When Danielle Williams-Eke was appointed Design Director at 11 Honoré in November of 2019, the luxury plus-size retailer only carried one Black designer on its website. “I definitely saw an opportunity to add more, mostly because of the unique perspective and aesthetic that Black designers tend to bring to the table,” Williams-Eke tells TZR. “Fast forward to December 2020, [and] we started having conversations with both Greta Constantine and LaQuan Smith’s teams about bringing this to fruition.” After months of perfecting the fit for the collection, 11 Honoré’s initiative with BIPOC designers is launching on June 17.
This program was created to be a platform to help and provide guidance for established BIPOC designers to expand their clothing into extending sizing — reaching a new (and often excluded) group of customers. "As Design Director for 11 Honoré, not only is it my responsibility to design for plus-size women who are often ignored in this industry, but as a Black designer it is important that I am a part of ushering other Black designers into the plus space,” Williams-Eke says in the press release. The ongoing project will continue to bring new designers on board every two to three months. (Spoiler: Romeo Hunte will be the next designer to join.)
What excites Kirk Pickersgill, co-designer of Greta Constantine (one of 11 Honoré’s inaugural brands in the program) the most about this partnership is that it will be a signal to the industry. “I've grown exhausted by the use of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ by brands that see it as a marketing effort or simply another line in their social responsibility platform,” he says. “Our communities are growing fatigued by the homogeneity of campaigns, runway shows, and editorials, in addition to the composition of mastheads, executives, and boards. It would be refreshing to think that in the future, companies will embrace diversity like they currently seek out profit and that stakeholders will ensure they are held accountable.” While there’s still change that needs to happen within the industry, Pickersgill thinks initiatives like this exhibit that the fashion space is on the right path to featuring more Black designers.
To add to that, Williams-Eke notes that the term allyship has been a topic of discussion over the past year, but to her, talk isn’t enough. “Not only is it important for privileged communities to be allies with marginalized groups — but if individual marginalized groups can come together and support each other, we can make a bigger impact,” she explains. “Helping expand the offering of luxury Black-owned brands in the plus-size space is about further connecting our communities and customer bases.”
The Design Director believes that the fashion industry has work to do in terms of becoming more diverse and inclusive — but, she says the plus-size industry has drastically evolved over the past few years. “I would like to note that a lot of that evolution is a result of the work of Black plus-size women,” she explains. “But it’s time for the larger fashion industry to take the plus-size industry more seriously especially considering that over 60% of women in the United States are size 12+.” To that point, Pickersgill says, “I hope that these pieces demonstrate that there's no such thing as extended sizing, it's simply sizing. To only offer a limited range should be viewed not as the industry standard but as a niche.”
In fact, designer LaQuan Smith is eager to cultivate this segment of his label by providing runway ready-to-wear for all sizes. “When starting my brand, my dream was to dress women of all shapes, sizes, and ages and allow them to experience the forward sexiness that encompasses the world of LaQuan Smith,” the designer tells TZR. “This partnership has pushed me forward in this space of inclusion and I look forward to seeing my clothes on everyone in the near future.”
The campaign for the initiative was shot in Los Angeles where Williams-Eke modeled the pieces which the two designers began the process of creating back in August 2020. “After months of panic and fear brought along by the ongoing situation, we wanted garments that excited us, styles that evoked a sense of hope,” Pickersgill says. Therefore, the designer set out to make bright, structural garments that embody happiness. From a classic trench coat to a one-shoulder dress, each label chose three items from their collections that will be sold on 11 Honoré. Below, shop the collection, and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for Romeo Hunte’s offerings over the next few months.
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