La Vida Moda: talking sense for plus sizes

La Vida Moda Black Tunic
La Vida Moda Black Tunic

Scrolling through Twitter today, I came across this posting from La Vida Moda: What Qualifies As Designer Fashion? It is the third of three posts, the others being: The Cost of Plus Size Clothes and Plus Size Models …

All are worth reading if you are interested in plus size fashion. I’ve selected some of the comments that leapt out at me from the series:

[A] reader commented that while she may find plus size mannequins helpful in judging shape and height she found them uncomfortable to look at.

Many [plus size] competitors are very well known and all of them much longer established than Vida Moda. None of them use models larger than a size 14. Of the 7 [under review] there only 3 (at a push) that are using size 14 models and that is NOT for all their clothing.

Vida Moda is the only one of the 8 [the 7 competitors plus Vida Moda] who is trying to get closer to representing the average plus sized woman. Fashion industry specialists would tell us we are wrong to use plus sized models, that it doesn’t work, that people don’t really want to see plus size models displaying fashion.

Feedback we’ve had on Facebook would indicate the specialists may be correct! Women are very critical of the way clothes look on other women and the word “unflattering” has popped up on more than one occasion, despite our models being plus sized and beautiful but well proportioned! The criticism is indirect but it is there.

We stock niche brands that aren’t that well known in the UK. They are not manufactured in large quantities; typically they are boutique wear and are quite exclusive. Most people will not be wearing the clothes we stock, as they are not widely available … There seems to be some perception that Vida Moda is expensive BECAUSE we stock plus size clothing. This is not the case

 … typically anything above a size 20 carries an extra cost. I understand why this is the case, more cloth undeniably adds to the cost of manufacture. However we don’t discriminate, we don’t pass this cost on to our customers.

A further observation that came up in the discussion on Facebook is that our clothes are not designer clothes. It’s an interesting point and open to interpretation. If you think designer clothing represents clothes designed by very well known designers and is generally glamorous clothing that you might see a movie star wearing then yes we don’t sell designer frocks.

[we do sell] designer fashion, designed with a story to tell, a look to portray and a style individual to each label. If you are a larger lady my aim is to give you a choice of styles to choose from to tell your story and express your personality.

I hope that explains a little more about why I started Vida Moda, what we are trying to achieve and why we are different to larger high street names and why we will remain exclusive.

It’s all interesting stuff – thoughtful and thought provoking – especially that uncomfortable conflict between how we want to look and how we do – this applies in spades to issues around disability too as does the debate around pricing.  It is pretty much impossible to change and provide a better retail service to special sizes and needs without incurring costs relating to low volume, specialist manufacture.  The huge unknown is whether the desire for a great product will be something that enough people are prepared to pay for.  I really don’t see how the market will change if not … unless the government decides to invest in making overweight and disabled people ‘feel good’ and I’m not holding my breath on that being in today’s budget statement!

Go across to La Vida Moda and take a look at the full body of the discussion.  Whilst you’re there, take the opportunity to browse the site.  There are some really nice products for plus sizes on it.

La Vida Moda Top La Vida Moda Top

2 Comments

  1. joannadavis64

    Hi Elle, I’m really pleased you picked up on my articles and thank you for adding your thoughts to the debate. We are giving a lot of thought to how we might do something about the problem of “standard sizes and shapes” that don’t fit everyone.

    We’ve had customer today who bought some products and loved them when she received them, but who is returning them because they are too long. That isn’t where I want us to be, she has ended up disappointed because we can’t provide her a suitable product because she falls outside the “standards of the fashion industry”. She’s 5ft and not skinny. I want our customers to feel special when they receive an item from us, to wear it and to feel fabulous. For us to do that really well something needs to change.

    The fashion industry needs to change, it’s needs to alter it’s a design and manufacturing approach. Standards just don’t work for the variety of body shapes that we have evolved as a result of the way we live, the way our environment works and they we produce and process our food. This is compounded by media and peer pressure to be skinny!

    I’m hoping to try something different in the New Year and to offer a different approach. It’s going to be difficult and it may not happen, but somewhere, somebody has to take step towards change.

    1. Elle@plusblack

      Hello Joanna,

      Thanks for commenting. I agree with all your points but the problem, as it so often is, seems to be price.

      Individual sizing and adaptation is more expensive than mass production, isn’t it? And we are all so used to the high volume, low cost product of the conventional retail market.

      Success in offering unique, individual, high quality clothes depends upon enough people being willing to the higher price associated with that. Which in itself is a chicken and egg situation – because the more who are, the more price competitive any market becomes.

      Finding the people who will pay for quality and individual fit is one problem, the other is having product they all like and which works for them.

      As you may know, my own difficulties in sourcing suitable clothes in my size has driven me to a bespoke solution personally and are the driving force behind my entire vision for +Black.

      Would your client have paid for a tailored solution to her length problem? I do know a couple of London based tailors who might do this although I have no idea what they would charge for the service. It might be worth enquiring. Not everyone likes to go this route though so it may not work in this instance. Do let me know if this would help at all.

      I look forward to reading more on your New Year initiative and am following your blog. I am hoping to develop my +Black ideas in 2013, so also venturing into difficult and unknown markets with some overlap into plus sizes.

      Maybe we could be the start of a support network for small businesses with some overlap in objectives? It’s a big world out there with room for all of us, I believe.

      Elle.

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