Many would consider me an anomaly — a larger woman with a career who loves fashion and is willing to invest in a wardrobe. A plus-size-fashion unicorn, if you will. But, the truth is, I'm not alone — not by a long shot. It's no secret that women size 12 and above make up over 50% of the female consumer population in the U.S., and that the corresponding fashion options are grossly disproportionate. Curvy and plus-size women are greatly lacking in fast-fashion options; I, personally, dream of a plus-size Zara. And, yes, there are curvy women who (for any number of reasons) keep their fashion choices on the cheaper side, but that doesn't mean there isn't space for plus-size luxury.
Most women don't have an entire closest full of high-end designer labels, but it's nice to have the option to mix high and low. Investment pieces that last a lifetime and luxurious fabrics can all be part of a well-rounded wardrobe. For many of us looking for luxury pieces in plus sizes, the initial thought is: Where do I begin? Spending much of my day in the fashion trenches has armed me with an arsenal of information on what's available in my size. But, do other women know where to look? At a dinner recently, I spoke with a successful, curvy woman working in television production; she hadn't heard of many of my favorite brands. I found that to be really surprising. Lynne Webber, General Manager at Marina Rinaldi (a luxury fashion brand owned by Max Mara), says, "Finding high-end, luxury fashion collections in a real plus-size range is definitely not easy."
Beyond consumer awareness, the notion that plus-size women don't spend money on clothes likely scares off brands looking to enter this underserved market. Webber adds that Marina Rinaldi "has been around for 35 years and has experienced that curvy women love to shop — and don't hesitate to spend their money, even on the most expensive items, if they are looking for something special." Independent designer Melissa Masse — who has dressed everyone from Shonda Rhimes to Melissa McCarthy to Rebel Wilson — agrees that plus-size women are no strangers to luxury fashion. "When women find a brand they like, they are completely loyal," she adds.
For me, brands like Lafayette 148 stand out because dressing women of all sizes is one of their core values. Lafayette 148 designs for women size 0-24 and has a booming online business for their plus-size offerings. They've also experienced an incredibly positive response to the special sizes in their Soho concept store. Antiquated ideals of who plus-size women are and what we are looking for haven't deterred up-and-coming designer brand PLY, either. The husband-and-wife duo recently launched a luxury collection, which has garnered buzz from celebrities.