Interviewing Kenyatta Jones was such a pleasure. I hadn’t spoken to the Atalnta-based designer since working with Full Figured Fashion Week 2010. Back then, I was on the designer selection committee and she was one of the designers I screened whose collection was to be featured in the finale runway show. Words cannot express how excited I was to have her and her collection be apart of the show and then… without warning she opted to pull out of the show. Needless to say I was very disappointed. I hadn’t spoken to or heard from the designer since then.
In our interview Kenyatta explained, she simply wasn’t ready to do Full Figured Fashion Week at that time and has since been brewing up her own fashion craze, “The luxury part of fashion is something that I want +size women to become familiar with and I’ve taken all my time and resources to make this happen”, says Kenyatta.
It’s not everyday you see a beautiful, confident, +size woman on television who isn’t concerned about her weight or what people think about her. House of Curves a new docuseries on WEtv starring Kenyatta and her team, knocks down all of the stereotypes and misconceptions about +size women and explores the life of a +size woman who is happy, healthy, and hungry for success.
SW: There’s so much to catch up on so let’s just start with the show…and we’ll backtrack from there…What had you decide to do a docuseries for WEtv?
KJ: There are a lot of +size designers who are household-names, because they’ve been in fashion for a long time…and when you’re coming into fashion and you’re new, you kind of have to win everyone over naturally to achieve the level that household name designers are on OR you have to pay to be a household-name. Meaning you have to pay for publicity and services that will help you extend your brand’s reach, which may cost thousands-of-dollars. We wanted to be recognized on a mainstream level as a +size brand and we figured out the only way we could do that is by getting into the homes of people. We had to get out there in a way that no other designer had done it, and for my line Bella Rene, this was it! (Laughs) Reality T.V. here we go!
SW: The trailer is like the hooker that drew me in. Your mom is really on it and running things. How does it feel to be in business with family, but more specifically your mom?
KJ: To be in business with family is difficult on its own. But to be in business with your mother who NEVER lets you forget that she’s your mother AND she’s invested her money into the business…(laughs) On a daily it’s just full high drama! I call my life fabulous chaos because that’s what it is on a daily basis. Something is always going on and she’s always there to catch it AND call it out!
SW: Well that must be challenging for your to cope with. I can imagine the high levels of stress that strikes in your fabulous chaos! Just how do you manage your life?
KJ: Honestly, I barely sleep. I take a lot of naps during the day, but I’m usually up until 3/4 in the morning. I’m a night person but I have a lot to do during the day so I take naps in between. (Laughs) I’m so passionate about what I do, I don’t have to sleep. It’s literally something that keeps me up at night, because I know there are millions of women that need to look good. And even though it’s draining, I keep going. I haven’t had a vacation in 5years. But me and my team are here it took all of that to get to this stage. So at the end of the day it’s worth the fabulous chaos and no sleep.
SW: What do you love most about the show?
KJ: The opportunity that I’m giving the world to see the view into a +size woman’s life. I mean when I talk to some people, they have such a jaded prospective of what a +size woman does on a daily basis. Honestly, they think all we do is sleep and eat all day, and I’m like honey I get to the gym about 2-3 days a week, but I exercise everyday. I wear 6 inch heels all day! What skinny chick can do that? I’m carrying around 220 pounds on 6inch stilletos so I’m exercising all day long. But they really think, we’re boring, we’re fat, we’re crying, and I’m like…crying for what? WE DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THAT! So the show presents an alternate view of how most people view +size women. They get to see +models, my view on the modeling industry, they get to see my view as a designer and what I go through in my personal life. You see the good, the bad, and the very ugly. It’s not focused on my weight and mainly when you +size women on any show, weight is heavily focused on.
SW: Well I have a feeling this show will be a MUST SEE every Thursday. Thanks to you my Scandal time has been replaced! (laughs) Now let’s backtrack, I know you’ve been designing for a while now, and you’ve always had your boutique. What had you become a designer?
KJ: (laughs) Well, I stand firmly against everything polyester. There is another spectrum of fashion that I felt was undeserved. I have an MBA so I thought it was a great business decision. Basically, not finding what I wanted to wear is my primary reason. When I started I couldn’t even draw I hired a sketch artist. But in the course of that I taught myself how to draw. I learned from the bottom up of everything. I knew nothing about nothing. I said to myself that there are a lot of issues within the +size fashion industry and the only way they’ll get resolved is if someone tackles them. And that’s what I set out to do.
SW: In terms of sizing, where does your line begin?
KJ: When we started out, it was with a size 14 because we thought that was the industry standard on sizing and then I went to New York and then (laughs) I got the shock of my life because they were basically telling me that a size 8 is +size and I was like, ‘You people have lost your mind’! Like there is no way that I would ever put this girl in any of my clothes, not a photo shoot campaing nothing with my label on it. But this year we said, we decided we’re going to embrace the smaller curvy women and go from a size 10 to 28. But I honestly cannot with a conscious as a +size girl who has been fat since the age of 5…I cannot call a size 10 +size. To me it’s just a standard size. But I offer it because the customers ask for it. But I’m sorry, I have to say in my personal opinion +sizing should begin at a size 12.
SW: I always find it interesting to ask designers their opinion on +sizing standards because not identifying the standard is an issue that’s causing a greater problem amongst women causing a disparity on what’s accepted or considered to be +size which also affects the credibility of the +fashion industry, like if there are no universal standard, how does our niche become “mainstream”?
KJ: To be mainstream, you have to ask yourself who’s really making the moves and getting the attention?” I equate being mainstream to showing at NYC Fashion Week.
SW: What do you believe it will take for +fashion designers to take on NY Fashion Week?
KJ: The right clothes and a high fashion line. This is what I’ll be working on on the show. You will see fashion presentations, fashion shows, production, everything that you see is prepping me to achieve NY Fashion Week.
SW: Who is your favorite +size designer? And…who are amongst your favorite straight size designers?
KJ: Definitely love Anna Scholz! Her attention to patterns and colors is awesome AND I love what she has been able to do in the plus size industry because she’s in all the major stores. I don’t wear her clothing because I’m short. And everyone always assume I’m tall because I always wear very high heels, but I’m short. Most of her pieces that I love hit at the ankle for me. If they came in a petite I would DEFINITELY wear it! As far as straight size designers are concerned I love Rachel Roy, Michael Kors, and ANYTHING Marc Jacobs.
SW: What is your hope for +fashion as it relates to the consumer?
The luxury part of fashion is something that I want +size women to become familiar with. We haven’t seen ourselves in high fashion. You don’t know it until you see it and I believe that’s a major reason why luxury brands don’t cater to +size women. They don’t think there’s a market for it. But as a +size woman, how would you know what to look for in luxury, if it isn’t made available as an option to you. Our luxury 2014 collection is a step in the right direction toward +women walking in quality.
SW: What can we expect from you and your collection in the near future:
KJ: I’m basically designing without a filter. Giving a raw sense of luxury. We have Italian tailored suits that will last for 30 years. Our luxury 2014 collection will be reminiscent to a “Carrie Bradshaw” wardrobe. We’re mixing leather and lace, cashmeres and satins. As much as I’d like to unveil it, we have to wait until the show is over! We’re also working on a very functional swimwear and resort collection. Our swimwear doubles as a bodysuit to be worn under blazers, and with denim jeans. So we have lots of excitement going on with Bella Rene.
Shop Belle Rene for all the latest designs from Designer Kenyatta Jones.