DON’T THINK the impending fall weather is going to slow the tide of fashion events. To the contrary, the style calendar is just ramping up for a very busy Fall/Winter ’16. One of the events I am most excited about is the Knock Out Plus Size Pop-Up and Fashion Show, with vendors and a runway show featuring brands like Copper Union, Chubby Cartwheels, Amelia, Hubris, Bombsheller, Proud Mary Fashion, Re/Dress, and the much anticipated return of Allihalla (keep an eye on this rad company). Can you believe our city boasts that many plus-size apparel manufacturers? Well, believe it! And they are hot AF.
I gather that we’ll be hearing from the plus-size apparel community a lot this year, and as a body-positive advocate I will be keeping plenty of focus on this work. It’s not enough just to produce ethically made garments—we are now singing the “#effyourbeautystandards” song loud and proud, too.
I asked show producer (and designer of Copper Union) Claire Doody to tell me about her vision for the Knock Out.
MERCURY: What is the mission of Knock Out?
CLAIRE DOODY: Our goal is to highlight the amazing plus size/body positive designers, makers, and influencers active in Portland and the industry as a whole. At the same time, we want to create a positive space to celebrate and support all the unique, beautiful people that we have in this community.
Are there any designers or companies you are particularly excited about?
All of them! But I’m very excited to introduce the Pacific Northwest to Re/Dress and Proud Mary Vintage, two great companies I had the pleasure of working with at a pop-up in Las Vegas this past winter. Both the women behind those brands are powerful babes, and Portland is lucky to have them for a weekend. I’m thrilled the amazing author, body positive activist, and feminine warrior Jes Baker will be joining us as well. She’s a powerhouse hailing from Tucson, AZ and will be speaking on plus size fashion politics and signing her amazing book
Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls.
Tell us something about the event.
Knock Out will kick off with Jes Baker, followed by the fashion show, which features eight talented designers. We’re going to have an amazing emcee, Leigh Rich, who recently hosted Alley 33. She’s a spitfire who will keep the crowd energized and entertained. There will also be some awesome raffles that include prizes like facials, massages, and goodies from all the designers and vendors. Attendees can shop the runway at our pop-up shop, while DJ Nathan Detroit is providing an amazing soundtrack and with boozy slushy drinks in hand!
Have you noticed a growth in the number of plus-size apparel companies? How is the customer base for these companies reacting?
Within Portland there’s a solid group of designers focusing on plus-size lines, but it seems the rest of the country is finally taking notice. Bigger brands and stores are seeing the dollar signs and starting to cash in on all these customers who have money to spend. But it’s tricky when the fit isn’t right, the styles aren’t modern, or fabrics are of poor quality. These bigger companies would really benefit from listening to their customers and finding out what they truly want—which is something we try to do at Copper Union.
What challenges are companies of this sort facing, and what are some ways they can overcome them?
Fit and fabric are two of the many challenges, as well as pattern sizing/grading. American plus-size women are shaped very differently than European women, which is why brands like H&M and Forever 21 have some tricky fit issues. It’s hard when you’re sizing up from junior sizes to fit a woman with curves.
As indie designers we have the bigger issue of competing with the big box stores’ price points and broad customer reach. We can’t make a dress for the same price as ones being manufactured in China. Having our customers understand the difference in quality is always a struggle, too. We live in a world right now that wants everything fast and cheap, and we’re losing the importance of a garment’s background. It’s important to see the time, blood, sweat, tears, and heart that goes into indie fashion—no matter the style or size.