Monif C. couldn't find clothes for her curves, so she transformed frustration into fashion.
There are few designers in the fashion industry today who truly understand and embody the art of dressing curvy women. Monif C. is one of them.
An award-winning designer and entrepreneur, Monif C., took it upon herself to blaze a unique trail in the plus-sized industry and to create a line that serves a customer base just like her -- curvy women with style and flair who want clothes that complement their body type and play up their best assets... and so Monif C., the clothing line, was born. She told us her story in an exclusive interview.
ESSENCE.com: What inspired you to start your line?
MONIF: I started Monif C. because I was frustrated with what was available for women like myself. I’ve always been a fashionable person who wasn’t able to find dresses. And I just felt like it needed to come to a stop. It was so hard to find beautiful clothing. So I decided to take the plunge and go for it.
ESSENCE.com: How would you say Monif C. is different from other plus-sized lines?
MONIF: A couple of things. We’re one of the few lines designed specifically for plus-sized women. We don’t design in straight sizes and then say, “Okay, let’s just take this design and make it in a size 24.” Our fit model is a size 20. So what we design is for enhancing and making plus-sized women look and feel even more beautiful than they already are. We’re really connected to giving the customer a fashion-forward look, and also a lifestyle. A lot of our girls are jetting off to Essence Music Festival, and they’re going on vacations, and they live these amazing, exciting lives and they need a wardrobe that’s connected to their lifestyles.
ESSENCE.com: How does Monif C. the brand reflect Monif C. the woman?
MONIF: I think the brand is me. I am this girl. I started the line because of my personal struggles with finding flattering clothing. When I’m thinking about what to design for upcoming seasons, I really just hone in on what I want to wear, and I make that. If I really want to get into a leather dress or a really cute jumper, that’s what I design. This season I went for lots of white, because the color is just beautiful. So, Monif C. is me.
ESSENCE.com: What has been the most rewarding experience of your career thus far?
MONIF: It’s such a hard question to answer, because I have so many. One of the things that happens to me on a fairly regular basis, is I’ll get an email or a message from someone about the line. Just this week, I received a message from a girl who says she’s wearing one of my dresses to her graduation. She says throughout middle school and high school people used to call her a tomboy, but she never really was a tomboy. She just couldn’t find things that she liked to wear in her size, so she wore baggy jeans and tees. Her mother brought her into my showroom and purchased the Marilyn Convertible Dress for her graduation. And now she feels like she’s ready to take on a new chapter in her life going into college. Stories like that make me feel great. A dress seems like something so trivial, but at the same time it’s about making women feel good about themselves, especially in a society that tells us we should not.
ESSENCE.com: If someone only had the opportunity to purchase one piece in your line, what would you recommend and why?
MONIF: That’s so hard! About 2 years ago, I would have said, hands down, the Marilyn Convertible Dress. It fits all bodies and shapes and is universally flattering. But if I had two pieces to suggest, I would definitely encourage my girls to splurge on one of the two-piece swimsuits. First of all, they’re gorgeous and they come at a great price point. There are beautiful plus-size women going on vacations with their husbands and girlfriends, going on cruises, and more. It makes me feel great that these women can go out in a swimsuit without a big bulky t-shirt on and still feel comfortable. Our customers send us pictures wearing them, and they’re even posting them on Facebook for all their friends to see, which takes courage. So, I would say those two pieces for sure.
ESSENCE.com: Where do you see Monif C. in 5 years?
MONIF: I really see Monif C. becoming the first global plus-sized brand for women. I wouldn’t say that all work is done where we are right now. I see the opportunity for women all over the world to walk into shopping malls and find clothing that fits them. My sister is a size 6, and when she and I go shopping together, she can shop any store in the mall and I’m relegated to two or three stores in the entire mall. We women should be able to feel good about ourselves anywhere we go. So I want Monif C. to be the place that plus-sized women go to shop. I want to be in every city near you. More events, more campaigns, more product lines. We’re looking into expanding the swimsuit collection right now. I would also love to do like the plus-sized La Perla, or the large-sized Christian Louboutin shoe. All these things that [plus-sized] women want and need, these styles they’re scouring the fashion magazines and looking for -- we want to be the brand that gives it to them. So that’s where I would like to be in five years, or at least on the tip of being there.