace & Fashion!

Friday, October 1, 2010

This Just In. . .








I could share ALL the background details involved with putting together my launch event during New York Fashion Week.  Pulling all nighters, loading up the SUV, and picking up all the supplies are commonplace.  And those tidbits are just plain dull.  But I am always humbled by the obstacles and validated by the smallest victories.  Being able to hold the presentation at such a grand space with about 100 people attending was surreal.  Because you don't know if anyone is really going to show up.  And if it's only your family in attendance, that can be a little disheartening.  Now it's on to the next phase and that means getting the collection into stores.  I've been casting my net and because of our price point we are reaching out to many of the department stores that carry clothing for the curvy woman.  I am not going to disclose who we've targeted just yet, but having the dresses accesible to the consumer is one of the most important components of the business.  There simply is no rest for the weary.  And I've already begun conceptualizing and sketching the followup collection for Fall 2011.  That being said, I still look at the photos from the event and smile as I realize that I think I am finally on the right track.  And it feels good.

Peace & Fashion!