People are realising there is a great demand for sexy, contemporary plus-size fashion, designer Anna Scholz tells Marie Davies
How did you begin designing plus-size fashion?
I couldn’t find clothes I wanted to wear when I was younger so I began sewing at a young age, and found that people would comment on the pieces I made. I then worked as a
plus-size model and realised all the clothes I was modelling were frumpy.
Coming from Hamburg, which is a relatively cosmopolitan town, I found it hard to believe there was nothing desirable and no one had identified this gap in the market.
What was your biggest obstacle starting out?
Retailers would say my designs were too young and too trendy for the plus-size market. I found it hard to break down perceptions that women over a certain
size don’t want to look sexy and stylish.
My breakthrough came when I opened my first account with Selfridges.
You came to the UK to study at Central Saint Martins College. How encouraging are universities in developing plus-size designers?
I had to build a dummy and make pattern blocks, which made it more difficult. What I did gain was the creativity that studying at Central Saint Martins gave me.
Has the plus-size customer changed since you started out?
A lot has changed over the past 10 years; 47% of women in the UK are now over a size 16. People in general are getting bigger and taller - and these are young women that are fashion conscious.
Which other plus-size brands do you respect?
Marina Rinaldi, previously of MaxMara, has designed for eveningwear brands Persona and Tadashi, which offer American eveningwear that is good quality and classic in design.
What additional services should retailers selling plus-size clothing provide?
Having a good alterations service is key so you can tweak a garment to the individual’s body. It makes all the difference as to how a garment looks and feels.
You featured on the TV series Mary Queen Of Shops last year. How did this affect your business?
As a result of the show the web traffic increased and sales tripled for that month. We also acquired 30 new stockists for that season. For the first time we are seeing retailers stocking the lower end of the size range 12 to 18. I think the credit crunch may be helping as it is pushing people to think outside the box and open their minds to the opportunities that plus sizes can create for a retailer.
What have been your proudest achievements?
To see my designs in stores such as Harrods and Neiman Marcus is extremely exciting. More recently, investing in a new office and the launch of my new website this month will be a very proud moment, as we have strived to improve the experience for our customer and move with the times.
If you could change one thing about the industry what would it be?
For the media to be more accepting of size and have occasional features using at least one plus-size model - without it being a feature in itself.
Who is your fashion icon and why?
I wouldn’t say there was a particular person. I am more inspired by fashion houses that produce wonderful prints, such as Biba. I love the movement that came out of that era in the 1960s.
Biba was founded by Barbara Hulanicki and her late husband Stephen Fitz. It began as a small mail-order business before becoming a boutique in west London. The designs, ideas and presentation were all Hulanicki’s.
By the early 1970s the boutique had become so popular that it opened as a department store - the first to open in London since the Second World War. Biba, with its five-storey retail space combining art deco, art nouveau and Victoriana themes, became a hangout for artists, film stars and musicians.
Stocking womenswear and soft furnishings, and with a hip restaurant and roof garden, it captured the mood of an era. By 1975 it had been instrumental in making London the world’s most fashionable city. Biba closed its stores in 1976, but the brand’s influence still holds strong as a source of inspiration for print and vintage imagery.