For a long time I had a wish, to interview a styling team that designs for plus sizes. And it came true, I did the interview!
When I wasn’t working in the fashion industry yet I could often wonder how plus size designers work and if it’s different compared to designing for a regular collection. So I decided to just ask, and the answer was yes. MS Mode was so nice to help me out with my interview and I could ask questions to members of the design team.
The two lovely ladies I interviewed are girls I know for a long time but I never realized that they could be the ones to finally answer my questions. With Joyce I went to college, we both studied International Fashion Management at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute. She decided to take another study to become a designer, she did Artemis. Chermaine and I were colleagues for a few years, where she was the designer and I was the product developer. She also did a study to become a designer and has lots of experience.
“when you have a plus size you don’t have to look boring, you can look great”
The design team is split up in product groups. Joyce designs all knitwear, dresses and blouses. Chermaine works with the heavy woven, designing all trousers, skirts and indoor jackets. Other designers work on the t-shirts, outdoor etc. So tell me about the fun part of the job? “The fun part about the job is to make women happy with fashion. MS Mode is changing slowly and becoming more fashionable. When you have a plus size you don’t have to look boring, you can look great.” And how about the less fun parts? “The less part about the job is that you have to keep in mind the budgets, not everything can be made for a certain price level. Besides that, it has to sell, so non-commercial items will not go into production.”
“the goal is to make the customer happy with the outfits”
The average customer is not a trend setter but a trend follower, this goes for most brands. So when there are commercial items which are very fashionable they sometimes make small orders and test it in the shops. When it sells good they can continue with this item in the next seasons. A good example is the faux leather short. I think this is great, this is a good way to check out the possibilities instead of staying average. “The goal is to make the customer happy with the outfits.” Most fashion trends can be translated they explain, but everything is fit for their customer.
“so how do you design for plus sizes if you don’t wear it yourself?”
The girls wear a size 36 and 38, so they don’t have a plus size themselves. MS Mode designs for women in size 40 up to 52 (and some styles till 56). So how do you design for plus sizes if you don’t wear it yourself? They tell me it’s totally different then comparing it to regular sizes. Of course it’s about the size and patterns, but also in the little things. A great example -which was even new to me- was about zippers on a jacket: “you can’t place this anywhere you want a pocket with a zipper. When you get bigger in size, your arms don’t get longer. So the position of the zipper should be placed so you can reach it in any size.” But also the usage of fabrics is very important. “When we source for our new collection we also pick out bigger sizes so we can see the outcome on a plus size in stead of getting inspired by a size 36.” They also regularly visit the shops and meet their customers, this way they see which people visit their shops and see how this shopping process goes in bigger sizes.
Twice a week they fit all developed styles on a size 44 model and check if this looks nice. When it goes into production they also fit it on a size 40 and 52 to check the balance. “The fit is very important for us, our customer wants the garments to be comfortable. We want to emphasize the beautiful curves. This is a totally different process compared to working with regular sizes.” During the design process they don’t really have a muse in mind, but they like to think of plus size women that they want to look great no matter what their size is. A curvy girl should have the guts to try fashionable items and look great at the same time.
To be honest, I am pleasantly surprised to hear their stories. I really appreciate it that they put so much time and effort into fit, comfortability and fashion for plus size women. We all have been in a fitting room and thinking “who on earth designed this?”. Well, as you can read it’s not because there wasn’t any effort. Perhaps it’s the fabric, the style or.. in my case, just me. Last month I went to the collection presentation of MS mode and already saw some lovely trend items for this spring. Feel like shopping!
with a special thanks to Chermaine & Joyce and the hospitality of MS Mode