An awesome femme commented last week that I should do a post on all those ~*elusive*~ indie plus brands that I was saying we should all buy from. Readers, TheAmple does not take that lightly. TheAmple gives her readers what they want. The people have spoken, and TheAmple listens.
In this first installment, I’ll give you a rundown of 4 indie companies that are creating amazing, fashion-foward, ethical clothing in a variety of price points (stay tuned for 4 more next week). Remember, none of this stuff is going to be as cheap as Forever21. That is kind of the point – they’re not made in sweatshops, under abusive and dangerous working conditions, so the prices reflect that. If you pay the people who work for you a fair wage (this is everyone from the folks who sew the clothes, to the fit models, to the influencers, to the people who market the product, etc etc), the price can go wayyyy up. And if you’re buying fabric and trimmings that are produced ethically, wayyyyyy up. Like, this shit is expensive. And this doesn’t mean you’re being scammed, this is simply what it costs to make clothing without abusive labor that harms mostly people of color.
Beth Ditto, upon the release of her new line, gave a great and concise explanation for why her prices are the way the are ($245-345 for a dress, $165 for a skirt), I definitely suggest reading it. Also, Mallorie Dunn, the designer/creator of Smart Glamour, gave a really great response to the Ditto clothing line as well, as well as a great explanation as to why her clothing, although still ethically produced, costs less than Ditto’s (around $50-100 for a dress, around $30-50 for a skirt).
Basically, as we all know, capitalism is fucked and crushes us all (but mostly poor people of color). The way to circumvent this (as much as possible) is, if you’re a person who has the means, buy less clothing, and not from fast-fashion brands. Of course, “having the means” is entirely subjective and based on a variety of factors, but I mean to say that buying clothing ethically isn’t necessarily out of reach for a bunch of people. I am definitely not here to tell poor folks how to spend their money, and neither should you. Ever. However, if you’re someone who can drop $150 on a whole ton of fast fashion from F21 every few months (a group that I’m totally a part of), this post might be helpful for you. You’ll probably be buying fewer pieces of clothing, and perhaps it might even be less often, but you’ll ultimately be getting pieces that are more interesting and unique, better constructed and therefore less likely to be toast after 3 washes, more ethically produced, and by companies that actually give a shit about you.
So, without further ado, here are my top picks.
Oh, Jibri. How I’ve wanted you. God damn, how many amazing things can I say about this company without ever actually having ordered from them? They’ve been on my list to buy from for about a year now. The only reason I haven’t is because I’m waiting for the perfect moment, if that makes sense. A little about them: they’re a plus company doing business solely online, based out of Atlanta. They make all their items to order (how’s THAT for caring about the customer, hm?), so the turnaround time for an order is 21 business days (slow fashion, embrace the anticip…..). It’s run by a woman of color, Jasmine Elder, who named the company after her childhood friend who introduced her to making clothing. In Jasmine’s own words, the line is inspired by the “glamor of vintage Hollywood cinema, powerful female figures, underground culture, visual art and music. […] a perfect combination of high fashion chic and urban street sleek that features a variation of punk innovation, classic construction and vintage inspiration.” UM WHAT. YEAH. In my own words, Jibri is like if your clothes museum-hopped to the MOMA, Brooklyn Museum, and PS1 all in one day, while drinking a gimlet, and then finished the day at like, the gnarliest, sexiest club. In terms of price, their pants (for which they are well-known) run around $150 for a pair, some less, some more. A dress can be like, $180-250. And skirts run anywhere from like $100-150.
Here are some examples of pants:
Okay, where do I start. So, I intern for this brand, and it’s incredibly near and dear to my heart. It’s run by one woman, Mallorie Dunn. She’s a thin straight white woman who is an ACTUAL ally. She started SmartGlamour 2 years ago, with the goal to make a totally size-inclusive, affordable, ethical brand who puts their money where their mouth is in terms of representation. Their runway shows (check out the Spring 2016 show that happened last weekend) actually feature people of a wide variety of sizes, abilities, races, shapes, and identities. Before the show, Mallorie gave a short speech where she expressed that she hopes her baby niece will grow up in a world where seeing people of all types represented in fashion will not be revolutionary – and I think that actually gets at the heart of SmartGlamour. They are the only company I know that is actually accessible to every size. They make set sizes XXS-6XL, and if you don’t fall within those sizes, you can get the garment made to your exact measurements. Again, they are the only company I know doing this. And they’re small. So, FYI: for all those bigger, more profitable companies who say they can’t afford to do plus sizes, they’re lying. It doesn’t actually cost that much more, if any. In terms of style, I think Marie Southard Ospina said it best in her indie plus size roundup: “Her aesthetic is something of a hybrid between old-Hollywood glam and ‘working girl in New York,’ and it’s quite unique.” In terms of price point, I’m not sure if you can get indie clothes with prices lower than this. Pretty much nothing is over $100, and those are just the more complex pieces. Most dresses are in the $50-60 range, skirts are around $30-50, and tops are $25-45ish. Mallorie actually does the impossible: the clothes are pretty darn ethical (she makes everything herself, out of her apartment in Queens), and they’re also on the dirt-cheap end for indie clothing. She does this by making pieces that have simpler patterns: e.g. pockets are never included unless you request them, most of the clothes are unlined. It’s all simple and classic. This way, she is able to pay herself a fair wage because most of the pieces are quick to make. Also, she legit cares about you. She cares about her clothes. This means best customer service ever.
Onto the clothes. Here are some examples of dresses:
And here are some skirts…
(Trivia: TheAmple is totally featured in a top above.)
Talk about humble beginnings – Alysse Dalessandro started this brand back in 2012 as a jewelry store on Etsy. They’ve since expanded, first making bold statement t-shirts, and then an entire collection. They are honestly one of the queerest plus size clothing companies I know of. The owner is a powerhouse femme dreamboat who is a brilliant writer as well as a fat-politics history buff as well has a raging fat chick who doesn’t cute-ify her politics for anyone. They use models of diverse genders, races, and sizes. In their own words, “Ready to Stare believes in fashion as an act of empowerment and the name itself was inspired by designer Alysse Dalessandro’s own experience being fat shamed, harassed, cat-called and bullied for the way she dressed. Dalessandro wanted to create a brand that treated clothing and accessories as armor that makes you ready to face the stares and policing that come when you dress for yourself instead of following so-called rules of fashion.” Eye bulge. Clothing as armor. Into it. BTW, they also create clothing in sizes S-5X. Price point is pretty indie-par-for-the-course: tops around $40, skirts $45-90, dresses under $140. In terms of style, it can vary from cupcake-cute with an edge to total down n’ dirty streetwear. These pieces are really must-haves for so many femmes I know, it’s ridiculous. So, are you salivating yet?
Without further ado, here are some bottoms/dresses:
And of course, what they were originally known for, accessories:
Shawna Farmer, the designer and creator of Chubby Cartwheels, is yet another powerhouse femme babe who had been sewing clothes for a while when people started begging her to create a fashion line. She named her store after her Tumblr (into it). Also, can we just have a second of praise/memoriam for what Tumblr used to be? An actual hotbed of activism, ideas, and skill/knowledge-share? Ugh. Anyway. So yeah, this online store is based in PDX, as many good things are. Also, Chubby Cartwheels is another example of a store putting their money where their mouth is and working with models of varying sizes, shapes, races, and identities. They first became known for their leggings, which come in wild, whimsical prints of mermaid scales, pot leaf, cheetah, and velvet. Shawna wanted to create a line that actually had individuality and variety, since we all know that that can be hard to come by in plus fashion. As she said in an interview with Bruce Sturgell from Chubstr, “There are far more fatties than there are stores that carry clothes for us.” Also, this is the kicker: she offers custom sizing….wait for it…..FOR FREE. So she can literally say that she offers clothes in size 1x…and up. What a fucking gorgeous sentence. So, here are the clothes.
So that’s Part I of my indie plus-size exploration! Next week, I’m gonna try not to cry as I delve into Re/Dress, which had a brick-and-mortar store in Brooklyn that totally changed my LIFE when I was a young fattie who didn’t know my beauty. And then, we’re gonna get a lil’ high-fashion with it as I talk about Mei Smith, Rue 114, and Universal Standard.
So, what did you think? What are your favorites? Which pieces are you now saving up to buy? Let me know if this was helpful and we’ll have a fun little chat in the comments!