When we first spoke with designer Eden Miller, it was for a piece about the problems facing plus size fashion. Miller expressed frustration with the status quo and told us there were still a lot of changes that need to be made to improve the offerings for plus size customers.
Now she gets to be part of those changes in a major way--as the first designer to show a plus size line at New York Fashion Week.
Her line Cabiria was chosen by the Fashion Law Institute to be a part of its showcase during the spring runways. She's one of six designers chosen; the others include one accessories designer and four straight size designers. And Miller says that being a plus size designer had nothing to do with her slot in the lineup. "It just happened to be that they liked my stuff," she said of being chosen for the showcase. "It didn't matter that I'm doing plus."
"But it turns out that I'm the first plus [line to show at fashion week]!"
When Miller was able to carve a few minutes out of her incredibly hectic schedule (not only is Miller prepping for fashion week, she also works as a wardrobe supervisor and stylist for TV shows, music videos, and commercials), we hopped on the phone with her to talk about what it means to be the first plus size line to officially hit the NYFW runways, how she's preparing for the show, and what she hopes this means for the future of plus size fashion.
So how does it feel to be the first plus designer to show at fashion week? I'm incredibly excited and so stoked about it, but there's also a lot of pressure. Even though there is a lot of plus high-end stuff out there in the marketplace, they've never shown at straight size fashion week. So there's a certain amount of pressure to show that this is still high fashion, that this is part of the fabric of the fashion world as it is now, in 2013. It's not an indie showcase, it's not these indie designers trying to make a scene or some punk kid coming in trying to be an upstart.
What kind of extra work goes into getting your line ready for fashion week? It's coming up so fast! I can't do [my usual] design process where I would take a certain amount of time to really mull it over and see, "Okay, I like this, I like this. What does this fit with? Let me find the perfect thing over here, let me develop this fabric over here, let me see what my options are." You have to be designing it really fast--from your gut instead of your brain. And it's a really good thing that I've been doing it for a long time as a designer so I trust my gut and I know that my hand and my gut and my eye are all together on this. But it's also a little harrowing.
How do you think fittings will go? Do you think you'll have any issues? The fittings are gonna happen on August 23. This is one of the most wonderful things about plus sizes: We're squishy. Things fit differently if you're trying to fit a piece of fabric onto a person who has very little body fat; there's not much leeway. And with my stuff there's all the more leeway because my girls can just lift, move, and shuffle and boom, they're in it.
Tell us about the models you're using. We've already booked the model fittings, we've booked them through MSA and Wilhelmina. They're all lovely models. There's one who is not traditional--she's more of a print model than a runway model--but she's the face of my campaign and she's just gloriously beautiful, so that makes me happy. My girls are standard runway height, they have beautiful walks--I didn't hire anybody who couldn't walk on a runway. I just wanted the show to feel like it is part of the tent show. It's not the freak show on the side.
What kind of responses have you gotten from the plus community since you've announced it? Well first of all, they're excited for me. I think they're also flabbergasted. There's a lot of questions about it. I just think nobody quite knows what's gonna happen.
What are you hoping will happen? I'm hoping it becomes a non-issue. I hope that it's a beautiful show. I mean, I'll be happy to get press coverage...but I'm really hoping that it's seen just as the other offerings at fashion week.
And not just like "the plus line at fashion week." Right. Like, "Why did they invite her?", or "Don't they have their own [fashion week]?"
Have you shown at the plus fashion week in the past? I haven't shown Cabiria at Full Figured Fashion Week or all the other plus shows, in part because how I've been striving for the line to have this kind of mainstream approach. I think that what they've done with Full Figured Fashion Week is fantastic and offers a great vocal point for independent designers in the plus industry to be heard and seen, but I think that [those shows] are pretty much achieved under the radar. You're not making any new sales or new customers by going to those.
And finally, you're doing all this work, do you have plans when it's finally done, like going on vacation or anything? Well the funny part is that I'm on this television series now [Miller is currently the wardrobe supervisor on Alpha House starring John Goodman] and I'm the head of my department. I'm taking two days off, one for the fitting and one for the show. To do the show, I have people working behind-the-scenes doing production but basically I have to have a conversation with production like, "Should I take the morning off? Should I take the day off?" So my plans are to go back and catalog a whole bunch of stuff for my TV series and get myself into production for a set of pre-orders and hope that it hits really big and I get lots more pre-orders.
Sounds like you're really busy! Yeah, exactly. It would be very cool if to just say, "Oh, I'm going to Disney World," but really I'm just doing work. But if this works out, and I get enough publicity from it, then I could look into doing a diffusion line--I know exactly what I'd want to do for that, too. That opens some really exciting doors.