You can’t deny it: Plus-size women are making a splash in the fashion world.
The push to include real curves on the runway is louder than ever, but even staples like the designing reality show “Project Runway” went for 16 seasons without plus-size models.
Curve the Runway, now in its second year, is here to change that. The fashion show aims to bring plus-size women of all heights and backgrounds together to embrace their curves and puts designers, consumers and vendors in one place.
“People need to have a safe space to know that they can go and be supported,” said founder Letreian Johns. “There’s not an intimidation factor at CTR. This is a safe spot.”
Johns knows the struggle of being a plus-sized woman in fashion herself; 25 years ago, she was a plus-sized model, before it was trendy.
“You know what they kept telling me the whole time? Can you lose weight?” she said. “No. Why do I need to lose weight? You’re saying that’s where fashion is going right? You want to represent me. So what happens to the plus-size division? It goes away? I’m confused. So I got really discouraged and I got really tired.”
The inaugural show was the brainchild of Keisha “Peaches” Caldwell, a powerhouse in the local spoken word community, playwright, author and educator. Johns signed on when another organizer couldn’t help further with the planning, and in 40 days, the idea went from thoughts on paper to model auditions, and then a full-blown fashion show production with six segments and 35 models.
Suddenly, in October, a month after the show, Caldwell died while on a trip to Africa. Instead of letting CTR fade, Johns joined forces with Folami Jenkins to bring back a show that mirrored the larger than life memory of their friend.
“I feel CTR was the finale of what she had grown into,” Johns said. “She would design and create and make her own clothes because she couldn’t find them in the stores. I think about 25 years ago when I was trying to (model), then I was just like, I’m giving up. Peaches never gave up. So coming back to (CTR), for me, I was like it’s not giving up this time.”
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Jenkins, who was only a volunteer for the first show last year, said CTR gave her friend the chance to shine when previously, she’d been in the background.
“A lot of times, I felt like she never got any of the shine or glory for all of the great things that were happening in the city,” Jenkins said. “She just put in hard work and that’s it. This was the first time it was her, solo, on her own, putting in the work and getting the shine and the glory that she finally deserved. With her passing, we could just not let the legacy not continue.”
Both women say that the culture here embraces full-figured women.
“It’s the physical culture here, the spiritual culture here, that’s just something fortunate for us that’s historical and without effort,” Johns said. “We have events that cause us to be outside all day, It’s hot (and) nobody is walking around with a bunch of clothes on. So, at some point, no matter how thick you are, you’re wearing a tank top, whether you like your arms or not.”
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Johns added that because the show is from their vision, there are no restrictions on who hits the runway. Size, height, shape — it doesn’t matter.
“No one is going to censor us,” she said. “‘You can’t put the short girls on the runway.’ Says who? Where’s the handbook? The models represent a woman just like them, and when that woman sees them they’re like, ‘Oh, we can do that?’ Yeah!”
This year’s show features six different segments in two parts. The first will feature intimates and lingerie, club wear and ready-to-wear options. The second part features formal wear, couture and bridal options. Designers include Bra Genie, The Bombshell Boutique, Tracy McCormick Designs and Pink Parrot Luxe’ Bridal.
“I think the great part about how we’re putting this show together is we’re starting out having the intimates section; it’s thinking about foundations,” said Jenkins. “I think everybody understands that proper foundation changes it all. It has nothing to do with size. If you have that, the way you look in clothing will completely change.”
The foundation is much like the platform CTR is creating for change in women and fashion.
“A lot of people don’t know this about me, but I am shy,” Jenkins said. “I look at CTR as that medium for a lot of women to have a great relationship with fear, where it actually propels them to that great, safe space.”
The Sept. 1 show will also feature multiple vendors, including Magnolia Makeup, handmade precious gemstone beaded bracelet company Ugly Betty Boy Crush and plus size boutique Beaux Curvian Gurlz Collection.