Ashley Graham has once again taken New York Fashion Week by storm. She hosted the Daily Front Row Awards, attended parties like the star-studded Bazaar Icons and Business of Fashion events, walked runways, and also watched them.
But that summary doesn’t do the multi-hyphenate mogul justice. She’s also a businesswoman set to launch a denim capsule collection with Marina Rinaldi in Milan and is the face of her own lingerie brand, the Ashley Graham Collection, the newest iteration of which became available to shop on Sept. 11 after its debut on an Addition Elle-hosted runway.
Graham’s line is sold at department stores like Nordstrom and Dillard’s and on AdditionElle.com, a plus-size (“curve sizes,” if you’re talking to Graham) online shop that hosted a pop-up shop during New York Fashion Week, as well as live-streaming its runway show on the brand’s Facebook page.
It’s Graham’s 14th collection, but it wouldn’t be surprising if you’re just hearing about it. For all the value that plus-size shoppers present to the retail market (to the tune of $20 billion-plus, which has grown 17 percent from three years ago, according to the research firm Edited), it’s received little attention by designers who show during Fashion Week, save a runway or two.
Still, Graham’s focus on learning her customer and expanding her business, as well as promoting greater awareness around the plus-size market, is razor-sharp. She’s excited about the Addition Elle pop-up shop. (“Girls get to come in and try bras on and find out their size and get measured and figure that out, because once you know that, boom! You’re in.”) But she also knows that online sales, which help reach customers across the country, are critical for any retailer, which is why her partnership with Addition Elle is so powerful.
Graham wouldn’t say the momentum from last year’s politically charged, equality-for-all runways carried over to this season. “It’s sad,” she says. “It’s funny to me, because I’ll look at runways and think, ‘I’d look so great in those clothes’ or ‘I know curvy women who would look so great in those clothes.’”
Graham continues: “I was at Fenty last night, and that was an amazing show. But how dope would it have been to see some curves on the runway? I think Baja East would be really cool to have curves on the runway. Philipp Plein would be really cool.”
For all the work left to be done, this season’s progress isn’t for naught. There was TheCurvyCon, a two-day expo joining hundreds of retailers, bloggers, and consumers across the country to celebrate body positivity and call attention to the plus-size market’s biggest discrepancies. There were the Christian Siriano and Prabal Gurung runway shows, both of which Graham and other curvy models walked, not to mention the Chromat show, one of the most diverse runways — thanks to its inclusion of plus-size, transgender, and older models — which Graham’s Addition Elle runway co-star Jordyn Woods walked.
And as for Woods — the newly minted Instagram star turned Wilhelmina model, coming into her own now after years in the spotlight as a Kardashian-Jenner BFF — she echoes Graham in thinking there’s much more work for designers and retailers and big glossy magazines to do before plus-size becomes a normalized segment within fashion.
“Growing up, when I was younger I didn’t have places to go to [to shop],” Woods tells Yahoo Style about wanting to be fashionable at a size fashionable retailers ignored for so long. “I was a tomboy because I was like, ‘I can wear the baggiest clothes and get away with it.’ But when you’re older, you want a place you can go and not be discouraged when you go to the mall and go shopping.”
That feeling left no doubt in Woods’s mind that she wanted to collaborate with Addition Elle when approached. “[Addition Elle] actually cares about the fashion. The clothing is good quality and the fit is nice. So when they asked me to collaborate, I was willing and down to do it because they’re one of the few brands that target trendy clothing for plus-size.” Woods’s Love & Legend collection is, like Graham’s new collection, available for purchase on Sept. 11, and offers shoppers 20 pieces to choose from, ranging from $42 to $178.
For now, Woods is just trying to keep up with the tiring Fashion Week schedule, she says. Perhaps she can consult with Graham for some tips on how to dominate, be it one bra sale or runway at a time.
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Alexandra Mondalek is a writer for Yahoo Style + Beauty. Follow her on Twitter @amondalek.