The view from a fashion industry insider.

Proud Mary is excited to bring to you our interview with Myrda Monasterial, plus-size designer, influencer and mom. Myrda hails from Las Vegas and has worked in the fashion industry for over a decade. She brings us her unique experience, style and zest for life in this exclusive interview.

It is great to connect with you!  Let’s start off with a fun and simple question. Tell me about yourself in 4 words.

MM: Loud, happy, random, and cheerful!

That is great!  You have worked in fashion for a long time. Tell us a little bit more about yourself and how you have seen the plus size sector change over the years.

MM: I currently work for a private design group (private label) in Las Vegas.  We do clothing for theme parks, such as Disney and Universal Studios. Plus size has evolved so much that their standard sizes go up to 2X and some styles are even offered in extended sizes. It always makes me excited when they not only carry extra-small through extra-large, but also when they carry 1X, 2X and 3X  and to go up to size 22/24. It’s pretty big for a company like Disney to invest in selling plus size clothing. It just shows that the mainstream is finally accepting that not everybody is going to be a size 7 or a size 6 and that the average woman in America is a size 14/16. We need to adjust clothing so the clothing fits us, not the other way around.

Why do you think most retailers do not design and manufacture plus size clothing?

Manufacturers want to create as much as they can because they are getting paid to do it.  Plus size clothing takes up more fabric which cuts into the profit margins. There is a lot of fabric wastage with extended sizes, and in the end, both the consumer and manufacturer end up paying for it. So factories like to stick to more profitable sizes, like small, medium and large. Also there is, unfortunately, still a stigma when it comes to fuller figured women. For example, Karl Lagerfeld, the former head of Chanel, wouldn’t do anything over a size 12. He didn’t want to dress Adele for the Grammys. This blew my mind because she is an award winning, beautiful woman!  I used to work with Adele’s fit model. She’s probably like a size 10/12. Heaven help us all if a size 10 is considered too big!

I think it’s the bias that they had growing up in Europe, with everybody being so tiny 40-50 years ago and a lot of the fashion houses still have that mindset. I think it’s hard for them to want to change because this is what they know and where they come from.

But the culture and mindset is changing! Now everybody wants to help everybody else out. There has been a surge in people wanting to connect and make other people feel welcomed and accepted. So I think that’s the divide. The older generation of designers probably won’t change, but the newer designers are more open and see the opportunities.

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“…if you are going to be positive, you have to start within.”

That’s a great lead in to the next questions about body positivity and beauty. What does being body positive mean to you?

Body positivity to me is that you love yourself. You know that you have flaws. Everybody has flaws. But it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t set you back and it doesn’t make you question your looks or question your value. I really do believe that body positivity is the confidence that you exude. You can be 300 lbs or you could be 120 lbs, and when you walk into a room like you matter, people are going to respect you.

This is the way I have always been. I’ve been plus size my whole life and I have friends that are literally like, “Why would you wear that? Why would you show your arms?” And I said, “Why wouldn’t I?” They are trying to put their negativity on to me and I just don’t do it. I don’t deal with it. That’s why I have a handsome husband and he loves me for me. I never shied away or thought that I wasn’t good enough for him. He told me once that it’s my confidence that attracts people to me. You attract the people who you want in your life.  I think if you are going to be positive, you have to start within.

What provoked the shift to body positive movement? I am a child of the 1980s, and back then, desirable women were thin and blonde. So what has changed?

Two words. The internet. I think the connection of everybody seeing other cultures and seeing other body types has changed things.  When I grew up, people who had big butts and wide hips were embarrassed by their bodies. And now everybody is embracing it. And they are embracing it on women of color like Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce.  Beauty isn’t just blonde, big boobs, big butt, really tiny waist type of girl. Beauty can be anything and people are starting to feel comfortable showing it. Maybe those guys did like those chubby girls back in the day, but they never said anything or asked them to prom because they were scared of what their friends would think. Now everybody is a little more accepting, and curvy bodies are more mainstream. It’s becoming something that is a norm, instead of something that is an exception. Thanks to the internet!

The Internet has really been behind some amazing and transformative things!

So, what do you think is next for the body positive movement and inclusivity? What are the current challenges for people who don’t fit into the standard stereotypes?

I am not an hourglass. I do not carry all of my weight on my hips and have a nice, flat belly. I am big in the belly, and I have no hips.  I can’t really find anyone representative of me, even in plus size campaigns. If you notice, everyone is an hourglass or a triangle. Even Tess (Munster) Holliday, who is a size 22/24, has those hourglass proportions. I want to see women that look like Roseanne Barr, but with a better attitude! {laughs}. Do you know what I mean?  If you dress a certain way, if you play up your better features rather than hiding them, then I think it’s more beneficial. I would love to see people of different shapes, like inverted triangles, be shown how to style for their body because plus size, like all clothing, isn’t one size fits all. It depends on the person.

I would also like to see a lot more people participating locally. I love Ashley Graham. She’s plus size in the fashion world, but she’s not somebody I can relate to. I’m not those measurements, I’m not that tall, not that glamorous, so I would like to see people who represent more of the majority, and to see other parts of the plus size community come forward and start showing their style and start showing how they dress and do things. If they don’t teach us, who will?

Building off of that, can you tell me a little about your own style? Maybe start off with three words that describe your style.

Number one is comfort, two is stylish and three non-fussy? ! I don’t like things that are hard to wash because I won’t wash it and will only wear it once or twice.  I want clothes that are durable, easy, comfortable, and a little bit stylish. I also truly believe that you can change-up your whole wardrobe with accessories. I firmly believe that. You can invest in a good t-shirt or a good button-up, a pair of slacks, a skirt, jeans and whatever coat you feel comfortable with, and you can just style it up with whatever accessories are in style.  Accessories aren’t going to be as expensive as good clothes. And when I say good clothes, I’m not talking about fast fashion, like clothes from Forever 21. I’m talking about clothes that will last more than a season, maybe even 3 or 4 years.

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What are your go-to accessories?

I don’t wear earrings anymore. I used to wear earrings a lot, but when my daughter was younger, she’d pull them off! My go-to accessory would have to be my wedding ring, because my husband hates it when I’m not wearing it! I also love agate stone jewelry, really any stone jewelry. I feel like it goes with anything. It can make a plain white t-shirt look a bit more upscale. Those are my favorite accessories. I used to wear a lot of rings too, but they clash with my wedding ring! Otherwise, maybe just a watch. I used to wear bracelets all the time. It just changed to more refined things.

I think that people spend a lot of time when they are younger trying to figure out their style, not realizing that over time, they will start dropping some styles in favor of others. And then you find out that “Oh, I am the girl that’s going to wear sweatpants and I’m going to rock it out and style it. Or I’m just going to wear this one silver necklace because that’s my favorite silver necklace.”  When you’re younger, you wear all of these accessories and you think, “Oh I look great!” But when you look back, you wonder, “what was I thinking?”

It’s true even with makeup! Sometimes I watch the bloggers put on pounds and pounds of make-up. I have freckles and I hate them.  I would love to cover my freckles with makeup, but because I don’t like maintenance very much, I don’t put anything much on my face. Which is cool, because it’s easier to wash. Less is more!

What are your favorite brands?  What are your go-tos?

I don’t really have favorite brands. I have favorite stores. My favorite stores are discount stores.  I like buying some things that are really worth investing in. Like for a nice coat, I’ll buy Michael Kors, because he goes up to plus sizes. Or Vince Camuto, he also goes up to plus sizes.  But if it’s something fun, or a trend color, I’ll go to Marshalls or Ross or TJ Maxx, and I’ll look for a brand that I actually know, like Calvin Klein. They usually have good stuff there. They are very trendy. I always thought that when stores like Macy’s don’t sell certain items, those pieces go to discount chains. But that is not correct. They actually have buyers so they are also competitive when it comes to trends.

The private label that I work with sells to Marshalls retail, and so they buy a lot of that stuff. It’s of a lesser quality than it would be for the actual Calvin Klein brand, but it’s still good for a couple of seasons.  They carry Cynthia Rowely. I also like buying key pieces that can transition well, and that aren’t so bold in color. Black, any type of neutrals, and denim. I mainly just stay around budget stores. For jeans, I like Charlotte Russe and for dresses, Fashion Nova and SheIn. I like H&M for basics, like tank tops and stuff – quick and cheap.

You have your fashion line MyrdaJ, could you tell me more about it? What is behind the idea?

It was mainly because I am so short!  So not only am I in the subcategory of plus size, I am also in a subcategory of short people! MyrdaJ was geared towards petite plus size. I developed the line for petite people like me,  5’5” and below. A lot of the stuff that they have out there is for people who are 5’7”, 5’8”, 5’9” and the proportions aren’t always the best for petite people. The pants are long, the sleeves are long.

I worked on it for awhile, but it was just too much. I put it on the back burner. It’s still there, and I still style and use the pieces that I have. I feel that everyone else is doing such a great job already, and at such good prices, that I can never compete.  I know that everything is price driven. I will never be able to bring you shorts priced at $45 without killing myself.

Is there still any place where women can buy your items?

People interested in my items/pieces can visit my site www.myrdaj.blogspot.com

Since there are so many more options, do you feel like the quality is improving?

I definitely think so! I’m partial to Dia & Co. I feel like they are really, really trying to understand curves and the issues of plus size clothes. Their marketing strategy is “shirts that don’t gape” or “jeans that do hug you,” not loose on the waist or tight in the hip. And “jackets that will close” and “jackets that feel good on your arms.”  Those are thing that I struggle with myself, being plus size. I think that people are trying to figure it out, but it’s hard to know where the extra weight is going to go for each person. Hopefully fabric technology steps it up. With improvements in fabrication, it is possible for garments to still look woven, but have stretch. You can construct something to fit like 97% of the masses, but it’s not going to fit all of the masses. I’m sure they will figure it out soon. They have printers that can print dresses now!

Shein is big right now. I buy a lot of stuff from their online store. You really have to read the comments and see the pictures. What’s really great is that they have free returns. So if you don’t like it, or it doesn’t fit you, you can return it. Sometimes it’s not the best quality, because these dresses are literally for Instagramers—people who can’t be seen wearing the same thing twice.  So it’s like $10, $15 a piece, but I like that. They are very good at what they do because of the mass production. When I was only making 20 pieces per style, people asked me, “why is your dress $100?” Well, because I don’t have a huge manufacturer behind me. I’m making it in America, locally. I’m buying the fabric at wholesale and I have to pay for my time.

Technology is totally going to change the landscape.  It’s already starting with the iGlasses. You can start recording, all this stuff in the visual goggles. Everyone’s buying them this season so you can watch movies with your friends who are like 500 miles away.

What advice you would give to anyone who wants to start a fashion plus size line?

I think that they should definitely work for a fashion company first. They should learn the ins and outs, see how much work they are going to really have to put in, and what they are really signing up for.  I know that there is technology now that can do stuff for you, but in the end, you’re not only designing, you’re developing, you’re doing production and you’re selling. It depends on how much money you have, and how many people you have.

A good story to look at is Sophia Amoruso from #Girlboss.  She was huge just 2 years ago. They made a Netflix TV series about her. She lived in San Francisco and she started doing an eBay line, doing vintage clothing (NastyGal). She made it big. She was a millionaire, but 2 years ago her company filed bankruptcy, she stepped down.

People invested their money and all of a sudden it (NastyGal) tanked.  She had early success because she didn’t let a lot of people in. Everything was her. She canvassed the clothing, she did all of it. Adding outside investors can change this. From what I read, she wanted to focus on her own branding and NastyGal just got left behind. Making clothing is not easy. It is actually hard. I am a product developer so I do a lot of technical packages for garments. Doing the construction, the detailing, if there are washes. It’s a lot of little details.

If you have the people and backing to do it, I think that you can do it and be successful. But if you think you are going to be Coco Chanel, where you are going to find a financier who is going to take you under their wing after you wow them? Those days are long gone. You need money and you need a Kardashian! {laughs} You can also get a middle person, a private label. They take your designs and make it easier for you, but they tack on their percentage on top of it.

Another challenge is meeting the minimum for factory production. Most factories are located outside of the US. For example, there are very few clothing manufacturers in LA. All of the ICE raids for illegal immigration scared factories into closing down.  A lot of manufacturers have moved to Mexico. It has really impacted the apparel sector in the US. We’ve had to go back to our clients merchants and tell them that we have to raise our minimums from 300 per style/per color to 600 per style/per color. This raise impacts the price and ultimately the final cost of the garment.  

Price is everything. Apparel companies need to be able to keep prices low to be competitive. Everyone wants to buy local and buy American. There are still American factories, but the bottom line is that our US factories are more expensive. A tank top is going to cost you $7-8, for 300 pieces in the U.S., whereas in Mexico, it would be like $5, depending on the fabric. These costs are passed to the consumer. At the end of the day, the majority of customers are buying based on price. Those customers who are buying based where a garment was manufactured, especially buying American, most likely have more disposable income and are able to shop at speciality stores. This is not the majority of people. There is a reason Walmart is the largest retailer in the US. It is affordable.

IMG_9330Let’s wrap up with learning about your one of your role models, one woman who has been an inspiration to you in your life, current or past.

This is going to sound cliché, so I will put it with a different twist. Mothers. They have something to live for and will do everything in their power to provide for their child. That’s the type of unconditional love that I think is so admirable. For me personally, it would be my mom because she was an immigrant.  She came from the Philippines with nothing, and now she is sitting pretty in a 3,000 square foot house that is almost paid off. We moved from an apartment to a duplex, to our first house, to now our current house. She’s retired and she has a grandchild. She did it! She lives the American Dream. She did it under all circumstances thrown at her. She had that mothers’ drive. Mothers—and women in general—just do. I think that’s admirable in itself.  Not that I am saying that guys suck! {Laughs} We all know who really runs the family—the mom! She’s the heart and soul of the family. I think that if you have that type of drive, and that type of passion, you can make anything happen. A lot of mothers out there couldn’t tell you how they are doing it, but they are doing it. I think that is inspirational.

 

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