The New Plus-Size Retailer You Need To Know

Photographed by Heath Latter.
Minimalist fashion can be polarizing: Some are drawn to the sleek style like a Kardashian to a camera, while others see the lack of flair as a snooze-fest. Call it bedazzlement burnout, but lately we've been craving the easy, clean chicness of tailored minimalism. And, while that's fairly easy to find when you're a size zero to 12, where's a size 14+ woman to go when she's weary of skin-tight sheaths and over-embellishment? Easy: to Mei Smith.

Launched by Ayanna Wu Celestin just over a month ago, Mei Smith carries clean-lined styles in sizes 12 to 24. Stocked with designers who typically don't offer plus, like Shaina Mote and Hackwith Design House, and expertly curated picks from Danish favorite Carmakoma, the contemporary site fills an obvious hole in the plus market. While the price point may be steep to some — items range from $62 to $364 — there are plenty of worthy wardrobe investments in the bunch.

We sat down with Celestin to learn more about her love of minimalism, what she thinks of the controversial label “plus size,” and why every woman deserves well-made clothes. 
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
What does the name of your site mean?
"Mei Smith comes from my mother and father: My mom's first name is Mei Sin, and my dad's middle name is Smith. Family means a lot to me, so I was playing around with family names and Mei Smith came together perfectly."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
What inspired you to create the site?
"I decided to create the site to lessen the gap between designer fashion and the plus-size market. There are many women who wear a 14 or 18 or 20 that yearn to wear items from luxury brands, such as 3.1 Phillip Lim, Acne Studios, or Givenchy. My goal is to feed that yearning."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
What makes your site different from others available to size 14+ women?
"I think what makes it different is that my site carries brands that were once only available in straight sizes. This is the first time Shaina Mote, Hackwith Design House, and Benjamin Jay have ever provided their collections in plus size. We are literally providing designer options that were once exclusive to straight-size to plus-sized women, and we hope by allowing these brands to test the market with us, that perhaps they will consider the plus-size market on their end. We also hope to attract larger, more established brands in the future to really provide women with as many designer options as they desire."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
What is your favorite piece that you sell?
"I don't want to necessarily choose favorites, but I love the Shaina Mote Vela Pant that we carry, mainly because I am a huge trouser person. I think they are cut well, fit well, and feel good. High-waisted, wide-legged pants are a staple."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
What are your feelings about the clothing generally offered to size 14+ women?
"I feel there's a lot of similar offerings, and I think in terms of fast fashion and the moderate market, it is amazing the amount of options there are. But, when you go up towards the contemporary and high-end luxury segment, the pickings are slim to none. So, I think there's still work that needs to be done and barriers that need to be broken down."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
Do you plan to expand your size range?
"My initial idea was to have a size range from zero to 24 to begin with, but budgets can be quite a setback. I do plan to expand my size range in the future, though."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
How frequently do you plan to add new items to the site?
"There will be new items added to the site seasonally for now. We are really focusing on foundational pieces that our customers can be confident in having to build their wardrobe. A great pair of pants, a shift dress, a blazer that can go from day to night, pieces of great quality that will last, and look and feel good years later."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
Do you have any plans to design yourself?
"It's a thought!"
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
Why do you think there's a lack of minimalist designs offered to plus-size women?
"Minimalist designs are quite tricky, because when I think of minimalism, I think of neutral palettes and simple lines and silhouettes. Most of the time, this translates into a looser or boxier shape; and women who wear a 12+ generally do not like these silhouettes because immediately muumuu comes to mind. Therefore, many of the options for women who wear a 12 or 14+ are fitted and feature a body-con silhouette — and there is nothing wrong with that. I just think there should be options for those days that she doesn't want to wear something fitted or wants to try something different. The key is finding the right balance, and I'm still learning what works and what doesn't."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
What aspects do you look for when you're searching for designers to add to your site?
"Philosophy is a major aspect I look for when searching for designers. By understanding the philosophy behind their brand I can see if we would be a good fit for them and vice-versa. The more caring a brand is about their customers, the quality of their clothing, the manufacturing, and sustainability, the more thoughtful and open-minded they are."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
What do you think of the term "plus size"? If you don't like it, what term would you rather use?
"I think it isn't needed. I feel like the term makes it seem like a distant cousin from the rest of the industry. I think terms labeling the style of clothing are needed, but a whole separate term just based off sizes? When you walk into a store, you will never see a section labeled 'straight' or 'standard' size. So I don't think when you walk into a store, there should be a section labeled 'plus size.' But, I understand that the term is necessary until fashion is all-inclusive."
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Photographed by Heath Latter.
What is your ultimate goal with Mei Smith?
"To show the luxury market that — no matter what size you are — everyone appreciates a well-made, designer piece."
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