Exporting Fearlessness From Down Under: Emerging Plus-Size Designer Gisela Ramirez

If it’s not her colorful, unconventional designs that will first catch your eye, maybe it will be Gisela’s vibrant, positive attitude—or her shaved head. Gisela Ramirez , a 24-year-old independent designer, has been winning the hearts of similarly bold and fearless plus-size women across the Internet. The Sydney-based designer has slowly been releasing her own creations through her online shop, using her Tumblr blogs as the primary platform for their launch. A self-described “starving artist,” her clothing line is a true passion project—born out of a necessity to bridge the gap between her personal style and what clothes were available off-the-rack for her and her size-18, 5’1’’ frame. With sheer, draped fabrics and bold colors, Gisela’s line is perfect to incorporate into your summertime wardrobe right now—especially if you’re part of the same school of thinking as Gisela, that your body should not limit your clothing options, nor your ability to be sexy or adventurous with fashion.
What inspired you to start your line?
"I've always been interested in clothing and fashion design, and began designing my wardrobe, and those of my friends, from the age of 10 or 12. Although I was always the largest of my friends, I would've won every prize for being the most adventurous with my personal style. Despite my life-long love affair with clothing, it wasn't until fairly recently that I came in contact with the global online 'fatshion' community. This has been the single most influential subculture I have ever been a part of. It's this community, and the women I have encountered through it, that have inspired my collection. Without witnessing their confidence, body love, and empowerment, I would have continued to be blinded by the false belief so many plus-size brands share: That fat women make every single style decision based on how to cover their never-ending list of 'flaws.'"
Your current collection is filled with skin-loving pieces perfect for the beach. How do you see upcoming collections progressing?
"My first collection was designed to be a trans-seasonal mix of layering options with many sheer pieces to be worn alone for summer, or layered with your staple body-con pieces in winter. I haven't yet put pen to paper for the next collection, but I imagine it to be bolder and more playful with colour. I also see experimentation in the cards with leather and other mediums."
How would you characterize your personal style versus the aesthetic of your brand?
"My personal-style motto is, 'Life is a costume party, and you are the guest of honor.' I've never been one to fit into a particular box, and my clothing is a mish-mash of my many moods and feelings. Although I am a diehard fan of the luxurious silk organzas and chiffons found in my current collection, if one day I wake up feeling the biker-chick vibe, I'll buzzcut my hair and wear head-to-toe black body-conscious pieces with combat boots. My personal style has been severely limited by what I could fit into, which has spurred part of my design process: The aesthetic of my current collection is an explosion of ethereal, luxury, edgy, colourful, and graphic pieces I've only ever been able to dream of owning."
How did you determine what the size-run would be?
"I decided first that I'd have five sizes (most brands have four to six). Then, I had to determine who I had most interest from, which I worked out by surveying a sample of more than 100 women who follow my blog. By doing this I also determined that most size guides that measure B-W-H (bust, waist, and hips) are excluding a large proportion of women because they are two-inches too small around the hips, so I accommodated this."
You've already faced a bit of controversy with your size charts with complaints that your line does not serve the needs of the entire plus-size community. How do you respond to the critics?
"Anyone who thinks I’m purposely limiting myself to five sizes instead of catering to every woman for some kind of personal reason or political message is also pinning me as the worst business-person on Earth. At this point in time, it’s only a financial decision to make five sizes. That means a lot of people on both sides of the spectrum are missing out."
Despite the bit of controversy, what has the response been so far to your line?
"The response has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. The most exciting thing about it all is finally being able to offer fat women something fresh that their friends, family, and peers can admire and even maybe envy...I feel like everyone is on the edge of their seats right along with me, waiting for all pieces to go on sale."
How has blogging propelled your career as a designer? What role does the blogging community play in your design process?
"I am heavily involved in my blogs and in the online community in general. Not only has this community (and for the most part, other bloggers) been an awesome source of support and inspiration over the last few months, they've also played an important role in my design process. The instantaneous nature of Tumblr means within seconds of posting an image of an outfit or an idea I have feedback and a meaningful response. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to reach out to their their target market and get involved in the conversation, right in the thick of it. I don't think there is a better or smarter way to keep you in touch with their needs and desires, or a better edge above the rest in being able to fulfill them."

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