Is Plus-Size the New Black?
Now that Plus-Size models are an approved part of the Western world's socialscape, it follows that plus-size fashion labels are set to receive more than their fair share of fashion news. We speak to Samantha Burns, director of Sydney's Ollie and Max label, who produce plus-sizes of all their designs - and who promotes the fact that all their outfits come in sizes 8 to 24 ...
What started you out in plus size women’s fashion?
Our trans-seasonal shirt range was becoming popular and people were asking for more size choice so it was important to provide size 8-24. Many customers in the plus size market complained of a lack of great tailored styles at a reasonable price. We listened, communicated the best style choices with them and adapted our shirts to fit comfortably.
When you first got into the fashion industry, was it obvious that there were gaps in the plus size market?
Some existing brands were doing a good job but others lacked in sophisticated elements of design. Our customers wanted shirts that suited our classic tailored casual style- modern everyday wardrobe classics. A shirt to be worn in different colours to mix and match with their current wardrobe. Adding our accessories i.e. scarves and hats, gave them more options to tweak their wardrobe. We have adapted our shirts to offer comfort room in areas important to our plus size clients- we listen to them- we communicate with them, find their preferences and make the shirts/outfits they want to wear.
You started out in children's wear - why did you move into women's wear?
Our children’s wear was popular and had such a boutique classic appeal. We had a shop in Woollahra, and women’s wear grew organically from mums/friends coming into the shop asking for clothes. A classic trans-seasonal casual shirt was what I was looking for and I knew other women looking for a similar style- our shirts were a hit because women like good quality classic pieces at a reasonable price.
What's the philosophy of Ollie and Max?
Our governing philosophy is to offer women trans-seasonal casual chic size 8-24. As women we want an outfit to take us from summer to winter, year to year. An ageless classic style that suits our body, taste and lifestyle changes. A style that we can call our own - a style that suits real women with busts, hips etc. By offering classic styles we cater to women of all ages, whether in the city or country; women of real sizes 8-24. Fashion should be about accessibility, ease and stylish wearability.
Each of our styles aims to be a wardrobe classic. The shirts with leggings, trousers or jeans in winter are so comfortable with a t-shirt and scarf. Team with capri pants, a skirt or swimmers in summer for a great look. The dresses are fantastic dressed down for casual wear; of dressed up with some jewellery for night.
Is the plus-size range a case of catering more precisely to people's needs?
Our plus size is moving forward strongly I think because of the fact that we offer a classic tailored style which can be mix & matched - and this is a real solution for many women. These are clothes that are more sophisticated alternatives to a lot of the poor design the market offers in plus-size clothing. We listen to our customers and constantly ask ourselves: what do plus-size women really want to wear, what do they really need? We offer busy women an ease of choice with our garments - those reliable favourite outfits which offer comfort and practicality whilst maintaining a chic appearance.
Is there a very practical aspect as far as the ingredients go - the core of the fabrics?
We use cottons or cotton blends so garments maintain a sense of comfort, remain presentable (not much ironing required) and easy to wash. They are perfect travelling companions and great options in tropical weather. Customers like our Queensland Organic Cotton range of t-shirts and t-shirt dresses: they have gone so well this winter to layer under shirts and dresses.
How do you describe your target market?
Women of all ages sizes 18-24; busy working women, teenagers, mums, grandmothers etc. Women living in either the city or country, Australia or worldwide.
You're developing a huge following in rural Australia - what are women in those communities looking for in a fashion garment?
Our shirts present a classic modern alternative to the traditional shirt. We offer an easy update to their wardrobe- something that can be co-ordinated with existing clothing and an outfit that is practical, easy to wear, and functional in different climates. The classic styles suit real body shapes. The fact that we have a user friendly secure online store and post worldwide has made shopping so accessible for these rural women.
What about the seasonal attributes of Ollie and Max? As above, as we use cottons and cotton blends our styles are fantastic in summer as they are loose, comfortable and breathe. In winter we offer Organic Cotton (from QLD) tees and dresses to layer under our shirts and dresses, as well as a fantastic range of scarves, belts and leggings. Our panama hat is a hit in summer also.
How can people access best your products?
People can shop online at www.ollieandmax.com.au which is an easy to use secure site and we post worldwide. Otherwise, on our site we have a list of the events we attend: fashion shows, rural events, Sydney/Melbourne events etc.
Is there any garment that you plan to include in your range in the future? We are launching a new dress range this summer, and adding some new shirt fabrics. Tasman.
For more on Ollie and Max check out their
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