When I saw Ashley Nell Tipton on Project Runway, I knew that a sea change had just occurred. It was thrilling to watch her tackle challenge after challenge, while still staying true to her message throughout the entire competition. When she sent only plus-size models in her designs down the final runway, I cried. I cried for her success, for those beautiful boundary-breaking looks, and for the fact that 67% of the women in our country were finally seeing some sort of positive representation in the fashion world. And today, Tipton's first collection for JCPenney drops in stores.
The Ashley Nell Tipton for Boutique+ is a 19-piece collection that will exclusively be available for plus-size women. With sizes up to a 30W/5X, the affordable designs ring in from $15.99 to $74.99, and will be shoppable at JCPenney.com and in 500 stores across the U.S. The collection is filled with fashion-forward pieces that eschew those antiquated plus-size style guidelines — “no nos” like horizontal stripes, white, bodycon, bright colors, and prints all decorate the daring designs. “I wanted to create something that went against all the rules for plus-size [women], all the things that people tell us to stay away from, but what really inspired me were the things that are not in the plus-size industry that [plus-size] women want,” Tipton exclusively explained to Refinery29. “We want choices, we want to have fun with our clothing, we want to be able to show our personality; so that’s really what inspired me to create something that was different and fun, and just have style.”
Tipton was cognizant that every woman has her own unique style and comfort zone, so she made sure to offer something that could appeal to a broad range while focusing on garment fit. “I paid attention to how things flowed with the clothing; I wanted people to feel comfortable and felt like we thought about their bodies and how they move,” said Tipton. “It’s one thing to design clothing for plus-size women, and it’s another to pay attention to the quality, the fit, and the lifespan of a garment.”
Tipton was more than happy to play lab rat for this stylish trial, testing each article of clothing to gauge the wearability and durability for her future customers. “When we did the first round of samples for my line, I definitely wore the majority of it, and I would wash it at home. I would wear it all the time; I wanted to see how things lasted, and how the color faded.”
Although many past Project Runway winners have devoted their talents to creating designer lines, Tipton wanted to clothe the masses. She doesn’t rule out a future high-end collection, but she’s focusing all of her energy on her collaboration with JCPenney. “When the idea was first introduced to me I felt like this was that calling that I always wanted but never knew when it was going to happen,” Tipton said. “I always wanted to be able to mass-produce the line. Outside of creating one-of-a-kind pieces, I wanted to create things that a lot of women could have access to, and I was tired of that limited reach for women. [JCPenney was] completely open to all the things I wanted to do, and my message of self love. [I want women] to be brave and to live the life that they want without any insecurities or fears. And with this collection, I feel like we were able to put that message out there.”
September is typically a time when fashion publications definitively tell you what’s in, and what’s out. Fuck that. We’re dedicating the next couple of weeks to celebrate all the iconoclasts, independent thinkers, and individuals with unique personal styles who’d rather say Fuck The Fashion Rules than follow them.