As a woman of size, finding quality clothes that are affordable and stylish can be incredibly frustrating and difficult. However, Canada has a burgeoning independent and plus-size designer scene that makes it possible for fashion-savvy women to find what they’re looking for as well as support local businesses.
Shopping independent means finding something unique, fashion-forward and edgy for yourself. And supporting Canada’s independent plus-size fashion market (size 14 and up), including indie and emerging designers, is a bonus.
Here are a couple of my favorite designers:
1. Jessica Biffi
Image: Just Biffi
You may or may not recognize Jessica Biffi from Project Runway Canada, the series runner-up in Season 2. Designing has always been in Jessica’s blood. Since graduating from Ryerson University in fashion design, she started her namesake label in 2009 and never looked back. Since then, she has shown at LG Toronto Fashion Week and designed a collection for Addition Elle. She’s currently in the midst of relaunching her line, and Jessica believes independent designers are the way to go, explaining, “If people really want to see ‘themselves’ instead of the industry’s ideal of the plus-size woman, it will only come from the independent designers. Larger retailers have to follow industry standards; it’s a cost thing. But when you have more hands-on control and you have total control over your production, you can do things like have your campaigns shot on a size 18-22 rather than the industry 8-10.”
2. Annika Reid of Minimaximidi
Image: The Stylish Reid
Annika Reid created and designed a line to “inspire women to embrace their bodies and have fun with fashion.” Her line, Minimaximidi, was something she envisioned from childhood. “I started designing clothing [for] myself at the age of 8 years old. I was growing at a rapid rate and no longer fit the ‘average’ children’s size requirement.” With this taking a huge hit on her self-esteem, Annika wanted to create a line that reflected her personal style and creativity while also fitting her size.
Annika shares, “Being an indie designer gives us a chance to be different, fun, sexy and expressive with our style. We have an opportunity to make a statement and celebrate our bodies with a beautiful garment just like everyone else. If we don’t support them, they will not have the resources to give us the options we so desperately need and crave.”
3. Amarina Norris of Ursa Major+
Image: Ursa Major+
Created by Amarina Norris, Ursa Major+ is one of the first online spaces to sell vintage and second-hand plus-size clothes. Originally Amarina started off as a jewellery designer, creating her own line of “plus-size jewellery” that featured longer lengths and adjustable chains, curating her “witchy woman” vibe into a line that her teenage self would love. Commenting on the uniqueness of her brand, Amarina says, “Many independent designers have their products made locally or are at least more hands-on for the production of their clothing. You’re not buying a garment that was mass-produced, so you’re less likely to see it all over the place.”
4. Tierra Sedgemore of Size Sexy Clothing
Image: Size Sexy
For Tierra Sedgemore, Size Sexy Clothing means that no matter what size you are, you can be sexy and proud. With the pressures of the media mounting and sending women mixed messages regarding body image, Tierra decided to burst into the fashion world and start a brand that promoted positive body self-love and imagery while also empowering women. “I wanted to start a body-positive brand. Size Sexy is not just about clothing; it’s a movement, a message that needs to be spread. We can be sexy at any size,” she explains.
Tierra adds, “It’s important to support independent designers so that women of all sizes have as many options as possible. I feel like indie designers are open to listen to the customer, add creativity and come up with one-of-a-kind pieces.”
5. Rachel Holt of PRiMAALA
Rachel Holt is not just a fashion designer; she owns and operates her own stand-alone shop, PRiMAALA. Rachel studied at Ryerson University, and for her final thesis for its fashion design program, she designed one of the school’s first plus-size collections, pushing boundaries and challenging the ideal of fashion norms. “There are so many voices making enough noise to finally be heard,” she tells me. “It’s pretty incredible to see the ever snowballing amount of media coverage that spotlights the plus fashion world. It’s thrilling and relieving all at once, because there are finally some options!”