A vocal advocate for the plus-size community and self-proclaimed ‘curvy crusader’, Latasha constantly lends her support towards the body-posi movement, uplifting women through her advocacy and empowerment platform ‘About That Curvy Life’.
A style icon in her own right, it was only a matter of time before Latasha created something more tangible that curvy girls could, quite literally, get their hands on. In a move that has been 2 decades in the making, the stars have finally aligned as Latasha, in collaboration with premium retail space, Grey Velvet, has launched their plus-size clothing line ‘The Curvy Monroe’, an homage to the most famous curvy girl of all, the inimitable Marilyn Monroe.
The Curvy Monroe is a line that Latasha has poured her heart and soul into and because it took so long to arrive, is an amalgamation of everything she imagined and so much more. In partnership with Grey Velvet, the top retail chain for premium ready-to-wear clothing, the team have created something incredible. She explains, “It took me 20 years. Exactly from when I was 16, I knew that I wanted to own one [a clothing line]. I don't believe that I have any real design talent but I think I know good clothes. I know good clothes on all body types, because I'm in fashion. But, most importantly, because I love to look nice, I love beautiful fashion. It's been disappointing to me to not be able to walk into just about anywhere and get the clothes of my dreams.”
Working in fashion and media did give Latasha the added advantage of being able to leverage on her relationships with designers meaning she’s always decked out in the latest collections and styles but for the most part, she, along with all other plus-size women, have struggled. “I mean, sometimes I'll find stuff, I have to reach out to the designers and because of my relationship with them or my position, I'm able to get them to make things in my size but across the board, no. Also, the reason why it's taken so long is because sometimes, the best things in life are really worth waiting for.”
Latasha’s delayed foray into the world of plus size fashion was not for want of trying. It was simply due to a problem that many fashion entrepreneurs in Nigeria face; poor infrastructure. From disappointment from tailors to production woes, it just never seemed to click, until now.
She reveals, “I've tried. I've tried to start on my own but I always knew that there were certain challenges that I personally am not equipped to handle, such as dealing with tailors and production. That's not something that I ever wanted to venture into, especially because I'm not a designer, and the process of micromanaging people never appealed to me, I just can't do it.
So I have reached out over the years, actively since 2010, and every year, I had a false start where I reached out to a Nigerian designer about collaborating. At first, everyone is gung-ho but then you get to a point where you realise that they're still trying to figure out their own production chain and if they don't have that necessary structure already in place, how can they now create something else that is not their primary business?
So I've had these false starts and I've gone back in, and I come out again, every now and again and finally I found someone who had everything that was needed to bring this to fruition. So she owns a production line and she also owns a distribution chain, so we decided, why not?!
They’re never had a plus size brand in store and that’s how the Grey Velvet and Latasha Lagos force came together, and we birthed The Curvy Monroe.”
Grey Velvet, who already stock their own in-house lines Frankie & Co and Isi Brown have gained cult status with their colourful, vibrant ensembles which were created to dress the quintessential Nigerian woman at every stage of her life. for almost any occasion. What sets Grey Velvet apart, and what made it possible for Latasha to bring this dream to fruition is Grey Velvet's impressive resources. Grey Velvet have their own factory on the island where they produce all of their pieces and have set up quite the production line to ensure that from ideation to conception, all their piece are proudly Nigerian.
As they entered into partnership with Latasha, they gave her the tools to be able to bring her vision to life and out of many months of tireless collaboration, The Curvy Monroe was born.
If you survey the fashion landscape and realise the distinct lack of representation in the design industry for plus-size women, one could be forgiven for thinking that clothing bigger women was an insurmountable challenge that many designers simply couldn’t face. However, the truth, as Latasha reveals, is a lot less complicated and reveals an inherent fat-phobia in the industry that simply wants to deny larger women access to stylish clothes.
I wondered what designing for a bigger woman was like and why, in her opinion, the issue wasn’t being tackled industry-wide. “We are literally just out of the gates, so I can't even tell you that I have a definitive answer. But what I will tell you is it all starts in the design. If you can imagine, it can be done, and then, it must be done. There were styles that when we made them, I had curvy women who were petite, and on the small end of the spectrum, to size 16 and mid-height, size 18, and tall, size 20 and average, and I dress them in the same garment and it took a different shape for each woman. But what I saw was that each shape was flattering and that's when I knew that the designs in my head could easily translate across bodies, I believe that it first starts in the design.”
If it really was as simple as intelligent and innovative design, I wondered why it had proved such a challenge for other designers, whose job it was to understand the mechanics of design, for every body type. Latasha responded, “For the other people who haven't been able to get to this point, I think is because there's a fear of the unknown and there’s safety in comfort. So in doing what you know is tried and true and tested, I really can't blame anybody. Moreso, the African curvy woman is different from your Caucasian curvy woman because we carry meat differently. It's all very interesting and I'm excited because this is just the beginning. I cannot wait to delve into the other tunnels that we want to go to and the other places we want to experiment in. So watch this space.”
For years, what brands offered in extended sizes were frumpy, shapeless excuses for clothing which they created for women that they assumed simply wanted to hide their bodies and exist in the shadows. Finally, brands are starting to see benefits from having more stylish offerings for their plus-size customers. The Curvy Monroe, from the name alone, exudes a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that is anything but boxy and dowdy. I was curious to know who the Curvy Monroe woman was according to the founder herself. She replied, “I want her to feel comfortable. functional, stylish, playful, feminine, modern, contemporary, today, now, present. It's like, when you wear it, I believe that there will be the moment where you will think someone is finally entering into my head and bringing out looks that I've never maybe thought of, or thought of, but never imagined that I would ever find.
There's so many things that make curvy women feel 100% from the fabric that you're wearing because you know you want to be comfortable and cool, breezy and light to little things like pockets that just make you not feel clumsy because you're carrying your bag and you’re already big and have so many things around you, to hemlines because your bum will make the dresses ride up. It's a curvy woman who is in fashion or who loves fashion and who loves to look good that is thinking about bringing the other women into the light.”
If there’s a word that resonates when it comes to this particular label launch, it’s ‘seen’. This is a line that will make thousands of women feel ‘seen’ and understood and it’s the little things, like Latasha mentioned that make the most difference.
This label isn’t a straight size imagining of what the curvy woman wants but an affirmation from one curvy girl to another that you are and can be everything you ever imagined yourself to be.
When we speak about the critical importance of diversity and inclusion, we think of lines like Latasha’s that will transform the confidence of a woman, the way she carries her shoulders and the swagger in her gait at first wear. That, is the power of fashion.