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Why This Plus-Size Shopping Site Doesn't Hire Models

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Photo: Courtesy Cool Gal Blue.
One thing that's clear from recent #hashtag battles is that women want to see models who look more like them. And, at least one new e-commerce site agrees: Cool Gal Blue only uses “average” women (that is, non-professional models) to showcase its offerings — such as tulle tutus, floral dresses, and skinny jeans. With Michelle Crawford as CEO (and all-around badass babe and CEO of Skorch magazine Jessica Kane as creative director), it's clear that this site means to dispense with the unrealistic standards that pervade the industry.

We spoke with Kane to learn more about the revolution she's seen in the plus-size industry, and the totally refreshing way she chooses models (which has nothing to do with size).
Photo: Courtesy Cool Gal Blue.

Why did you create Cool Gal Blue?
"My business partner, Michelle Crawford, and I saw room for a place that offered access to affordable clothing on everyday 'cool gals' of many different styles and tastes — like the ultimate plus-size mall where you can find your style, know you can trust the sizing, and get instant feedback."

"Right now, the online-shopping experience is a transactional one, where it feels like you stepped into a store where there are no customers, just self-serve machines. That is definitely not our idea of a fun shopping experience. So, Cool Gal Blue offers the ability to get a question answered, get detailed measurements so you can see if an item will really fit you...and inspire women to find their style confidence."

Do you have plans for an in-house line?
"We do, and are in the process of working on manufacturers and the infrastructure needed to make that happen. Right now, we are overwhelmed by the positive support and demand for our blogger-curated collections, where we partner with established and start-up bloggers and everyone in between. We have some HUGE curated collections coming up by Jennifer Buckingham of Model Radical, Margot Meanie of Miss Meanie, Rivkie Weichselbaum of SLiNK Magazine, Ella Z. of Curveella, and my own, too."

What are you looking for when you're buying for your site?
"Every piece must answer 'yes' to this question: 'Is it a quality piece for a great price that will fit our plus-size customer?' Sometimes, that means we only get a smaller range of sizes, since we purchase from many wholesalers and designers who offer a limited size range. As a body-diversity advocate who is a size 26/28, I'm personally frustrated with that, as is our CEO Michelle Crawford. Our options at this point are limited, but we are very grateful to have the support of some amazing angel investors who are committed to our goal of starting our own line."

What do you look for when you're choosing models for your site?
"As the creative director, it's beyond important to me that we represent the widest range possible of our customer. I only look for a confident woman, period. Confidence radiates through and will make any clothing look good. There is nothing more personally and professionally fulfilling than to see the models shine, and the garments fly off the rack!"

Why did you decide to use non-professional models for your products?
"Because it needs to be done. There is no other answer other than that the 'average gal' is our customer, and that average gal is us, and we all deserve to see a more diverse range of models."

Do you have plans to expand your size range?
"Absolutely; we are feverishly working hard on sourcing manufacturers — since we have to make our own clothes if we want the full size range — and finding wholesale partners that offer more than 1x-3x. While we do buy pieces in these ambiguous size ranges (for example, 1x can mean a size 14 or 18), we hand-measure every garment in every size and convert it to an actual, numerical women's size. Shopping online is hard enough to not have a clear answer on 'What size is this?'"

How do you feel about the clothing available for plus-size women in general?
"Being someone who came from the era of shopping in the men's catalog at JCPenney (which has no selection), I'm elated at the progress I've seen in just the past 10 years, truly. However, with any movement as monumental as plus-size fashion, there will always be room for improvement. At this point, our goal is to help fulfill the need for affordable and fashionable clothing."
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