Interview with Michele Weston
MW: How long have you been has been designing the line that's available online at your internet site? Why did your company decide to go directly for the plus-size market as their focus?
YN: Maria-Gabrielle was birthed out of my frustration with finding quality garments for my plus size frame. There seems to be a belief among designers that full figured girls don't need anything more than 4 yards of fabric to cover up there bodies. Style, quality...huh, those aren't even options in the plus size market. I figured that I wasn't the only woman who felt this way, so I did some research and found that the women's plus size market was severely under served. Health statistics report that the average size of American women is a 14 + but designers continue to design for a size 8. I pride myself on being a very practical woman and to design for the plus size market seemed like a very practical idea.
MW: What is the reason your decided to create a "chic and affordable" clothing with a more trend driven message ? What did you see missing in the plus-size market for those of us with curves??
YN: For the most part, the plus size market has 5 or 6 specialty store chains that cater to our market (...think Lane Bryant, Avenue, Torrid, Catherine's, Ashley Stewart.) They provide basic wardrobe necessities and don't cost a lot of money. That's their niche. However, when I need something a little more stylish and I'm looking for quality, where do I go? Where is my Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren and classic Chanel? Maria-Gabrielle, that's where. That's our niche.
I really want to convey to full figured women that style doesn't stop at a size 12. We design timeless clothing that flatters the figure and yet keeps beat with the current trends. By offering them online, we are able to keep the price points at a range that is affordable.
I really would like to see more designers step out there and apply the same level of skills and creativity they use for the Junior market in creating garments for the plus size market.
MW: What do you think is the most important lesson the fuller figure market opportunity has offered in making clothes for women size 14 and up?
YN: I believe that the biggest lesson for me was in realizing that my modest goal to create clothing for a market which had been ignored for so long would also give these same individuals a voice and help change the way they think about themselves AND how they are perceived by others. When I'm designing I'm focused on tons of things: colors, trends, cuts, available fabrics and marketing. I'm caught up in the mechanics of clothing design. To see how something as simple as designing a dress can and will affect the disposition of my customers, as well as those around them, is absolutely phenomenal and incredibly humbling.
An amazing thing happens to a woman when she believes that she is beautiful and worthy. Everything changes!!! Her relationships, her boundaries, her goals and most definitely her walk. When I try on a garment and it fits right, and looks good, my confidence goes through the roof!!! I smile more, laugh more and get compliments from guys old enough to be my son. Who doesn't want that? I'm also inclined to like what I see so much that I want to take care of it. So I go to the doctor, manage my eating and make sure to get fresh air and 30 minutes of exercise daily.
MW: We all love the bold shapes we are seeing ...Should we expect from your line boldness or demureness? AND With the animal print trend, did you try leopard prints in clothing? Do you like using prints?
YN: Our line is not really subscribed to either bold or demure shapes. We primarily are concerned if the shape works for the plus size figure. There are different schools of thought in designing for full figure women. One is the "if they can wear it, I can wear it" school of thought. Garments that are created for 15 year old waifs with 12% body fat are graded up to accommodate plus size women. I don't particularly agree with that practice. There are some clothes that do not look good in any size over a 12.
You mention animal prints Michele ...let's use that as an example. Animal prints should be used in small doses. I wouldn't recommend that my customers wear a leopard print dress, pants coat or anything else that requires a considerable amount of fabric. Instead try a animal print camisole under a jacket or as part of your accessories. Look for scarves, belts, purses and shoes to add a bit of the animal trend to your wardrobe.
One thing I like about our line is that you can change the flavor of the garment depending on how your accessorize it. We kept embellishments to a minimum for that reason. You can wear the skirts and trousers with the Blazer for a more conservative look or rock them with a bolero jean jacket and some platform boots and fishnets and you're Rocker Chic.
Plus Clothing Designer Maria Gabrielle
|MW: Of course dresses are 'the look to wear' for evening and this season... It's looking more elegant and much more covered up with the body silhouette this season? Does the sheer sleeve, embellished and all red or 'tone on tone' look inspire us as we come to your stores?
YN: Dresses are the look for not only this season but even more so for next Spring. We offer two dresses this fall, both are made from silk charmeuse which resembles liquid metal. The bodice is cut to accentuate the decollete and the colors are rich yet muted. Our dresses are sexy but not in an overt manner. It's the way the fabric glide over your skin or the little peeks of flesh that give the allure.
However, red seems to be the blockbuster of the season. The thing about red is that it takes center stage. If you're wearing red lipstick, go light on the blush and shadow; if your outfit is red them tone down the hair and jewelry.
MW: How does the modern curvy consumer do the layering look from your perspective for for her body without getting "too big and bulky?"
YN: Look for fabrics that don't have a lot of bulk and keep your layering above the waist. Try a turtle neck with a v-neck tunic dress or a cotton blouse with a vest. Shawls and the long cardigans are always great to add color and texture to an outfit. Pair them with a belt to add form. In layering you want to maintain your silhouette. You also want something made of cotton next to your skin to keep you cool under the layers.
MW: Talk to use about your price points - and what we should see you highlighting and have found ...! What's the age range you are going after for your line? Any hints with pics of the "hot' items you are are excited about? Especially with dresses!?
YN: Our price points can range from $70 - $400. As long as we our able to sale directly to the customer the prices can stay that way and for the quality of the merchandise...it's a steal. We want our clothing to be some of your favorite items and items that can be worn season after season.
We're really excited about next Spring. I really love dresses and happen to think full figure women look the best in them. The "Day Dress" as they were called in the 40's and 50's is a big hit for Spring 2007 (Since the fashion shows across the world for next year just happened, I wanted to share with the curvy readers for AmaZe what Maria-Gabrielle is doing next!) You'll see everything from the cocoon to the return of the empire waist and trapeze silhouette. Tres belle!!! In addition, lots of oversized prints, small velvet bows and pintucks. It's a season for girls!!! Loose flowing hair and coral lipstick also seems to be the rage.
MW: Now this is a designer right after my own heart ladies! Run, do not walk to their website! www.mariagabrielle.com