TCF Style Lounge did their thing hosting Ashley Stewart’s Fireside Chat, holding a thought provoking, empowering conversation about “the plus space” and the future of plus size fashion. Lloyd Boston, Chief Creative Officer for the Ashley Stewart brand, along with Actress and Social Media Influencer, Nikki Garza, Plus Size Fashion Designer, Monif Clarke, Actress and Stylist, Meaghan O’Connor, and Blogger, Influencer & Chat Moderator, Shainna Tucker were pristine in their presentations, having great synergy that validated their positions in the industry. These fashion insiders brought their open minds and personal / professional experience in predicting the future of an industry that has undergone stellar breakthroughs – with more room for growth, elevation, and celebration.
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The posed questions were heavy, moderated by the professionally poised Shainna Tucker, who guided the panel in dissecting the fashion industry’s inclusivity and exclusivity. Lloyd Boston confidently represented Ashley Stewart, a brand that has been in existence for 30 years (this year), catering to the image and self appreciation of the plus size woman. “Every woman in every skin identifies differently, feels differently in her clothes and accessories (and) out of her clothes and accessories…the term “plus” isn’t going anywhere.” This conversation opener about the term “plus” spoke volumes. For so many years, the plus size industry was mocked and ostracized by brands, labels and retailers. Now in 2021, crossing leaps and bounds, big names such as Ashley Stewart and plus size media outlets like TCF, have not only paved the way but have also commanded a strong stance in the fashion industry. He continues with speaking about the celebration of women in this space and the introduction of descriptions such as Curvy and Real.
The plus size section that used to be such a segregated space in so many stores has now become “the section” of celebration of women who have learned to love the skin they are in – no matter what. Nikki Garza tackles the plus size section saying, “It has become so ingrained in my head for so many years that saying plus is not anything negative. I know who I am and where my section is.” Agreeing with her, Meaghan O’Connor concurs that she too has been “trained” to think “plus”, with the ingrained description in her head since the days of her youth. “I am proudly plus size, I love who I am through and through!”
In a conversation such as this, it was very important to talk from both sides of the coin, celebrating the plus size community’s wins and not being oblivious to the disconnect that still exists with some brands and retailers. Nikki Garza stated that she did not understand the disconnect. “At the end of the day, there is money to be made!” was such a true, bold statement coming from this plus size actress who cannot explain the disconnect in her field as well. O’Connor points out that the “disconnect” comes from those at the “top”, who dictate what retailers put on their racks and shelves. “The top tier brands and the larger fashion houses control the conversation…(However) We all have to wear clothing! (Fashion) is truly for everyone because we all physically have to put on clothes!” She continues to speak truthfully on how being in this plus space, it is very easy to forget how small the space truly is due to the amazing treatment from brands who love us. “It’s beyond who loves us. Not everybody is talking to each other and having the same conversation.”
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Lloyd Boston confirms this statement based on his over 30 years in the industry. He speaks about how he has seen so much and yes, it is true. “High fashion is absolutely built on an old school, outdated ideal look and feel that is attached to beauty and style. This plus size fashion world is feeling and hearing the noise around us saying “you are here”. It takes a brand to no longer subscribe to exclusivity.”
The panel further discusses shopping discrimination and the wonderful experience of online shopping and the hopes for wonderful brick and mortar experiences. The chat was full of life and outspoken representatives who clearly, undeniably stand up for the beautiful plus size community. The questions and answers rolled in such a natural, organic way, where all who participated had an opportunity to shine and speak with positive authority.
These conversations are just the beginning for TCF Style Lounge and Ashley Stewart who are no strangers to creating whirlwinds in the industry. The two brands go hand in hand in making strides towards showing the entire world that this community is here to stay and deserves the right to be recognized in the dynamic world of “fashion”.
I love the conversation. I am hopeful that more mature women are better represented overall in the plus-size industry through imagery.