Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Dominion Post Article- It's cool to be curvy

It's cool to be curvy
By CAROLYN ENTING - The Dominion Post Last updated 13:15 25/06/2009

Fashion Kate Moss recession-proof The new 'it' bag It's cool to be curvy Designer 'not involved' in range Juicy good cause Dolce & Gabbana present 'extreme beauty' D&G move online Dolce & Gabbana, Armani open Milan menswear Gucci showcases men's collection Katy Perry vs Katie Perry
The fashion elite may not approve but a trend-driven business cannot ignore what's hot, and right now it is cool to be curvy.

Celebrities such as Jessica Simpson and Christina Hendricks (star of US television series Mad Men) are at the forefront of a trend towards fuller figures. Simpson's weight gain hit worldwide headlines in February, even pushing President Obama off the cover of US Weekly. Not only has she put on weight, but - shock horror - she is happy with her new curves. Meanwhile, Hendricks has dared to flaunt her curvaceous figure on screen.

Trends aside, 65 per cent of women in New Zealand are believed to be a size 16 or bigger, with the average dress size 14 to 16. Sixteen is also the average dress size in Australia and Britain.

According to experts such as Stephen Bayley, author of soon-to-be- released book Woman as Design, they're "recession curves".

"In times of plenty, there's a contrarian chic to having an austere shape," Bayley recently told the Daily Telegraph. "Equally, in times of want, there is an opposing taste for a voluptuous figure. What the female body illuminates is that ever- present conflict between acceptance of the real and pursuit of the ideal."

Last month, Auckland model agency Nova, in conjunction with StarNow, put out a call for plus-size models, resulting in the signing of two models. But they're keen to hear from more women of sizes 14, 16 or 18 - experience is not required.

Even New Zealand Fashion Week is upsizing with "curvy-licious" label The Carpenter's Daughter confirmed to show on the official schedule in September.

"Fashion Week only caters for 35 per cent of women and we cater for the other 65 per cent," The Carpenter's Daughter creator Caroline Marr says.

The move has been applauded by Wellington award-winning actress and Dancing With the Stars finalist Geraldine Brophy, and addresses what she calls the fashion industry's "denial" that there are more size 16s than size sixes.

"Once gay men took over the fashion industry it became about homo-erotism, not dressing real women, and getting rid of bums and breasts," Brophy says. "If you've got a majority of bodies in society that are unlike what you are presenting on the catwalk, somebody has to answer to them."

Last week Brophy posed for The Carpenter's Daughter's spring/summer 09/10 campaign. She has worn the label for the past 10 years, and is now its ambassador. "I'm passionate about their philosophy of celebrating the beauty of bigger women - moreish women. That is the word I use. I loathe the expression 'plus size', which confines the larger society in the world as a type of people," she says.

"The notion that beauty is one uniform human being [of model proportions] is unintelligent and doesn't take into account the individual. Many larger people are extremely fit and that is their body shape."

Marr acknowledges that "plus size" is a term recognised by the industry but she prefers "curvy".

Last year The Carpenter's Daughter participated in the public Fashion Weekend following Fashion Week, putting curvy models on the catwalk. Its howling success - even Fashion Week brand manager Myken Stewart shed a tear - led to the invitation to be part of the official Fashion Week schedule this year, where it will be showing alongside Karen Walker and Zambesi.

"We didn't plan it, but the house just started to sob," Marr says. "We were breaking down barriers that say that fat and fashion don't go together. We know it does."

This is why she wants to show this year on the official schedule - not to make overseas sales, but to show that women of all sizes can be fashionable and look great.

Over the past five years a growing number of designers has responded to the call by women for fashionable clothing that caters for sizes larger than 14 that don't make them look as though they're wearing a tent.

Featherston St, Wellington, has become a shopping mecca for fashionable 14+ labels. Platform, which caters for size 14 to 24, has been on the street for more than 18 years and now has as its neighbour Zebrano's 16+ designer store, which stocks leading labels, including Sakaguchi and Euphoria. Other stores on the street are: The Carpenter's Daughter, Long Island, and Australian label TS 14+, which opened its first New Zealand boutiques in Wellington and Auckland in October. TS 14+, whose tagline is "celebrate your curves", has now also opened boutiques in Dunedin and Hamilton, with more stores planned.

Other design houses to upsize in recent years include Christchurch designer Takaaki Sakaguchi, following customer demand. His garments, size 8 to 22, are known for having shape and flattering fit.

It's a sentiment shared by mail order company Long Island, which caters for women sized 10 to 30. It puts a lot of emphasis on fit.

"There is not enough attention given to how a woman's body changes as you go up in sizing," Long Island design director Ben MacMillan says. "Grading is staggered in different proportions to the body. Shoulders don't keep growing as the waist and hip does.

"Things like that are taken into consideration. A lot of women are sick of buying garments with sleeves down to the floor or shoulders dropping to the elbow or with just no shape to it."

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