Gettng the lowdown on plus sized fashion with JJ Schoeman

1). We have been trying to understand the whole new era of plus-sized women sweeping over the fashion industry. According to the Star Newspaper, you mentioned that your collection featured at Fashion Week was somehow inspired by fully figured women who wear your designs.

”My plus sized fashion this year on the catwalk included my most popular dress that happens to be a flexi size. We call it the maxi dress. It has never gone out of fashion since I invented it. The dress has proved itself to be so popular as everybody that tries it on buys it on the spot. It is a life saver dress for the fuller figured woman and for business. The secret of this dress is that it wraps around the body. It has ties that fasten as it reaches the desired pull on the body. It also allows for combination body types where the bust, waist or hip varies from perfect proportions. In other words it flatters all body proportion combinations. The neckline plunges for cleavage and shows off the waistline. The flowy skirt flatters the bottom. Each time we make this dress, the specific combination of fabric and colour is never repeated so each person has their own unique one. The skirt and top that we showed on the runway is the concept of this same dress reinvented as a two piece, We developed the idea of the flowy skirt that ties around the waist from the maxi dress and added a body hugging top to go with it. The flowy kaftans fit absolutely everybody and is oversized on a smaller frame and is flattering on a larger frame. Fully figured woman have a lot in common with the “textbook body types” and that is that they still want to feel and look beautiful. All the same rules apply, but it has to be done in consideration of certain criteria: flattering, allowing fullness and variances. We only play with the lengths as the length is either the shoe, the calf or the knee.”

2). How do you describe the fuller sized fashion and style in a nutshell?

”Because of my occupation, a dress size is only a measurement, to me. I always tell people the number on the dress does not matter unless it is the lotto winning number, the size is just a shape. I have been very fortunate to have worked with fuller figures most of my life, more or less, half of my clientele are fuller figured women. Lucky for me, my dearest elder sister allowed me to practise a lot with her shape being full figured and my baby sister has a combo posture, so I am well experienced in the field. My 31 years in the industry also contributes to the experience.”

3). What sparked your interest in plus sized fashion?

”Most women believe that they are not perfect as they compare themselves to images of well photographed and photo shopped magazine images. Their focus is always on a specific body area that they feel is causing all the trouble. There are certain parts of the body that must be covered and there are other parts that must be shown off. I have a one liner “large is lovely” and I know that men prefer curves if I have to generalise it. Usually the creativity element only sneaks in when its time for the last finishes of creating a new look. A beautifully made and well cut garment does not need anything to make it better as it is perfect already.”

4). How do you balance your creativity for designing for the fully figured woman, against the backdrop of so much negativity and stereotypical views that surrounds this body type?

”The first part of the exercise is to get the fit and the shape perfect. That is an art that one learns over the years. This creates confidence, and a level of confidence for the customer, one can add a bit of creativity if utterly necessary. People that have issues with fuller figured women must learn that nobody is perfect. We are all created with one flaw, its either flat feet or a facial or body imperfection or whatever.”

5) What’s your latest fashion design project for plus-sized women?

”My latest design project for fuller figure women is the wrap skirt with ethnic applique detail, a body fitting top and a “kopdoek” to match. I also created a long classic evening dress with mesh sleeves. Often – the mother of the bride/groom is a full figured shape and we are developing more new looks around it.”


6). Where do you see this fashion trend in  time

”Over time as the clothing ranges around the fuller figured women, it will become more mainstream and acceptable. There is so much room here to grow and expand. So five years from now, it could be the norm, for all Fuller Figured women to be in more ad campaigns, as this seems to be an international trend at the moment.”

7). Have you ever consider designing plus size menswear? If yes, please share a few of those for our plus-sized male readers.

”I have done “made to measure” or bespoke clothing items for men. These items are on request only. Often it is a special occasion or fussy men or men that love fashion and are looking for something different. My publicist Leon Haasbroek has been one of my fashion victims, wearing a very long shirt to the knees and spikes on the shoulders. One part of the garment is tailored and the other part is flexi and comfortable allowing one to breathe and feel easy.”

8). Many women who aren’t sample-sized have been robbed of the chance to feel beautiful in their skin and about their fashion choices. As a designer who is committed to designing for curvy figures, what is your view on fashion schools who aren’t encouraging body positivity?

”In my opinion, Fashion Schools teach our kids the basics first. It is extremely important to be able to cut and create a basic item to perfection first. Usually this is called the text book measurement, a size 32 or 34. It could be a great idea to create a “standard text book measurement for the fuller figure”, as part of the curriculum. Once one has that under the knee, the tape measure is handy to just add a number on or take it away. In other words to create an eye for perfection or perfect proportions of all sort. At Leggatt Academy of Design where I studied, my teacher simply told us to use the tape measure and whatever the measurement is, that is it. He called it engineering.”

9). How do you help ensure that your boutique or company truly designs with body positivity and inclusivity in mind?

”Our ready to wear range runs from a size 32 to 44/46, depending. We even cut size 28 and 30. When we do not have a set size curve, you can order the size according to your measurements. Therefore everybody can have the size they require to their specification.”


10). How do you ensure you’re properly equipped, sometimes with limited resources at your disposal to deliver a perfect garment to everybody?

”One can only know how to create and to navigate in the design process by obtaining years of experience. Practise and more practise. Without trying to get it right or without making any mistakes one cannot go forward to create the perfect fit with each item.”

11). Since designers today are expected to take matters into their own hands, literally, when it comes to feeling equipped to design for a multitude of body types, do you think there’s still merit to a formal fashion education?

”New Designers/students that think they know it all will probably get lost in the system if the system does not fail them eventually. Fashion is a tough business, it is all about sales and you are only as good as your last dress or your last monthly turnover. We can relook this question of formal fashion education in the future as the time of artificial intelligence will arrive; we don’t know yet how it will be and that might be another case scenario. As design work is a manual process and hands on, I think we are still ok for the moment.”

12). What is your view on big fashion companies that hire ‘Size 2’ Models to Sell Plus-Size Clothing?

”To hire a size 2 model is probably one way of taking the focus off imperfect body parts by replacing it with “perfection and beauty”, making the person looking at the look feel good about themselves. I think it is a psychological process to create beauty and let people fantasize. As the fuller figure is already an issue for some, it is definitely one way of dealing with it, showing a size 2. The other way is what we did on the runway last week, put fuller figured girls in beautifully fitting garments that was flattering and this created a lot of confidence.”

13). What advice can you give to plus-sized women on what to rock or dress during this year’s autumn/winter season?

”Plus sized women know what are their best attributes are. One must accentuate one of the attributes so that it becomes the focus of the garment/look. Usually it is either cleavage, the waist or the hips (or facial features or height or legs). It is easy to look stylish and fashionable, but it does take experimenting with your own shape and clothing shapes/cuts that work on your body. Once you have identified a great garment or shape that is excellent with your body type, run with it and buy it in different colours or variaties as you know it makes you look fabulous. Play with your clothes.”

Thank you very much Mr Schoeman, as usual, it is always a pleasure chatting with you, always remember that you have big fans within Entertainment_SA’s chambers!

Picture credit: Ivan

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