We first introduced you to Yona New York in the fall of 2015 with an exclusive look at the “classic, timeless, sophisticated, fun, fierce, on-trend, and effortless” brand.
The woman behind the brand, Yona Shine, is someone who is passionate about the plus size woman and offering her fashion that makes her feel confident and happy.
I had the opportunity to chat with Yona and speak more in-depth on what inspired her to create her own line as well as her experience of being a small business owner in the plus size fashion industry.
PMM: How long has Yona New York been in existence?
Yona: Thank you for providing this opportunity to be featured in one of the driving forces for change in how the world views beauty. Yona New York was established in December of 2014, and we launched our current website on September 15, 2015.
PMM: What made you decide to begin a clothing brand?
Yona: It has always been a challenge to find clothing that fits me well and makes me look good. I had to design outfits for myself, using my training from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. When friends and even strangers on the street would ask me where I shop, I knew I had something special to share with other plus size women.
PMM: Who is the “Yona New York” girl?
A woman who wants to project confidence and style as she goes about her busy day is our ideal customer. I want to help women become successful and feel fulfilled. The first step is to dress the part. I visualize a customer who knows what she wants, has a plan to get there. She needs to look effortless, sophisticated, and chic while working towards her life goals.
PMM: You are a very family oriented company. How do you manage a family at home, a business and working together?
My family has been very supportive of my mission – everyone is passionate about providing more fashionable options to the plus-size community. They each contribute their unique abilities and value, and are committed to the cause. I am so proud of them, and grateful for the unwavering help.
PMM: As a small business owner you have faced challenges, what advice do you have for other small business owners or those thinking about starting a clothing brand?
Don’t wait to start! Right now is the very best time in history to start a clothing brand, especially for the underserved plus size market. The internet and social media have done more to level the playing field than ever before. There are factories which will work without minimum order quantities, especially here in the USA. Social media gives equal access for anyone to start a buzz, get feedback, and build a following. There are also discussion groups for emerging indie plus size designers.
PMM: What lessons have you learned through this process?
It is important to listen to our customers so we can learn what they want to buy rather than what I want to design. I listen carefully to my staff when they have suggestions. I listen to public feedback carefully, so I can keep improving our designs. The plus-size community is wonderfully supportive of each other. I feel humbled by all of the positive comments, the offers to help, and the warm welcome we have received.
PMM: What are your goals for Yona New York?
My priority is to help get the word out to plus size women across the USA and the rest of the world that WE are the majority, and we must no longer be silent. Until plus size women begin to invest in themselves and learn to buy and enjoy fashion the same way their straight size counterparts currently do, major retailers will not take us seriously.