Taking place at Shoreditch Town Hall the same weekend as London Fashion Week AW13 in February, the Official British Plus-Size Fashion Weekend unfortunately took a back seat to our coverage of the on-schedule shows and events. But I was reminded of the couple of hours I spent in this world by the story this week of the curvy mannequins shown below, displayed in a lingerie store in Sweden and wrongly attributed to an H&M store. (For what it’s worth I think mannequins of different sizes are much more useful as an in-store tool and if stores start to introduce them, they could shift a lot more stock).
Like the mannequins, the subject of plus-size fashion and models having a role in regular London Fashion Week is a controversial one. At a panel during LPSFW, Anna Shillinglaw of Milk Model Management noted that because Australian size 16 model Robyn Lawley (below) wasn’t available for Mark Fast’s show this season as requested by the designer, there were no plus size models walking the catwalks over at Somerset House.
With cupcakes and hot chocolate stands next to racks of lingerie and swimsuits, the exhibition was unlike anything we’d experienced at Fashion Week. The usual air of pretension was replaced by nervous glances, ticket holders sitting down clutching bags on laps and a very slim Simply Be PR girl saying “obviously you’re not plus size” while looking straight at my stomach as I asked about the huge bras I’d spotted.
I felt more conscious of my double chin and wobbly arms too but perhaps that’s because I was over-thinking it. I was also surprised by the amount of androgyny worked into everyone’s outfits – it’s been something I steer clear of as I think traditionally feminine fashion just looks better on my figure. Rather a skirt skimming over my hips than squeezing myself into cigarette pants. But as one shop owner speaking at the panel discussion put it: small sized women can exercise the right to be anything or everything, to develop an image and develop their style. So why shouldn’t everyone else?
There was also plenty of, sometimes aggressive, glamour – in the lips, the hair, the statement jewellery, the studded shoulders, the pink and silver tiger print dress, the purple hair, the black, stretchy column skirts.
Later at the fashion show portion of the day, I spotted Caryn Franklin hanging back from the scrum to get upstairs. When everyone had settled with a glass of fizz, the two women sat next to me commented how refreshing it was to see audience members wearing outfits straight from Asos Curve. Just like at London Fashion Week, it wasn’t just the models doing the modelling.
As with my naivety about androgyny, I found it interesting to see how all the usual rules were being broken: I saw stripes, figure hugging dresses, plenty of cleavage, veils, floral headdresses, half-shaved heads and neat red pencil dresses paired with tattoos. That said, my favourite look of the night was an elegant-looking woman in a black velvet dress with sheer sleeves, glamorous earrings and perfectly retro, coiffured hair.
When the whooping had died down (“Big sisters in the house make some noise!” etc), how were the clothes? With 13 designers on show, it was a little hit and miss. There were some very ill-fitting garments on show and it seems a shame to make such a statement without ensuring the clothes get the best possible fit on the models. But I liked a lot of the collections from polka dots and separates from Simply Be (which now has a Dannii Minogue approved Project D capsule collecion) to lovely monochrome birdcage dresses and dramatic, metallic ruched collars from Carolyn de la Drapiere London.
Anna Scholz showed off loose, flowing fabrics and very wearable ensembles of jewel colours, peplums and patchwork silks. Pauline et Juliet (pictured above) was another highlight, sending down hooded mustard dresses, edgy oversized shirts and leathers, off-the-shoulder knitwear and a brocade black cape. Finally, Cult of California (pictured below) felt more like Topshop for plus size girls – in a good way – with stars, shiny skirts, crochet, fairy dresses and funky sunglasses.
For more on the Plus-Size Fashion Weekend designers, models and events head to the LPSFW website.