Why This Outspoken Designer Only Uses Plus-Size Models

Here at R29, we consider it our duty to introduce you to any new clothing line that deserves your dough. Trust us when we say you are definitely going to want to belly up to the bar for Rum + Coke.

Filled with curve-flaunting designs in appealing prints, vivid colors, and lush fabrics, the brand keeps its prices affordable (from $48 to $200), its sizes inclusive (from small to 3XL), and its product shots true-to-life. Unlike many labels — plus-size or not — Rum + Coke shoots on women whose bodies are refreshingly similar to our own.

There's a reason its ethos feels so in touch with the current mood of fashion shoppers: R + C was just started in 2013 when designer Courtney Smith struck out on her own (after shaking off a career in finance) to see if she couldn't fill a gap in retail offerings herself. With NYC serving as her chic point of inspiration, and women of all kinds, everywhere, her target demo, she did just that. We sat down with Smith to hear more about her body-positive mindset, to ask if she was tipsy when she came up with that name, and to shake loose her thoughts on what's happening in fashion for women in sizes above an "L." Drink it in, ahead.

Photo: Courtesy of Rum + Coke.
Your styles are sold in a huge range of sizes, but they're only shot on larger models. Why is that?
"No one questions why there are only small women in other brands' shoots. I put women of color and 'larger' women in my photo shoots for many reasons. One, because I believe in the multiplicity of beauty, and two, there are so many women who seldom see women who look like them in advertisements."
Rum + Coke Toni Dress, $200.00 Buy
Photo: Courtesy of Rum + Coke.
Why did you call your label Rum + Coke?
"Everyone calls me Coco and a derivative of that name is Coke. I wanted the brand to be fun so I added a little rum!"
Rum + Coke Joan Dress, $115.00 Buy
What was the inspiration behind creating the line?
"I want women to be their most beautiful selves. There are so many negative messages: You're not thin enough, you're not young enough, you're not light enough. These all basically tell women they are inadequate unless they change something about themselves or purchase this or that. I was inspired to create Rum + Coke to send a different message: You, woman, are enough. [Women] are beautiful in whatever package they come in."
Rum + Coke Maya Skirt, $88.00 Buy
Photo: Courtesy of Rum + Coke.
What are your feelings on what's available in plus-size fashion?
"Plus-size fashion is evolving. Brands are beginning to pay attention to the needs of women who are larger than your standard 'large.' However, I feel many brands fall short of making quality plus pieces, or plus pieces at all, because of the stigma attached to weight. Some of these larger brands can do better but choose not to because they know there are a limited number of places that cater to this demographic."
Rum + Coke Tina Dress, $65.00 Buy
Photo: Courtesy of Rum + Coke.
What celebrity would you love to see in your designs?
"There is a long list of celebs I’d love to work with: Oprah, Beyoncé, Solange, Janelle Monáe, Jill Scott, Amber Riley, Alicia Keys, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, and Queen Latifah, just to name a few."

What is your favorite design you've created?
"My favorite design has to be the Coke dress — simple, sexy, and never goes out of style."
Rum + Coke Coke Dress, $115.00 Buy