Fashion to Figure Founder Michael Kaplan Talks New Plus-Size Denim Collection And Why Bloggers Make The Best Models
I discovered Fashion to Figure (FTF) just over two years ago — a discovery I will forever thank blogger and TV personality Marcy Guevara for. As I interviewed Guevara for an article about the changes she'd like to see in plus retail, she cited FTF as one of her favorite brands for its flattering, sexy and ultimately body-pos-inspiring apparel.
The beauty of FTF is that its clothes are about showcasing the fuller-figure, rather than hiding it away. It's rare to find a skater dress or slimming, baggy top on site. What you see instead are bodycon dresses, skinny jeans, mesh, mini skirts and bright, bold patterns. The brand — both its e-commerce site and full stores — is basically the ideal for plus-size women who want to embrace their curves and show them off proudly.
So last week when FTF launched its Denim Lookbook, featuring eight amazing jeans designed in collaboration with an inspiringly varied group of bloggers, I wasn't that surprised. When I checked it out, I saw Kelly Augustine, Liz Black, Margie Ashcroft and five other gorgeous women, each wearing a totally different pair of jeans. And for a second I thought I was in curvy-girl-heaven.
Denim shopping is difficult for anyone, but when it comes to plus shopping, options tend to be reduced even more. As Refinery29 writer Sarah Esocoff writes, "No matter your body type, you're bound to run into a waist that's too loose, an ankle that's too tight, or a wash that's too... washed." So FTF partnered with these eight ladies to come up with the styles (and sizes) we've kind of all been waiting for.
Fashion to Figure was actually founded by brothers Michael and Nicholas Kaplan, two great-grandsons of Lena Bryant (who, I bet you guessed, founded Lane Bryant in 1901). And Michael Kaplan was kind enough to chat to me a bit about the new lookbook, denim shopping, and FTF's new women's lifestyle blog.
As of late, we've been seeing a lot of brands turn to bloggers for everything from modeling to advice on the latest trends. Scarlett & Jo, for instance, had a group of bloggers model their Summer Romance collection earlier this year! But what FTF has done is actually work closely with the bloggers to design a completely new collection.
Kaplan says, "Bloggers have great opinions on trends and styling and also represent the various body types of the plus-size woman, so it was natural to ask them to help us showcase our latest collection." Looking at the photos of the bloggers, it's easy to see they were chosen for their individuality. The women all carry their weight differently, and probably wear different sizes, too. But more importantly, their choices in fashion all differ, from Chantè Burkett's street style to Sandee Joseph's femme working girl look. Kaplan added, "This was a chance to get input, direction and ideas from not only key influencers, but also the women who are our core customers."
I also wanted to ask Kaplan about the decision to focus on denim, as opposed to, say, dresses or skirts. "Denim is an essential part of every woman’s life," he said. "Whether she wears jeans to the office, out with friends or on the weekend while running after her kids, denim is her go-to wardrobe staple. We wanted to make sure we were there for our guest and offered her choices to fit in with her lifestyle." Kaplan actually noted that, on average, women will try on 15 pairs of jeans before buying one. And that stat (one that is relevant to women of all sizes) proves just how much of a struggle denim shopping actually is. That Fashion to Figure wanted to do their part to remedy that struggle by teaming up with bloggers and creating boyfriend jeans, skinny jeans, stretch jeans, colored jeans, high-waisted jeans, and everything in between, is quite an endeavor. And one that — judging from some styles already being sold out — is definitely paying off.
To celebrate their fashion-forward, body-pos views, FTF have also started a style blog, which features fashion, lifestyle and beauty news as well as "how to" tutorials. "The blog is about building a community with our guests and providing a forum for fashion and lifestyle tips," said Kaplan. "We have great profiles, news, tips, trends and tons of content we believe our customers will love." Once again, FTF is showing that engaging with the customer is key in retail, especially plus retail where much improvement can still be made. You look at brands like ModCloth, and can't help but think that part of why they are so successful is their close blogger/customer relations. The FTF blog is creating yet another platform for body positivity and plus-size empowerment, and that can only lead to beautiful things.
When asked about how, or if, Kaplan finds FTF different to other plus retailers, he said something extremely interesting, "We don't think of ourselves as a plus-size brand. We are a fashion company and first and foremost about the experience for our guests. We want people to feel good about themselves." On paper, FTF is a plus-size brand. It caters to sizes 1X and over, after all. But maybe the key difference between this and some other companies is the mentality. And perhaps a step to more inclusive sizing (and more plus-size variety) is to slowly begin eradicating the verbal divide between straight and plus, and see fashion as fashion, and women as women.
Images: Fashion to Figure/Lookbook