Fly, affordable fashion options for plus-size style divas seem to range somewhere between limited and virtually non-existant. We are still baffled as to how this segment of the population is constantly overlooked by the industry, even though it’s been reported that the average size of American women is a size 14. Fortunately, strides are being made by designers who realize that a true sense of style can’t be defined by a size range. Enter Monif C., the designer of an eponymous line of clothing aimed at women with style who also happen to be blessed with curves. She gave us the lowdown on her fab collection and style tips for the plus-size fashionista.
How did you get started in the fashion business?
Actually, I just jumped in. I come from a non-profit and corporate background and my collegiate degree is in Mathematics. My business partner (and mother), Elaine Clarke, built a career her career in Education. Both of us weren’t happy with how we felt in our respective careers, and given that I have always been a plus size woman, I recognized a need for plus-size clothing that represented luxury, femininity and sex appeal. I started to study the industry and was very lucky to meet a few people that took me under their wing to show me the process behind bringing my creations to market. The rest is history!
What’s the story behind Monif C.?
Monif C. Plus Sizes was my answer to my own frustration in the lack of high-quality selections for fashionable plus-size women. I have always loved fashion and wasn’t comfortable being told by the fashion industry that I could only shop in a few stores and choose from a few, mediocre selections. I knew that other women felt the same way and so I wanted to create something that spoke to us and gave us designer fashion that was stylish and sexy. Who says plus size clothing can’t be fashionable and sexy?
Describe the aesthetic of your designs and tell us about the types of items are included in your collection.
Ultimately, Monif C pieces are a synergy of comfort, luxury and fashion. Typically you’ll find that I design dresses. I believe the dress is the ultimate fashion piece because you can make it casual with ballet flats or it can work for an evening event by adding heels. Dresses are one piece dressing, no worries about what top or bottom to wear with it. And what woman doesn’t look fabulous in a dress? In line with creating pieces that are comfortable, many of our dresses are done in rayon jersey which is so soft you feel like you are wearing pajamas. Our most popular style, the “Marilyn” Convertible Dress is made of this fabric and allows you to wear the dress many ways including as a top, skirt, halter dress, and full sleeve dress. It’s great to wear over jeans for a casual night out or with heels to a wedding or birthday party.
Do you design custom pieces?
We do create custom pieces.. If you see something that you really like, but need it in an altered size or perhaps in a different color, we are happy to custom make a dress. Matter of fact, we often get requests from smaller customers (size 8, 10) for styles made in their size.
Where do you find inspiration? I am a daughter of Bajan immigrants, so I am very much inspired by the colors and energy of the Caribbean. However, I love to have fun and to travel, and so I am also fascinated by the glamour and fun of New York City nightlife and European style. I am a true lover of visual art, so there are components of my designs that are inspired by our artists.
What type of woman wears your collection?
The woman that wears a Monif C. piece is fun, ambitious, energetic, beautiful and sexy. She loves fashion and wants to reflect her beauty and creativity through her clothing.
How do you want women to feel when they’re wearing your designs?
I have had the opportunity to meet many of my customers; they are a fabulous group and they already embody joy, beautiful, sex appeal and fun! But it’s frustrating to feel that way on the inside and not have a way to reflect in the way you want to dress. So, when they wear my pieces, I want them to feel free to share those things with the world and have permission to be every bit of themselves.
Considering that most women in America are size 14 and above, why do you think there are so few stylish offerings available for plus sized women?
It’s a great question with an unclear answer. To those outside the fashion industry, it might seem very glamorous; its all about creativity and fun. But the fashion industry is a reactive, service industry like any other. So the industry likes to identify the core customers and continue to sell to them. I believe that for many in this industry, the core customer is young and fashionable with a fast-paced, exciting personal life and some amount of disposable income. For whatever reason, it appears as though that fashion industry is convinced that the plus-size community is the antithesis of this customer, but it couldn’t be further from the truth!
How does Monif C. address these issues?
Honestly, I don’t concern myself with what the rest of the industry is doing because at my business’s core is my own personal desire to have beautiful clothing. Sometimes when I go into the store, I think to myself, wow if I didn’t design, I’d walk around naked because there is just nothing here I would love to wear. So in essence, I address these issues by just continuing to design for myself and the customers that love our clothing.
What advice would you give to women that are frustrated with what is currently available on the market?
First things first, do your research. Although the industry is still growing, there are currently some great choices for the plus-size community on the internet. Also too, if you see something on a plus-size woman that you like, don’t be afraid to compliment her! Maybe she’ll tell you where she got her outfit! And of course, my advise to women that are frustrated with what is currently available on the market is to shop Monif C!
Your clothing always appear to be quite figure flattering. What design details or fit elements do you take into consideration when designing for women with curves?
Thank you! I love curves and when I design, I seek to accentuate them. Many people believe that the way to dress a curvy body is to hide it in volume and that is incorrect. Also most women (skinny or curvy) need to wear pieces that allow them to wear good foundation garments. So, all of my pieces are designed so that everything can be worn with a bra and smooth shaper.
What key pieces would you advise plus sized women to invest in?
A key piece for the plus size woman is a great dress, it will take you from day to night. Second, a good smooth shaper or support garment, and please ladies, go to lingerie store to get fitted for a good bra. And the last piece isn’t an item of clothing, but it’s the most important item you’ll ever have—a love and acceptance of yourself.
Are there certain styles, silhouettes, or colors that should be avoided?
I don’t believe in the old myths that plus size women shouldn’t wear bright colors or stripes or white. If the garment fits well and you feel confident about it, I say go for it. I will say, no matter what piece you buy, make sure that it fits you well; get to know a great tailor!
Tell us about your curvy girls’ night out events. Curvy Girls’ Night Out is an amazing night that includes a Monif C. Fashion show, the opportunity to shop the entire Monif C. Collection at a discount, spas and makeup partners that come in to doing pampering services, 6 hours of cocktails, and gift bags. It’s a great opportunity for plus size women to pamper themselves and have fun doing it!
Congratulations on the recent opening of your flagship store in Manhattan!
Thanks! We’re located at 325 W. 38th Street, Suite 1007 and we’re open Monday – Sunday. Our hours are on www.monifc.com.
Can you share any other future plans for Monif C.?
Well, our new fall line just debuted and we are really excited about it. In addition, we just premiered a line of large-size shoes for sizes 10-13. The luxury shoe line features everything from rabbit-fur lined knee boots to Swarovski crystal incrusted sandals. As for other events, there are definitely some things in the works that I look forward to sharing with everyone. Be sure to stay posted to www.monifc.com for updates!
What can our readers expect to see in your Fall 07 collection?
Clutch magazine readers can expect to see luxurious pieces in silk and jersey, in deep, rich colors for the fall. They can, as always, expect to see on-trend, high quality pieces that flatter and accentuate the curvy figure! We’d like to offer Clutch readers 15% off their first purchase with code CLUTCH15. Offer expires October 30, 2007.