Christian Siriano is onto something here. He collaborated with Lane Bryant to launch a limited edition plus-size clothing line, and in less than two week's time, all kinds of styles have already sold out—the hallmark of a designer collaboration success. And we got to the bottom of it when we sat down with the man himself at the Christian Siriano for Lane Bryant runway show (where Ashley Graham and Orange is the New Black's Danielle Brooks walked!), which was followed by the Empowering Womens Summit at the United Nations—because his designs challenge and redefine "plus-size fashion."
"I think the customer has always been out there, but I think she's looking for something that's a little more fashion-forward," Siriano says. "When I was designing, I took notes from my mother, who's been a Lane Bryant customer all my life, and my friends who have shape, but I didn't approach it as 'plus-size'—I just wanted people to see that you can be any shape and still look fabulous."
And he achieved it by breaking the three biggest barriers and stereotypes associated with plus-size clothing:
1. One silhouette flatters all. "The biggest misconception is that there is one silhouette that will flatter all curvy girls," Siriano says. "My mom is a 16 and she loves the shift, but others like an A-line, because they're more hippy. I dress Christina Hendricks, who's curvy—she's busty, but has a tiny waist, so an A-line won't necessarily work for her. She likes fitted silhouettes. Everyone's different, and I think that's why there's so much interest in my collection, because it has a range of all shapes."
2. Plus-size = low-quality fabrics. "Quality was important. We did have to use stretch because of the size range, but we even used the same fabrics that I've used [for Siriano's eponymous line]," Siriano says. The quality is something that model-turned-body activist Ashley Graham says sets this collection apart from the rest. "Quality is so important," she echoes. "At the end of the day, I'm a curvy girl, I've got cellulite, I've got rolls, and I don't need them popping through a thin fabric."
3. That you can only wear black. "I hate it when people think that color can't work, which was why I wanted to focus on bright, bold, and colorful," Siriano enthuses. One fan of the line's vibrancy? Actress Danielle Brooks, who also stars in the collection's campaign and lookbook. "What's lacking sometimes with plus-size is having patterns and vibrant colors that don't make you feel aged or feel like a garbage bag, because there are a lot of blacks, blues, and browns," she says. "To get to show your personality through the clothes is really exciting."
From a big-picture perspective, the collection (available now at lanebryant.com) plays a much more significant role—as a celebration of curves, as a voice in the conversation about body acceptance and body positivity, and as a call for more designers to cater to fuller figured women.
"It opens the doors for so many other designers to say, 'Oh this is something we should be doing,'" Graham says. "We, as curvy women, are craving so much high-end fashion, and it's hard to get our hands on it because only so many designers go up to 14 or 16, and what about the girls left out at 26 and beyond?"
Graham has been speaking up on behalf of curvy women everywhere for 16 years, and it's made an incredible difference. "It's really at the forefront now," Brooks says. "We're really changing how we view beauty, and I think social media has helped with that—Ashley Graham has over a million followers, I have over a million followers, people see us comfortable in our skin and it encourages people to embrace who they are."