Monif and Elaine Clarke are the owners and operators of the New York based high fashions of MonifC. Together they produce plus size clothing available in fine boutiques and online. The twenty seven year old business woman turned designer Monif Clarke took some time out of her hectic Spring launch schedule to share some of her views on fashion and what Monif C. has to offer the plus size consumer.
You own and operate Monif C. with your mother Elaine? How did that come about?
I, like alot of plus size women, have always said it would be great to design my own clothing line so I could have clothing I love. It wasn't until my mother and I decided to leave the business and education worlds respectively, that I thought there was even a chance of devoting the time, energy, and money it would take for a clothing line. After a year and a half of developing the line, we brought it to the masses.
Is your background in designing?
My background is actually in business. I have been a plus size woman all my life, I feel like I came out of the womb a size 18, so I understand the needs of plus size women. I made a decision early on if I just designed clothes I like there would be other plus size women who would like them also. When I started developing the line a year and a half ago, I researched and learned the ropes of designing clothing. I was able to take courses at Fashion Institute of Technology and meet and learn from other designers. I was then able to use this new information coupled with my knowledge as a plus size woman to put together a great collection!
Where does your inspiration come from?
I am truly inspired by curves. When I think of my designs, I think of designs that look especially great on plus size women. I don't think about hiding our curves. I say to myself, a plus size woman with these curves would be able to fill out this type of dress or that type of top so much better than a thinner woman. I am inspired by the emails I get on a daily basis, sometimes 30 a week, from women telling me that every day they are learning to love their bodies and with this newfound appreciation, they want to look fabulous. I design clothing for those women.
What type of woman would be interested in your designs? Who's your target?
Our target market consists of plus size women that understand style and are looking for contemporary high fashion clothing. These are women who understand fashion and glamour and appreciate their curves. She can be a woman who is 25 or one that is 55. Style transcends age. The great thing about our line is there are pieces younger women would wear alone, or mixed with jeans, or capris and high heels. Then there are pieces a more mature woman would wear under a jacket or with a longer skirt, or slacks. These are mix and match pieces.
Why the high price?
Monif C. is a contemporary designer plus size line. We are filling a gap in the market between $40 tops and $400 tops. We believe that you can have designer clothing at a moderate, affordable price point. All of our pieces are made of designer fabrics, many of them imported from Italy, hand-beaded trims, silks, laces, rayon jersey. These fabrics move different, feel different, and last forever.
There are not many designs available. Is there a reason for this?
Monif C. Plus Sizes is a new line so we wanted to start small, and focus on a few design pieces at a time. We didn't want to dilute the look and feel of the brand by doing too much, too soon. This Spring our collection doubled in size from the Fall collection and we will probably continue in that vain for Fall/Winter 2006.
How often do the designs change?
Our collections are Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer. During these seasons, over the course of 3 - 5 months, we roll out 15 - 20 designs. This Spring we will have 18 designs coming out between March and July.
How important is colour to your designs?
Colour is tremendously important to our collection. We believe it is one of the things that sets us apart from other plus size collections because we do not shy away from color. Many lines stick to black and neutral colors, but our Spring Collection has blue, yellow, orange, pink, green, particularly every color in the rainbow. My love of color comes from my Caribbean roots. I believe using color allows you to express yourself. Color can change your mood, and make you instantly feel good about yourself and what you are wearing. You can have a dress in black, but the same dress in red will completely change how you feel. This is truly what fashion is all about, expressing yourself.
Where do you find your models?
I have been fortunate enough to have some great professional models seek me out to be involved with the Monif C. line. I think that because we bring a new perspective to the plus size market, models are excited to model our designer contemporary clothing. We also love the idea of "discovering" new talent and have been approached by many women, some we have been able to work with and break into the plus size modeling industry.
What can we expect from Monif C. over the next year?
We see Monif C. Plus Sizes as a brand that provides affordable luxury to the plus size community. Once we grow the clothing business, we would like to design high end plus size lingerie (think La Perla), high end plus size swimwear, high end, large size shoes (I wear a size 11 and know how hard it is), etc. Really when I think about the future for Monif C., I think about everything I want as a consumer. The way I look at it, I wouldn’t trade anything in the world to be a size 8 rather than an 18. I need the wardrobe that allows my inner fashionista to shine. If no one else is going to design it, I’ll have to.
Read about Monif C. On Fashion.
Visit Monif C.'s online boutique.