Supermodel Emme Speaks On The Plus Fashion Industry
Emme is the first plus size supermodel to ever grace the pages of mainstream magazines and have a billboard in Times Square. Along with a successful modeling career, Emme is an author and clothing designer who has appeared on show’s such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC’s The Today Show, CNN and Good Morning America.
Most recently Emme served as the host of the Fox reality show More to Love and this year will host the main fashion case at Full Figured Fashion Week in NYC. I had a great conversation with Emme about life’s lessons, where we are headed as an industry and why Full Figured Fashion week will be a success.
Maddy: You have been in the industry a number of years, what have been the most significant changes?
Emme: It’s all been in a very positive way. I see there’s more activism within the subscribers to fashion and the models themselves. The public wants diversity and we are seeing the actual definition of beauty be dismantled and then put back together with a new concept.
This is important to do, if not necessary to carry out the beauty and artistic expression of what we are doing in fashion. Fashion should not show us what beauty is; it should be an artistic expression, a vehicle.
Maddy: I think people often forget that the industry is based around the fashion industry and not the models. It’s being included in fashion that is the actual problem.
Emme: Fashion is an artistic art form but so much is put into air brushing the models being one particular way and we’ve had this year after year and decade after decade so we’ve been conditioned to see beauty in one way and now its beautiful to see the plus size industry growing. In this time of recession it’s the best thing that could have happened because it forced the “bottom line”; the business makers and those sitting around the conference room table to say “Oh my God how are we going to make money?” so they started to market to the plus size industry. We are seeing this change with the mainstream media finally taking notice. Their readers want change. They want to be seen and if I’m a 400 pound woman trying to get to a healthy realistic size, I can’t identify with a size zero. I need someone I can aspire to. When you see beautiful women that are size 14, 16 and 18’s in mainstream media this is what captures that woman looking for inspiration.
Maddy: The clamor over the small “Lizzie Miller” picture in Glamour show’s us the power we have with our voices yet we are accustomed to being invisible. What are your thoughts about how we could participate in what is currently happening now in the media and the power behind our voices?
Emme: My backround was not in fashion, I was a reporter so I was used to asking questions and I think I was perfectly suited to trip into this industry when I did because I kept on asking, but why? Why can’t I get paid the same as the same young lady that has a billboard just like me? Why? So I hired a publicist because I kept on not getting the answers. So I said if I’m not going to get the answers, then I’m going to talk about what women are saying to me. I realized it all has to do with “us. If we don’t take confidence with us, people will not treat us any better than we expect them to. When I walked into a room, I was too much for them.
Maddy: Too much in what sense?
Emme: I was going against the “norm” in fashion industry by just existing not to mention my voice and my body. I was this athletic, good-looking woman who refused to go with the “norm”. I did bike tours, triathlons because of the joy of life and then these people are telling me that the clothing does not fit right. I’m too big but I could drop and do 100 push-ups.
Maddy: Was there a time when you felt like it was you against an entire industry?
Emme: I walked away from the industry for six to eight months and went into another career, I was like screw that! This really is bad, people are really disrespectful and I did not like that. However, the moment I walked way in 92 and said I’m not getting paid enough for this type of attitude I’m dealing with is when I started to get calls from FORD saying your bookings are increasing with you not being around so your going to have to come back. I thought to myself if I’m going to come back, I’m going to really listen and reflect what’s going on out there. I realized there was something happening without any warning and it was “change”. So I said to myself, “I just need to keep on talking!” I was not going to succumb to losing weight and equating goodness with size, which is a big lie by the way.
Maddy: Is there something you wish would change in the fashion industry?
Emme: I wish they would stop shooting these girls naked and put clothes on them. They are beautiful and they should show them in fashion. We don’t see them shooting 00 models without clothing and without photo shop because we would see bones sticking out and it would look like they were in a concentration camp! Show them as beautiful women and this is art. While there is a revolution-taking place right now, we need to diversify beauty not just in size but also in ethnicity and all of who we are as Americans. Women are starting to say ” Stop with the unrealistic artistic expression of who we are, but give us something more realistic yet still inspirational and above all do not harm. Stop making it be all about size and not about the beauty. Take a look at Crystal Renn! Take a look at Kate Dillon! There are so many younger models coming into the industry but these girls have got it, and they should not even be discussing being an overweight model.
Maddy: It’s interesting you say that, the common comment among most blogs seems to be “That’s a plus size model?” The public does not realize that a size 12 next to a size 00 is in fact a plus size model.
Emme: Plus size models are the inspiration and aspirations for curvier women. They are here for plus size women to say aha! This is the way a garment would look on me when it’s filled out. These women can relate more and therefore are more inclined to make a purchase based on this.
I’ve been talking to catalog companies from the beginning of my career and I’m not sure where they get these statistics they follow. I would urge them to put women who were above a size 4 in their catalogs but the answer was always the same. Women do not want to see other larger women. I disagree with this idea and believe that if you would put larger girls in catalogs then those curvy women, size 18, 20, and 22 would relate to the images and in turn the company would make more money.
I challenged the statistics every time and no one could ever really tell me where they were getting it from. Eventually they did start using plus size models in the catalogs and sales went up, returns went down and business got better.
Maddy: There are so many body types yet we are all lumped into one. What is the answer?
Emme: There’s an athletic plus size, there’s a more matronly (older mom/grandmother) plus size, there’s a junior full figured and then there’s tall and petite. We need to break it down so that younger women are not asked to dressed in ways that their moms and aunts like to look.
Maddy: It seems like every month something big involving the plus size industry hits the mainstream media. Are we here to stay or is this a passing fad? How do we help for this to continue as an industry? What should we be doing?
Emme: We are the ones that pay the bills. We make this economy move. Once we realize our power as women things will change and stay that way. I remember when I wrote my first book in 1997 I had booked a job in Australia and my publicist had also set up a ton of interviews for me while I was there. Australia was having it’s own revolution at the time. I remember telling the women, “Use your voice and make a statement!” If you stop shopping, they will listen. The bottom line always wins.
Back to my story, I did my shoot and the interviews and left and came back a year and a half later to promote my book and everything had changed. The women were so excited to tell me. “We did it, we took a stand and we stopped shopping!” The sales were affected so much that it shut down production down there and it forced stores to really come together and ask the right questions. What are we doing wrong?
These women were able to mobilize and to actually be proactive with results.
We have millions and millions of plus size women in America and if we come together we could change things. We do not want to shut down production, above all “Do No Harm” but we want to partner with the clothing lines that you love and adore.
Imagine if you had the community come together, take a survey of 10,000 women and drop it off to the table of that retailer that is not doing right by us. “Here is our statistics, feel free to use these numbers”. If we do not see changes, we can’t shop with you any longer because it makes us feel bad.” This would be an affective approach.
Emme: At the same time we need to praise those magazines, retailers and designers that are doing a good job. Let them here your voice so they know that they are doing something right.
Maddy: This year your hosting full figured fashion week, why is the success of this event so important for the plus size industry?
Emme: I will be hosting the main event with the fashion case and I’m really excited about that. Full figured women are here to stay and they want everything that everyone else has. There should not be a distinction between full figured and other women. There should be inclusiveness. Right now we are bi-polar where we have fashion week on one side and full figured fashion week on the other side. One day it’s going to be all together. It’s an opportunity for this market to show the world that we are in fact here and worthy of the same as the rest of the fashion industry. The thing I want to point out is that if it’s preaching to the choir then it’s not as affective. We have to get the industry be a part of Full Figured Fashion Week. If we don’t have the main stream involved then it will not reach its full potential.
Maddy: What are your final words to your many fans?
Emme: We are a bouquet of beauty. We can’t all be Daisy’s. We are all supposed to be different. We have to embrace who we are and be good to ourselves, eat well, live well, think well and above all do no harm.
For more on Emme visit: www.emmestyle.com