She was the most successful plus-size model of the ’90s, hosting Fashion Emergency and paving the way for many of the successful “plus” models out there. But that doesn’t mean that Emme isn’t still having trouble finding clothes to fit her. And for the star, 51, that just doesn’t make business sense — so she’s returning to the fashion world to right what she sees as an “undeniably present stigma.”
Her own struggles inspired her to return to the fashion world and attempt to address the gap in the marketplace. She is hoping to encourage young designers to create more for the plus-size population.
Originally launched as a Kickstarter campaign, Emme teamed up with her alma mater, Syracuse University, to launch “Fashion Without Limits,” a design initiative that encourages students to create styles for size 12 and up. Syracuse juniors will create an evening dress for the model, and the winner will receive $500, the 12+ Emme award and the opportunity to see their design worn on the red carpet. She also had dress forms donated in a size 16, 18 and 20 so fashion students can practice designing for fuller figures.
“We wanted to go and educate the new designers and teach them how to drape on a large-size body, whether she’s a little older or a more youthful junior,” the former Ford model tells WWD. “[Currently, most designers] just go up to 12 or 14. I don’t know why. There might be a stigma that is undeniably present. It’s really the unspoken truth. I see such an opportunity.”
After retreating from the spotlight to battle cancer (she was diagnosed with stage 2A Hodgkin’s disease in May 2007), Emme recently signed with Muse Models for her return, and is featured in the Model Alliance 2015 calendar, in addition to posing for German clothing line Ulla Popken and David’s Bridal in the U.S.
While Emme tells WWD that she thinks many plus-size women end up getting their clothes made due to a lack of options in traditional stores, she’s also been impressed by the way the internet has increased their options. “The game is online for full-figured women. Major department stores are now playing that [online] game,” she says. “Also, Asos does it incredibly well. There’s no dividing line between things for the straight-size customer and those for the plus-size customer. [Plus-size women] are not even thinking about anything negative about their bodies. The younger generations are so inclusive. What they see in magazines and what they see on TV, fashion-wise, they want to go online and buy that pencil skirt or that animal print or that shimmer top … It goes higher than size 24.”
She also takes issue with the fact that it’s not just high fashion that is size-restricted, it’s gym clothes as well. “Lululemon stops at size 12. If you want to get people healthy, you’re going to need clothes to do it,” she says. “I’m going to get into activewear. We’re looking for licensees in swimwear, activewear, sportswear, knits and footwear … I just saw there was such a need. I want to build a business, a whole licensing program. It will be the whole world of Emme.”
What do you think of Emme’s quest to bring better style to all sizes? Share below!
–Karen J. Quan