As a curvy woman what are the major challenges you noticed when shopping for clothes?
My pet peeve is the shopping experience – as a designer I constantly shop and look at clothes but when shopping for myself I feel like a second class citizen. Inevitably the plus size department in department stores is hidden away in the basement or it is on the highest floor out of the way. It’s almost like they are ashamed to show the clothes and expect the customers to be ashamed of being a plus size.
Though, I have to say that Marina Rinaldi stores and Eileen Fisher stores that sell plus size clothes are an exception to this.
Finding high quality fashionable clothes (although from the last year it has become easier) is hard and your selection is severely limited, however I want to feel cherished and pampered when shopping not like I have to hide away! I think on the lower and cheaper end, younger brands like Torrid/Forever 21 are doing a good job but there is such a lack of luxury product and I feel when I shop for myself I am being punished for being plus.
Did growing up in Newcastle England have an influence on your current work?
Definitely! With growing up in England there is a strong street fashion scene so fashion and style is all around you and I wanted to be a fashion designer from a very young age. England has some of the best fashion schools in the world so you can get a great education which really is a help. I did a BA in fashion and then realized that knitwear was my love and stayed on to do an MA in Knitwear and Knitted Fabrics. As for Newcastle, there is a part of me that feels like it will always be “home” and a folk song from Newcastle called Cushie Butterfield inspired the name of my line. The opening line of the chorus is“she's a big lass and a bonnie lass “ that’s where Cushie B came from.
Who is your most major influence?
For fashion in general - Dries Van Noton is always a favorite and Pringle - I love how they took an old ladies cashmere line and rebranded it and it’s now fab. I also always look at Burberry again - the iconic rain coat now a major fashion brand, amazing!
Stella McCarthy is also a favorite - however I think is important to look at other things in art /advertising and culture when designing. I can be inspired by a photograph, an exhibition, a carpet, anything really. I can get inspired by a movie or a show on TV, fashion and style is all around us. One of my favorite things at the start of a season is shopping the yarn market, I can get excited about the hand on a silk cashmere blend or a new mélange color, or an innovative yarn that uses metal! That is where I start my mood board with yarn, I then add photos, fashion images and anything else that has inspired me (I often get inspired by vintage clothes) and the collection starts to evolve - then I start to sketch.
What have you learned designing for major brands such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger amongst others?
I haven’t done much for Hilfiger so can we use Vinve Camuto? Don’t really feel I have worked enough with Tommy. Yet designing for major brands is a very interesting, I feel like I have the best of both worlds as I get to work with the regular fashion industry as I design for the department store end not the runway (apart from when I did Cynthia staffed we did runway shows) although the design aesthetic of the brand has to be followed it is also about making wearable clothes that will sell - they are also a very fast turn around and a large amount of product that has to be designed, fit is also a very integral part of these brands that it stays consistent and I have had to work closely with the factories in china on communicating our needs, I have also traveled to Asia a lot over the years as well as going to pitti the yarn faire in Florence, shopping in London and Paris – invaluable experiences .
What led you to design your own brand?
To be honest because I was frustrated with the lack of options on the higher end of plus size fashion I could find for myself - I never actually dreamed of my own line but decided to create Cushie B out of necessity there is such a void in the market at the higher end and I feel strongly that the plus size woman deserves as much care and attention to detail as anyone else, I know the problems a plus size woman faces when buying clothes and I feel her pain - and instead of just grading up clothes from the regular line to plus size I wanted to create a product designed specifically for the curvy woman.
What type of woman do you imagine when designing for Cushie B?
Initially I thought I was designing for a woman over 35 - looking for high quality slightly different clothing that had a good job - professional, well-traveled, international but I have been surprised that I also have a younger customer who styles thing differently and puts a different spin on things so I would now say 25 and up which is quite exciting, but whatever age the woman is she needs to appreciate quality, beauty and attention to detail. My hang tag says B tempted, B beautiful, B cherished, B yourself – that’s my Cushie B woman, who is proud to be plus.
What makes Cushie B a luxury brand?
I think it’s the fact that I use luxury yarns and fabrics and pay attention to detail and fit that each piece is carefully thought through from the beginning conception to the end product - I also try to make pieces that are timeless. As for me luxury is timeless.
What style trends do you predict for the curvy woman?
I feel that the major trends in fashion are the same whether you are curvy or not - its interpreting them and adjusting lines for them to look good on a curvy woman at the moment I love the lace and lingered looks, the fab floral in prints and the complicated cables in trendy versions of fisherman's sweaters - cold shoulders which are now a bid trends are great for plus size woman and knitted dresses are definitely trending.
I want a woman to feel beautiful, confident and cherished when they wear my clothes; to know I care about them and I understand the difficulties they have finding stylish and quality merchandise – which they will find on Redrebs.