An unuttered message comes alongside the clothing options (or lack thereof) offered for curvy women. While those who can fit sample sizes are met with a wealth of options, there are only a fraction of the choices available in extended sizes — often silhouettes deemed “safe” for curvier women to wear. Even as the plus-size market belatedly expands, the misconceived notion that women of a certain size want to hide their bodies prevails. At Karoline Vitto, however, this narrative is finally flipped upside down. The London-based brand celebrates flesh and curves with every thread.
“I wanted to offer the option of experimental clothing for curvy women because I feel like [others] are quick to guess without actually asking those customers what they want,” Vitto tells TZR. Her eponymous line offers sizes UK 8 to 28 (and custom sizing upon request). “It was a gamble because I think not many brands were doing this before.” Vitto’s designs feel like an ongoing experiment, questioning what has been done before and challenging fashion’s relationship with the body and all its perfect imperfections. What if a body's natural curves, soft spots, and stretch marks were made obvious and not hidden? What if this were the societal norm and not the exception?
For the 29-year-old, defining her brand and uncovering its purpose in the industry was a simultaneous ascent into self-discovery and her own relationship with clothes. “At first I really struggled with making that bridge between my personal style and what I like to design,” the Brazilian native says. “But what I was craving in my design process was to feel seen and represented.” After transitioning from a focus in architecture to fashion at university, Vitto’s early designs in school were mainly created in sample sizes, pieces she couldn’t fit herself.
It wasn’t until she had completed a bachelor's degree in Brazil, a graduate program at Central Saint Martins in London, and began her master's at Royal College of Art that Vitto would begin exploring the process of designing for bodies similar to hers. “I became really interested in emphasizing the body,” Vitto says. “The purpose of my designs was to highlight the areas we’ve been told to hide as women. The flesh that comes out under the arms and on the back — all of these areas that I personally felt self-conscious about.” By the time the brand officially launched via Instagram in 2019, a space where the designer was documenting her production process and body experiments in a raw, photo diary-like style, the intention of the brand was clear. For Vitto, flesh and fabric were one.
A Karoline Vitto garment is sensual, yet muted. Deconstructed, yet elegant. Wearable art, yet functional. The brand is unapologetic fashion personified. One of Vitto’s early designs, a body contouring midi dress, features a wide mesh panel, exposed under-boob on one side, and a curved, brass plate with an open center on the dress’ backside. The hand-cut, hand-filed brass plate, Vitto calls a “back roll amplifier,” and it was one of the designs that would mark the beginning of Vitto’s journey into metal as an unexpected draping tool, its role to hug and highlight a given section of the body. “My designs are informed by the questions ‘How do I emphasize and accentuate a certain feature? How do I bring more attention to this or that?’” Vitto says. “It’s about creating these lines and these shapes that complement the shapes that were already there.”
Karoline Vitto may read as minimal at first glance, per its predominantly black color palette, but it’s the quietly bold details — asymmetric shapes, sheer, stripes, an unexpected approach to achieving minimal coverage on some styles — that garnered attention from runway models such as Precious Lee and from what’s quickly becoming fashion’s go-to source for emerging designers, the Up Next Designer account on Instagram. Vitto says a number of reference points inspire her designs, many of them stemming from photography. “I love the way Deborah Tuberville portrays groups of women, and the feminine energy in her work,” Vitto says. The designer also refers back to the ‘90s, the golden age era of supermodels, but instead inverts the concept into her own idea of fashion muses.
IRL curvy women, however, (those Vitto follows on Instagram for instance) act as the designer’s biggest muses, and it’s through them and her own personal experience that the designer continues to develop her understanding of how to craft clothing that works for all different shapes of the human body. The brand’s latest collection, The Ladies Pond, is an updated continuation of Vitto’s experimentation with metal, in collaboration with a local London jeweler to create large, asymmetric rings that act as cut-outs and simultaneously hold skirts and tops together in one piece. It’s a design Vitto says has been difficult to execute, but has been brought to life (and temporarily sold out) through a multitude of fittings and sizing research. With a new collection on the way, one the designer teases may even become available before the close of the year, she is further perfecting her sizing techniques, shifting the brand from a focus on jersey fabric to more versatile, moldable knitting techniques.
One thing’s for certain, as the young brand grows, more women will have the option to explore a conceptual, creative idea of fashion that they did not have access to before. And if Karoline Vitto’s Instagram comments are any indication, she’s created a space for all women to feel represented, seen, and accepted. Ahead, check out a few styles from the brand you can shop for yourself.
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