July 29, 2011
Frustrated by so few fashionable clothing options in the plus-size world, Monif Clarke chose to fill the gap herself – by starting her own business.
“I spent my entire life altering and manipulating clothes to fit me while trying to look stylish,” Clarke tells PINK. “Finally, I decided it was time to make the clothing I wanted to wear.”
She and her mother cashed in their 401(k)s, her dad lent her $30,000 after mortgaging the family home, and Monif C. Plus Sizes was born. “For the first five years, every dollar we made went right back into growing the business,” says Clarke.
Her biggest challenge? Convincing mainstream stores to carry the line. Despite facts that “over half of American women wear size 14 and up” and plus-size clothing is a $47 billion industry, Monif says stores felt the average plus-size customer wasn’t
fashionable enough for the line. “We know that’s false, but that belief is common.” Success finally came through opening stores in metro New York, selling to specialty boutiques in nine countries and building relationships with e-commerce retail sites like Overstock and Ideeli.
When it comes to the future of plus-size fashion, Clarke says there are now more options than ever, and more fashion magazines are featuring plus-size models. The next step? She says it’s getting major department stores to embrace plus sizes and start offering more variety and high style.
“If we can create successful businesses with minimal budgets and support, imagine what would happen if we had a large company behind us,” says Clarke, who estimates her company will hit the million-dollar mark by year’s end. “We could provide clothing worldwide to the millions of women who deserve it.”
Bonus PINK Link: Get the skinny on the best sites for plus-size fashion.
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By Caroline Cox
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*Supporting images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net, nuttakit, Suat Eman and Worakit Sirijinda.