When Refinery29 reader Danae Jones joined Mad Chatter, R29’s “insider community,” she didn’t expect to be part of designing a clothing collection, but that’s exactly what happened. Jones and about 20 other Mad Chatter members took a survey about plus size fashion and next thing they knew, they were handpicked to get involved in developing Refinery29’s new collection with plus size brand Eloquii. The collection, called The Weekender, includes 27 pieces and has been over a year in the making. It includes everything from jackets to dresses to denim, and each and every piece was inspired by the input of readers-turned-brand ambassadors just like Danae Jones.
“I truly felt like I was a part of something and my thoughts and ideas really mattered,” Jones tells me. “It was such a cool experience to see this line go from mood boards to an actual clothing line.”
Like most plus size shoppers, Jones knew exactly what she wanted to see in a collection, sharing that “fashionable clothes that fit well [but] weren’t boxy” were a must for her. “I don’t know why being over a size 12 means frumpy in the retail world, but sometimes that’s all you get.”
Darte Lamptey is another Mad Chatter member who helped develop and shape the collaborative collection, and she says that that patent leather mini skirt is her favorite piece, but that she loves the fun patterns and striking shades used as well.
“I wanted to see a lot of print and bold colors, which they did above and beyond,” Laptey says. “Growing up, I stayed away from prints and bright colors because I was sometimes told I was too dark-skinned or certain prints weren’t appealing for my body shape. “
Lamptey’s experience echoes those of so many plus size women who have struggled (and still struggle) to find modern, trend-focused clothing that feels more focused on style than it does on trying to put plus size shoppers in a box. The truth is that all women want the same thing — clothing that feels relevant, cool, and fun.
Naja Innis, another Refinery29 reader involved in the development of the collection, tells us that coolness is what she wanted out of this line — even if that term does feel somewhat relative.
“Plus sized fashion can be so one-note sometimes,” Innis says. “As plus sized women, we’re often expected to over-dress to avoid being labeled as sloppy. I never felt comfortable in overly feminine clothing...I want women to allow themselves to be comfortable and just... chill.” Innis tells us that “if at least one woman finds the piece of her dreams that lets her feel like a model off-duty,” then she'd feel satisfied with her involvement in creating the designs.
Mad Chatter members (or Mad Chatters as they sometimes call themselves) weren’t just involved in the initial development of this, line, though. They also modeled the collection and got to experience each and every piece themselves, in person.
“We weren’t just lucky MCs, we were part of the team — on a project that had started almost two years ago,” Mad Chatter Lee Ann Hollinger says. “I had goosebumps the first time I got to see and feel the quality of the collection...”
As Lamptey says, the collection is a true reflection of plus size women being at the forefront of creating the best, most sought-after size-inclusive options right now. If no one else is going to create size inclusive, trendy clothing, then plus size women (and the companies that support them, like Eloquii and Refinery29) will always do it themselves — and they’ll do it well.“We’re in a time where inclusivity is at the forefront, and this collection really helps to embrace that,” Laptey says.