I deal with weight issues in every aspect of my life, I am overweight and I design and produce clothes for overweight women. There I have said it, and I didn’t cringe. It is what it is! So when I get asked this question ‘do you not get grossed out making clothes for fat women’…quoted exactly as said, I feel the need to clarify a couple of things and to address this issue.
I like to use the words Plus Size, when referring to my speciality. It has a neutral resonance.
No I don’t get grossed out at all, in fact the exact opposite, I am 1000 percent inspired, by my need to provide ranges of clothing that give plus size women, and in fact all size women, a range of clothing that is funky, fashionable and MOST importantly comfortable. I know that because I am a plus size myself, I really understand how it works.
Let’s play open cards here…none of us plus size women are going to be thin today, tomorrow or at the end of the month. We all battle our weight demons for different reasons. My sole purpose is to provide ranges of clothing that enable all shapes and sizes to feel fabulous…because, yes, believe it or not, us plus size chicks can feel fab, as long as we are comfortable, and are wearing clothing that we know have been genuinely designed with us in mind.
When I opened Hayley Joy I only sized up to a 3XL, within a year I had started doing a couple of the styles up to 5XL, and then I realized that, actually, there was a very, very urgent need for 6, 7 and 8XL. This is the true forgotten market, these women have minimal or no access to any kind of fashionable clothing. It is a challenge on many levels to produce fashionable clothing in these sizes, but I would not be complete and fulfilled if I was to ignore this market. I have invested many long hours in developing styles that allow me to grade up to these sizes and after years of investment it is now truly starting to pay off. It is the most awesome feeling to put a new range into production and add in those sizes, so that when those size clients come in to the store, there are ready to buy pieces in their sizes. I couldn’t ever explain the amount of gratitude I experience from these sizes, it is the most rewarding feeling in the world, to know that I am changing women’s lives by simply going the extra mile with them in mind. So no, I am not, ever grossed out making clothes for ‘fat women.’
This message from a client, is my ultimate reward and makes me so grateful to be able to make a living and a difference, whilst doing what I love sooooooooo much.
I’m of that age where the simplest, smallest thing makes me stop and reflect on the amazing world we live in.
I subscribe to many different business and fashion publications, and over the last couple of days all I’ve read about is doom and gloom in the retail sector. I agree that fashion retail is facing challenging times, but I still maintain that as long as humans have a heart and a soul, they are going to want to interact with other humans. I think the secret is in creating an environment that is unique, special, interesting and most importantly welcoming.
The world is so much smarter, and so much more convenient, and so many more people are shopping online. How do you stay afloat in these interesting times?
You assume nothing and you stick to what has always worked. For Hayley Joy, it’s a combination of respectful sizing and exceptionally respectful service.
I had a moment today when I sorted out the paperwork with the courier who collects our online parcels. He was busy filling in the waybill slips, and I stood looking at him, thinking to myself, that this man is the amazing conduit between my clients and I. He seamlessly arrives twice a day, picks up my parcels, and magically they are delivered the next day, all over the country. I’ve never really stopped to think how far we’ve evolved in seamless service. Back in the day you would pack a parcel, get in your car, drive to a post office, stand in a queue, book it in, and have no clue when it would reach its destination. Now I’m pretty much guaranteed that it will be there the next day.
Taking Hayley Joy online has been a very interesting experience, and the ease that online affords you, to reach clients who cannot physically come to the store, is the thing that has really excited me. For so many years I would get desperate emails from all over the country, begging for access to real Plus sizes.
Creating an online store wasn’t easy, because this is not a run of the mill product that you put online and wait for somebody to buy. I suddenly had to start convincing new clients, that my sizing is genuine Plus sizes. The trauma around the lack of decent Plus size clothing has inspired me to keep creating, to keep honouring and to keep flying the flag for genuine Plus sizes, and in this very smart world we live in, that dream becomes easier and easier to become a reality.
The smart world excites me and at 52 years old I am in the perfect position to take Hayley Joy to the next level, and debunk all the doom and gloom about retail. I’m so up for the challenge.
In a bold move, I opted to remove all the sizes from the labels in my garments, and replace them with shapes.
After many years on the shop floor at Hayley Joy, I felt that it was time for me to lead the way in eliminating body shaming, with dignity. I’ve spent many hours in one-on-one consultations and it always comes down to the same thing – low self-esteem – which isn’t helped by having to buy clothing with a 5XL, 6XL and 7XL label in it. Removing sizes from my garment labels, seemed the most obvious thing to do, after the umpteenth call from a client asking us to cut out the labels from their clothing, because their husband, son, son-in-law or boss were coming to collect on their behalf, and “they absolutely couldn’t have them see what size she is buying.” The final affirmation for me was when a client sent me a picture of a Hayley Joy garment belonging to her mom, that had the corner of the label cut out, where the size normally is.
I’m never one to play it safe, so I decided to go where no other clothing designer and manufacturer had really gone before. I allocated colours to the various sizes, and it felt so good to say you’re a yellow, or a pink, or a green. And then at 3am one morning, which is when my brain tends to decide to have it’s real moments, I woke with absolute clarity…I needed to have coloured labels with shapes. This would mean that instead of clients referring to their size as a 2XL, they become a pink heart (which is the new label for a 2XL HJ garment). As a shapely women, it made perfect sense to me, and I knew it would make perfect sense to my clients, and in turn, would eliminate the stress of a number in a label.
Many clothing brands have dropped the plus-size from the description of their ranges, and are seeing a marked increase in profits, but nobody has gone as far as removing sizes completely. Practically I think it’s difficult to remove sizes if you are a store carrying multiple brands. For Hayley Joy it makes perfect sense, because we manufacture all our collections in our own production facility, exclusively for our retail store. It’s easier for us to educate our present and future clients on how to buy the ranges. It also allows for us to demonstrate our respect for the issues around sizing. I’d spent months on the internet reading comments on anything Plus-size related, and the recurring gripe is this, “Why do we have to be labelled, why can’t we just be part of the consumer chain?”
I had given it much thought, and was in agreement. It was time to start offering fashion in all sizes, with no stigma. Hayley Joy is known as a Plus-size brand, but the reality is that we cater for all sizes. I have many clients who buy Hayley Joy small, because they like the styles and the look and feel. They are really not fazed by what size we go up to. In fact, they are often in awe, that there is a brand who is taking a small pattern, and sizing it all the way up to a 7XL.
As a small independent boutique, attempting to do something that radical, within the clothing space, was risky. But for me, I believe that the time was right for somebody to make a move in this very maligned area of fashion.
Plus-size clothing has a stigma, there is no denying it. I’m hoping that by making the changes and removing sizes completely, HJ has created a precedent, and at the same time, demonstrated to women out there, that somebody has taken heed of all the feedback, and come up with a fun, quirky way to limit the stigma and remove the trauma of shopping by size. I think we’ve been so fixated on size for so long, that we’ve forgotten that we have a shape too, and it’s our shape that defines the clothing we wish to wear.
I hope that this will revolutionise the way women are marketed to in fashion, globally. It’s time for women of all shapes and sizes to be honoured. I want this to become a global undertaking. We the designers, who are claiming to know a thing or two about Plus-size fashion, need to realise that our clients needs are not that complicated, they just want respectfully designed, well fitting, fashion forward clothing, without stigma around their size.
I want to be that designer who changed the way women of all sizes are marketed to. In my own small way, I hoped that this would revolutionise the way women were marketed to in fashion, globally. It was time for women of all shapes and sizes to be honoured. I wanted this to become a global undertaking. We the designers, who claim to know a thing or two about Plus-size fashion, needed to start realising that our clients needs are not that complicated, they just want respectfully designed, well fitting, fashion forward clothing, without stigma around their size. I believed that the first step in taking the trauma out of sizing…and the first step for Hayley Joy towards this, was to make fashion about a Shape, not a Size.