Emme rose to fame in the mid-’90s as the first popular plus-size model and is now the founder of the True Beauty Foundation, which has partnered with her alma mater, Syracuse University, and online plus-size retailer OneStopPlus for the eighth annual Fashion Without Limits design competition.
Plus-size fashion designer Zaheer Babvani, head of design and style at OneStopPlus, for the company’s growing plus-size brands such as Woman In, Jessica London and Eloquii, in plus-size design and style for the University’s College of Visual and Arts’ Class of 2024 Fashion Design. OneStopPlus is part of Full Beauty Brands, which caters to plus-size women and larger and taller men, and the total plus-size market is estimated to generate $81 billion in sales.
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Babvani challenged a team of futuristic designers to create the next “It” style for curvy women, taking into account costs, increasing demand for versatility and the versatile needs of customers from casual to work to dress-up.
Due to the pandemic, the Fashion Unlimited Design Competition 2020 has been skipped.
More than 20 students participated in the competition to have their designs manufactured and marketed by 2023. The winning designer was Nina Chen, who designed the “Tulip Dress,” a black dress made from ponte knit fabric and embellished with embellishments. All body types.
The “Tulip Dress” is slated to be introduced at the OneStopPlus marketplace this fall as part of a special collaboration between OneStopPlus and Emme’s Fashion Without Limits with Syracuse. The winning garment will feature unique hangtags recognizing the student designer’s name while reinforcing the FWL program.
“I came into fashion because I’m passionate about a lot of things in the industry, but holistic design wasn’t on my radar,” said Chen, who is majoring in fashion design. “Through my journey working the competition and now joining OneStopPlus, I’m learning that with the right approach and mindset, holistic design can and should be part of every fashion designer’s portfolio.”
Hailing from Palo Alto, California, Chen is a first-generation college student who grew up in a low-income family. The Bible study teacher taught her sewing in elementary school, and she began to strip clothes (the old handloom) to create the fashions she loved. She also created clothes for Barbie. During her junior year of high school, Chen got her first job at a sewing shop called Needle Studio Los Altos and got the job.
Chen said the competition inspired her to think more about the end user of her designs. “Emerging designers focus on the ‘cool’ fashion we wear. Emme and Zaheer have helped me realize the importance of making fashion accessible to all women, and I look forward to being more involved with my designs throughout my career,” said Chen.
Emme, founder of Fashion Without Limits, said: “Learning from successful designers like Zaheer Babvani shows young designers that this is a rewarding career path. Syracuse University is at the forefront of making inclusive design an exciting focus, providing tomorrow’s designers with the skills and abilities to make a real difference in the fashion landscape. We hope this program will be a model for other schools going forward.
For her winning design, Chen received a $500 prize from Syracuse as well as an internship with Babvani and his team at the company’s New York headquarters in the summer of 2023. She helps lead the evolution of the winning design from the initial CAD drawings through each stage of production to finished product and productivity. Chen receives a percentage of sales as part of the prize package.
Babvani says, “Putting your best self forward starts with wearing clothes you know were made for you by a plus-size designer who understands your fit needs and your modern lifestyle. I chose this design because it embodies a modern style for a real woman. Both are fashionable and wearable.
Chacha Hudson, Assistant Teaching Professor at Syracuse, added, “Partnering with Emme opens up a world of opportunities for our students to develop a pool of designers who understand how to design for the plus market. Even if they choose not to specialize in plus sizes, every fashion brand has the potential to expand their size range to include plus-size women, but it has to be done right. This competition exposes our students to the fundamentals of plus-size design, allowing them to make a difference in the lives of plus-size women wherever they choose to work.
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