Congrats to Ashley Nell Tipton, the first plus-size designer to win Project Runway! It is a historic accomplishment, but the decision was not met without controversy. After the finale aired, twitter was ablaze with both adulation and condemnation. One twitter user remarked that Tipton’s win was the result of plus-size affirmative action!
Drama aside, this is a significant move by fashion to acknowledge a sector of fashion that is largely ignored* because of fear of (1) brand spoilage due to a persistent stigma of fat and (2) failure due to a lack of experience in designing for curvy bodies.
Amid fashion’s reluctance to dress larger bodies, more plus-size women, like Tipton, enter the design field out of pure frustration, making the plus-size design community a unique market of and for their own. As women who identify as plus-size, they may hold the key to challenging contemporary bodily aesthetics that privilege the thin body. These women are at the forefront of addressing the major criticisms of a fat-phobic fashion community. Their intimate firsthand knowledge of the problems plus-size consumers face provides them with an advantage. These designers address the concerns of their customers, aiming to produce fashions that fit properly, look good, and are on trend.
So, congratulations again to Ashley Nell Tipton. May your business continue to blossom.
*Fashion, often, is guided more by image than sales. The plus-size clothing market has grown continually since the early twentieth century, when Lena Bryant first began making garments geared toward women with buxom figures. Her business evolved into what we now know as the nation’s largest plus-size retailer, Lane Bryant. According to market analysts, the plus-size retail category is worth $17.5 billion! You would expect more designers to jump at the chance to be a part of this revolution.