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Q & A with Kelly Helfman ( Vice President and Brand Director of WWD Magic, FAME, ATS, POOL TRADESHOW)

1)  What attracted you to the fashion industry and when did you feel that this was something that you could see yourself doing long term?

Fashion was always in my blood. My grandmother was a seamstress and my mother owned a vintage clothing store. We would spend our weekends hunting for product for the store. I was taught to have a good eye from a very young age. As a student, I worked a lot of retail jobs where I learned the sales side of the business. After graduating from the University of Arizona in 2003, I started my own clothing line that was vintage inspired called Kween. I eventually made my way to MAGIC in 2006, which I have called home for over 12 years. I now oversee Fame, AccessoriesTheShow, WWDMAGIC and POOL Tradeshows.

2) When was the first moment that you realized that the plus size market was a serious contender in the fashion industry and who was the first plus size designer to capture your attention?

It was as a child. My mom was always plus-sized and my dad had to shop at big and tall. So I personally knew how important it was to have options for all sizes as I was growing up. My mom was so fashionable and always needed larger sizes, so we would shop all over the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles to find the most fashion forward plus stores. There were actually a few great shops but you had to search. The malls would only have Lane Bryant and a small plus section in the department stores. Torrid was the first major chain to have more fashionable plus options for young girls. Torrid did a great job letting society know you can be curvy and still dress trendy!

 

3) Last year, we saw Torrid showcasing their design at fashion week, which was a huge milestone for the plus size industry. Now we’re seeing an increased acceptance in the plus size industry among manufacturers. With that increased velocity from the past 2 years alone, how do you see the plus size industry evolving in the next 5-10 years?

It will just continue to grow and evolve into something so huge. There are numerous well-known designers now breaking the mold and offering plus. Luxury brands to fast fashion are all catching on. With the female movement in full effect, women of all sizes are feeling more empowered and confident than ever. Brands are taking a cue from the girl power crusade and are finally starting to wake up and understand that everyone is not a size 4. Ashley Graham is just the start of what is about to be the most powerful time in influential women of all sizes.

4) What role do you see innovation playing in this booming market as consumers continue to search for the perfect fit, fabrics, and shopping experiences both in-store and online?
If you have not already, you need to check out what consumer shopping sites are doing like prettylittlething.com and fashionnova.com. These online sites are inspiring curvy girls to dress just like their friend who is a size 0. I am talking crop tops, spandex, you name it. The clear message is, “if you got it, flaunt it.” These are both online retailers who are mastering the fast fashion plus game. At our FAME show in NYC, we have many brands that have similar styles to these sites. It is important we have brands on the show floor that offer trend plus size option for our retailers to shop. I think the brick and mortars who offer plus need to become better marketers, offer more inspiration to their curvy buyers and come up with more styling services for plus-sized shoppers.

 

5) Do you see white space in the plus size market for traditional luxury brands (i.e. Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Versace, and Chanel)? If so why, and what would you say to luxury brands who are currently against expanding their assortment into extended sizes?
I think it is important to acknowledge that we cannot assume all brands at any level of the market have to have expanded sizing. There are some brands that will not offer plus and some like Prabal Garung will be more accommodating. I think if a label like Gucci offered expanded sizing, it would make a huge statement and lead the world of fashion to open their eyes. Right now most luxury brands only go to XXL which is not great. But there are more and more premium brands who are stepping up. It is evolving in the right direction and will continue to boom.

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