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Here are all the posts in our Forum/Blog on the topic of Business: shopping...

Kim P    Saturday 13 May 2017 at 19:20

 Post #494 



 
Subject: Designer Shop Stocking Plus Size Clothing

 
I have recently visited Tavistock in Devon and was pleased to find a shop selling both standard and plus size clothing including a few favourites from Emma Plus Angel Circle and Tomo.

It is Brigid Foley, 8a Paddons Row, Tavistock 01822 612048

Brigid is a lovely lady and the shop had a nice feel to it and included being offered a coffee upon arrival.
They also do mail order

www.brigidfoley.co.uk

 

Liz    Friday 03 February 2017 at 17:07

 Post #491 



 
Subject: Plus Size Swimwear

 
Please could anyone recommend any stores that might want to stock my plus size swimwear range? I manufacture and sell a selection of plus size swimsuits and swimdresses up to a size 26. Currently they are only available online at www.swimdressboutique.com but I would like people to be able touch, feel and try the garments on as I feel sure that they would fly out of the window.
Any advice gratefully received.
Liz x

 

 Emma    Monday 06 February 2017 at 14:40

 
Hi Liz

Congratulations on two counts - creating plus-size swimwear and appreciating the need for larger women to try on their clothes before buying them!

If you wanted to sell wholesale the usual method would be to engage an agent - they tend to be the people who really know about the shops. Of course, they require paying (commission of 20%, I believe), so that would be something that you'd have to think about. The main reason why suppliers use agents is to have access to the stockists. Please don't buy any lists available online - they're basically a scam. If you wanted to know of a really good agent, if you have some really good images, write back on this forum and I will send them off for you to a couple of the best.

Sadly, however, I actually think that you might be better off looking for a foreign agent - of whom I'm unlikely to be able to recommend. There are far more shops in other countries than in England.

If you really would like to market yourself - and many people do, although it's tough - I would go to the big fashion shows, like Pure in London, and have a look round. It's eye-wateringly expensive to get a stand, and I wouldn't do it straight off, but chatting with people there will prove invaluable.

If you decide that doing a fashion show is for you, I would seek out one of the specialist plus-size shows, like Curvy Is Sexy in Berlin. However, if you did sell there, you would be selling into Europe, a very tough gig at the moment!

Good luck and more power to you.

 

Kim P    Sunday 09 October 2016 at 14:35

 Post #484 



 
Subject: Anna Scholz Sample Sale

 
AS is having a sample sale on 1st November. Has anyone been to one before? I was wondering what it was like and whether the samples are in a range of sizes or just the smaller ones?

Any info greatly received!

 

 Emma    Thursday 13 October 2016 at 08:10

 
Hi Kim,

The best way to answer this question is to say that you should go!

These sales have been going for some years and are wildly popular!

Far from just supplying samples, they sell a huge variety of gorgeous Anna Scholz styles across her size range.

Get yourself a ticket and dash down to London -the Chandelier Building is very close to Neasden Junction railway station!

 

Emma    Monday 22 February 2016 at 08:53

 Post #467 



 
Subject: Shoptiques

The model has been recruited, the stock has been selected. Our shop has been turned into a part -time photographic studio. The photos have been taken, selected and edited. We are now on the starting block for a new way of trading.

I've been on record for years as having reservations about selling online -there are a number of disadvantages. In my opinion, there is simply no comparison with actually being able to come into a fashion shop, try everything on, and make an informed choice as to what to by.

''Being able to come into a fashion shop '' is a bit of a rub. Not everyone, at every time, is able to come into our little shop, here on the south coast of England. For these people, buying online is not a choice, but a necessity.

However, there has been an enormous growth in the other kind of online shopping -people who DO choose to shop this way, simply because they enjoy it. Sitting at home, (perhaps furtively ) at work, or sipping coffee in a café, browsing the Internet for something gorgeous for the weekend -it's the modern way of life.

Luckily, many of my initial objections to selling online appear to have been met by the American website, Shoptiques. It's a company that really knows it's stuff. It deals exclusively with small boutiques like ourselves, and provides the practical solutions that allow us to maintain the exclusivity, quality and choice that we feel is so important.

I'm very excited about it, and really hope that it works for us. Diversity and equality of opportunity in the world of fashion is something that we are passionate about. Shoptiques should help us enable more women access to better and more fitting fashion, no matter where they are, or how they choose to shop.

I will keep you posted as to when we go live!

 

Emma    Wednesday 03 February 2016 at 18:00

 Post #464 



 
Subject: Our Photographic Studio

We had the best time at the weekend, transforming our store into a photographic studio in preparation for our new Shoptiques venture.

We will soon be putting photographs of our stock online through the fantastic Shoptiques.com website, where customers can browse exclusive designer clothes from fantastic boutiques all over the world.

We are delighted to have been invited to join their website, and are so excited to be able to offer our more distant customers the opportunity to buy online from us-something that has been denied to them in the past.

We will be inviting people to email us at emma.plus@yahoo.com to tell us of any clothes that they are particularly seeking, in order for us find it in stock, or obtain it and post it on Shoptiques for them to buy. An amazing system, and a useful service.

 

Paul Singh    Monday 01 February 2016 at 11:57

 Post #463 



 
Subject: Presentattion of our Business Clothing

Hello Dear all!!
We are a famous tailoring company located in Bangkok: Ambassador &Smart Fashion. Thank you to allow me post in your forums. Just to inform you that our company make clothes for men and women all sizes and we ship everywhere. you can check our website www.ambfa.com or or write us directly to this email: ambfa@ksc.th.com

 

Kim P    Sunday 09 November 2014 at 16:44

 Post #413 



 
Subject: The Shop!

 
Hello Emma Plus ladies

I am so pleased with the beautiful Christina Felix coat I bought on Friday. It's lovely and warm without being heavy. It looked so smart I decided to wear it to the Tower of London yesterday when I went to see the poppies.

It was great fun seeing the new Q'Neel goodies being unpacked after the delivery man called. Kim couldn't contain her excitement and customers were buying the clothes before they made the shop floor!

When I was in central London out of interest I visited a shop I'd heard about but it was so small you could not swing a cat in it and despite being made welcome by the staff I made a hasty exit.

It made me appreciate how pleasant and spacious the environment is at Emma Plus with plenty of room for customers both to browse and try on the clothes in comfort.

Best wishes
Kim

 

 Emma    Monday 10 November 2014 at 20:44

 
Hi Kim,

Thank you for your post, and as ever, kind words. I have to say, I did think you looked fabulous in the coat: a new collection for us. It was quite a smart piece, and I think perfect for going round to see the poppies, which I have heard are a superb spectacle.

It really makes me laugh when we get new stock in. Kim (and Anne and Olivia, but let's face it, mainly Kim!) runs around like a puppy that is let loose in a chicken coop! She almost goes blue in the face, and is hyperventilating!

Sometimes, when there is a customer present, I coolly turn to her as remark that it's a terrible pity that Kim just doesn't feel enough enthusiasm for her product! Occasionally, for a millisecond it's possible to see a look of disagreement pass over the customer's face, before the obvious truth that I am joking dawns on her! The truth is, we all feel the same enthusiasm, it's just that Kim can't help but show it!

 

Emma    Monday 20 January 2014 at 21:26

 Post #383 



 
Subject: A Proud Moment

We had such a wonderful surprise, and such a proud moment last week when we found out that we had won the prize for the 'Best Concept' section of the 'Dressed For Success' Christmas window display competition.

We had previously mentioned our shop window, which showcased our alteration service, and had asked on this blog for our customers to vote for us. Well, apparently you did, for which we are very grateful.

We must also have garnered some votes from the general public, though, because there were over 2000 votes in the competition as a whole, and I was told by one of the organisers that we got a great many votes.

We have always been proud of our window displays, which all members of staff take a turn in helping with, so it is fantastic to get some recognition. This special window was put together mainly by Kim and Olivia.

We had such a wonderful evening at the awards ceremony, a glitzy affair for which we dressed in our glad-rags (all in Anna Scholz, actually!) and enjoyed a lovely meal in the Dome Bar, just down the road from our shop. The photograph on the right shows all the winners with their awards (a framed picture of the winning window, and an engraved glass plaque).

The evening was particularly rewarding as an opportunity to hear a talk from the wonderful retail advice agency, Metamorphosis, as well as ejoying some welcome networking with other independent retailers.

I really would like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for us in this competition: we really do feel chuffed.

 

 Kim P    Wednesday 22 January 2014 at 22:21

 
Congratulations! That is wonderful news. The window displays are always so cheerful and inviting.

 

 Emma    Friday 24 January 2014 at 15:48

Thanks, Kim!

yes, we were very proud, and clearly (from this picture!) look like the cats that got the cream.
 

Emma    Saturday 18 May 2013 at 10:57

 Post #357 



 
Subject: The times they are a-changing...

The times have changed quite considerably since I first opened Emma Plus. In those days we tended to sell clothes to women in our own immediate area. No-one spent more than, say, half-an-hour’s travelling time to buy clothes. We sold to women in and around Brighton, with the odd person coming from the rest of Sussex.

This localised selling happened in all regions of the country, and had two detrimental effects on plus-size designer fashion. The first was that the shops that existed in those days were kept artificially small. ‘Bonsai’ shops, I call them. Because we didn’t have very many customers, we could only buy a small amount of stock. Because we only had quite a small and limited range, it really wasn’t worth a woman investing her time and effort travelling some distance to get here (in fact, when someone who lived far away from us telephoned, asking whether it would be worth her while travelling, we would usually advise her not to do so; it wasn’t that we didn’t believe in our stock; it was just that, after taking half the day to get here, a customer would generally prefer to have a choice of, say, more than two bottom halves, three tops, one dress and a coat in her size!). This, as you can imagine, was a vicious circle.

The other detrimental effect on plus-size fashion was a lot worse. Twenty years ago there really was very little product available in the size range that we cater for. Buying online had not been invented, catalogue selling tended to be quite abysmal, and many weren’t lucky enough to live in the catchment area of a designer plus-size store. The high street just had a tiny selection, mainly from one particular chain, whose offer was very unimaginative. The result was that most plus-size women, unless they were gifted designer/seamstresses in their own right, looked under-par most of the time. People don’t remember this now, but it was an accepted fact that plus-size women looked a lot older than their real age, less stylish, and almost completely sexless. If the plus-size woman of today could see the kind of offer that we were presented with in those days, there would be a riot. I think that even those of us who lived through that time hardly believe it now.

Clearly, how you present yourself has a great impact on your social standing and personal confidence. When it was difficult to find clothing that accurately represented how you felt about yourself, and how you perceived your social standing, it was very detrimental. For example, I was told this story by one of my customers that illustrates my point... She was a highly successful businesswoman and mother of young children. Her work was brilliant, and her company had reached the stage where it was going to be floated on the Stock Exchange. Unfortunately, as a busy woman with a family, she had very little time to travel the country trying to find the clothing that she really wanted. Instead, she bought everything on the high street, which created a look she didn’t feel happy with, but she tried to convince herself that it wasn’t important. Surely, it was her professionalism and knowledge that was most significant in the boardroom, not the way she presented herself?

One day she had to go to the City to discuss the floatation. She walked into a room to meet with several ‘men in suits’ for the first time. As she entered, and approached the table, several of them looked up and, assuming that she was the cleaner, asked her to tidy up part of the room ‘before the client arrived’. She was humiliated, and understandably felt very undermined. It’s very difficult, even for a confident person, to come back from that kind of start to a meeting! She vowed that, no matter how much effort it took, she was going to present herself in the way she felt comfortable with in future.

To say that the impact of the internet has had unexpected consequences in almost every walk of life is something of an understatement. I, for one, never really anticipated how it was going to affect my industry. For the first time we can now get national recognition for what we do, and encourage more and more women to come into our store to buy from us. Today, if a customer telephones and asks whether it is worthwhile travelling to get to us, no matter how far they were contemplating, I wouldn’t hesitate to say yes. Occasionally, women ask if it would be worth their while undertaking a two-hour trip, and these days I am quite bewildered... Two hours? Why, of course, that’s no distance!

This has meant that our stockholding has increased exponentially, and we find that we have more beautiful clothes in a wider variety of sizes and in greater quantity than ever before. And what is being offered to us by the designers is getting ever more exciting and gorgeous. For about 10 years I found myself saying ‘wow... this is the best season ever’, with a tone of surprise every season. Now I understand the mechanism of how our industry works I take this situation as a given. Of course it’s the best season ever, every time! It would be a bit of a let-down if it wasn’t, considering the reasons why the industry should be improving year on year.

The next aspect of the internet revolution has also got into swing... the empowerment of the customer. Nowadays, bloggers and reviewers are trying to take some of the bother out of all this travelling. They are aiming to find out everything they can about the plus-size shops out there, and to give recommendations, warnings, and general feedback - not only to the store owners, but to the customers who can then have an informed choice as to whether they wish to get into their car or on to the train, and trek to a shop that may be some distance away.

This is a democratic development; hopefully we will now see the real power of the consumer. The shops that are worth visiting will get more popular, and those offering a disappointing product or service will either have to shape up, or will go. I strongly believe we should welcome the ‘Trip Advisors’ of this world, and encourage the bloggers and reviewers out there. We can’t blindly accept what they are saying, but I do think they will have a vital part to play in the future.

This is why I was so delighted to see that one of the most popular plus-size bloggers, Boombands Em (pictured, above right, with Anna Scholz and me), had written such a generous and enthusiastic review of our recent ASD (http://boombands.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/emma-plus-at-brighton.html) on her blog, and Tweeted about us, too.

I’m very grateful; I don’t think many folk realise just what a hugely positive influence on our industry people like Em have, and how much we can all benefit from it.

 

Yasmin    Sunday 03 February 2013 at 16:53

 Post #333 



 
Subject: Plus Size Fashion Market

 
Hi, I am a fashion student and doing a university project on the plus size clothing market, it would be really appreciated if you could complete my survey, it will only take 2 minutes :)

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QGYZ9DW

Thank you very much for your time! x

 

Emma    Saturday 05 January 2013 at 15:47

 Post #329 



 
Subject: Here for the present

You know the scenario - I think we’ve all been there - someone very dear to you has dug deep in his or her pocket to buy you a lovely gift, but it really hasn’t worked for you. What do you do?

I remember once opening a Christmas present from a close friend, and, to my surprise, I saw it was a top from the designer range, Ghost. There is no doubt that the woman who had given it to me had managed to choose something that was both pretty and fashionable. Unfortunately, there were two problems with the gift. The first one was that I worked in fashion, and already had access to some of the most gorgeous clothes anyone could ever want. The second was that I was a plus-size woman (still am!), so the likelihood of finding something that would fit me in a mainstream collection was miniscule (like many of Ghost’s clothes).

My friend excitedly pestered me to try it on. I didn’t want to, because I felt embarrassed, but in the end I did. It was massively too small. My friend, who is normally a sweet person, and not one to deliberately offend anyone, blurted out: “But I got it for you because it is enormous!”. This did not in any way mitigate my embarrassment at that moment. I don’t know why, but for some bizarre reason it only served to make matters worse.

In a situation like this, the answer is obvious and inescapable: the item just had to be taken back and swapped for something else (a gorgeous scarf in this case). However, what happens when it isn’t as clear cut?

I am both sentimental and unsentimental about presents. I am moved by the thought and care that goes into the gifts, and I would like to remember the giver, but I don’t cling on to the particular object if it isn’t suitable. Years ago, my old boss gave me a clock. It really wasn’t my style (far too opulent and decorative), but I know she spent quite a lot of money on it, and I wanted to remember her generous gesture. I went back to the antique shop, and swapped it for (of all things!) a super wardrobe (yes, I really think there must have been some mistake, because the wardrobe - which was very large - was gorgeous, and precisely the same price). To this day when I use this cupboard (which I do, every day), I remember my old boss fondly, and mentally thank her for my good fortune.

Perhaps - had she known that I had taken back the clock - she would have been offended; I hope not, but we shall never know, because I wouldn’t dream of telling her. However, how much better is it that I have something that enhances my life, that I will keep for ever, rather than a clock which, at best, may have lived out its days in a drawer?

I’ve said before that I think that a really good gift voucher (by which I mean one of a useful amount, in an unusual store that is packed with items that will appeal to the receiver) is a wonderful present. Just today, we had a woman in the shop spending one of her Christmas presents, and there were smiles all round.

However, some people will never give a voucher. A very wise friend once told me that she always encouraged her husband (through determined, continuous hinting - he was apparently a simple soul) to buy her presents from a shop that she had already ‘scoped’ out in advance. This way, he at least stood a chance of obtaining the right object. And if he didn’t, it was easy enough for my friend to make an exchange.

By now, you will already have guessed that I don’t believe in hanging on to most inappropriate gifts. I’m not heartless: some lovely little piece of art or craft, lovingly created by a six-year-old, deserves to be kept, at least until the child is such an age that he/she will be mortified by the sight of it (I had to go through this myself, so I don’t see why the next generation is going to get away scot-free). Similarly, the old wooden money box, made by my grandfather when he was seven, and given to me by my mother, will always be in my possession.

Someone said the other day that we have so many things, and we have to become curators of our own lives. I agree with this. I want, overall, to have fewer possessions, but more items that are precious, gorgeous and appropriate. The sad fact is this does tend to mean that most of my things really do need to be self-chosen...

 

Emma    Wednesday 26 December 2012 at 10:29

 Post #325 



 
Subject: EMMA PLUS WINTER SALE starts 28 December

So I was in a shop just round the corner. It wasn't a shop I normally frequent, as it was a 'proper' sports clothing store. You know the kind of thing: micro-sized cycling shorts, with the little bra-type tops that ultra-slim women choose to wear when they are feeling the burn down the gym. Everything, in a nutshell, that doesn't interest me at all.

However, I was on a mission. I had received valuable intelligence, via a text message from a friend, that this store had Fitflops at half price! Fitflops (the stylish, comfortable, practical footwear of choice for the retailer with - how shall we put this? - rather shop-worn feet) at half price! It was certainly worth my squeezing past the shocking pink micro-bras to get to those. My feet thanked me as we walked away with a gorgeous pair of soft leather ankle boots.

I love good sales. Who doesn't? I like them from whatever angle I look at them. It's lovely when, as was the case with the Fitflops, I am a customer able to find something that is new stock, useful, perfectly fitted to me, of a style that pleases me, and I'm being charged a massively discounted price.

But it's also lovely for me, as a retailer, watching my items disappearing out of my store. You see, we clear everything, every season, during the very exciting run-up to the new season's deliveries. We have huge deliveries on order, and we need to make space for all that lovely summer clothing.

The fact is it's possible that the cold weather has hardly begun yet (I have an inkling we are going to be experiencing the chill just a little bit more before we start to feel the warmth of spring), so the winter items that we're now 'clearing away' are essential, gorgeous clothing that will see a lot of action before this winter is out. Yet, in the fashion business, it just has to go! It's one of those happy incidences where the customer and the retailer are in perfect harmony.

People who already know about our wonderful sales will alreay be preparing for the opportunity to come in and get some really lovely bargains. For those of you who have never indulged, I recommend it as a fun and profitable way of spending part of your Christmas leave, if you have the time.

The Emma Plus Winter Sale starts on 28 and 29 December (this Friday and Saturday) at 10.00am. Don't forget, if you park in the adjacent NCP car park and spend £100 or more in-store, you will have two hours' free parking.

We look forward to seeing you!

 

Emma    Thursday 08 November 2012 at 12:29

 Post #320 



 
Subject: Claire from Larger than Life

It was so lovely to have a welcome visitor into our shop this week: the gorgeous Claire, owner of the plus-size retailer, Larger Than Life (based around the Kew area), came in.

Claire is involved in a very exciting new venture: pop-up shops, specialising in designer plus-size clothing. Her very first pop-up shop will be quite soon. It will be on/at:

24th November 2012
12noon - 4pm
The Bull
Oxford Road
Gerrards Cross
Buckinghamshire
SL9 7PA

I do wish her all the best, and hope that any fashion-forward plus-size women in the Buckinghamshire area (and beyond) able to attend on that day will join her and her team there for what sounds like a fantastic event.

 

Emma    Saturday 13 October 2012 at 13:44

 Post #317 



 
Subject: Glass half full

Anyone reading my blog for more than a minute would already know that I am a ‘glass half full’ sort of a gal. So, for instance, if it’s raining, my first thoughts are that it will be good for the garden and it will be sure to clear up in time for the weekend. And if the car park next-door is somewhat expensive... well, it means that you can always find a parking space there. And as it’s about a minute’s walk away, who wouldn’t want to pay a bit extra for that convenience?

I guess this attitude spreads to every part of my life, which is just as well, as I have read research that shows that having an optimistic turn of mind is actually rather good for your health. So I do my best to spread this philosophy around.

This is the time of year when we see a particular kind of customer. Unusually, it isn’t the pursuit of clothing that draws her into town. It’s something else altogether; for this is the time of year when the new students first come down to Brighton.

Brighton is a university town, and we attract students from all over the country. When the green and squeaky-clean ex-schoolchildren or newly-formed adults first move into their fresh accommodation in the autumn, Mum and Dad are often in attendance. It’s an exciting, challenging time for the whole family - particularly if this is the first child to have grown into young adulthood, or indeed if it is the last baby to have matured.

It can be heart-rending, but we tend to see rather a few ‘glass half full’ parents coming into our store. These are people who, far from going into a nose-dive at the complex of emotions stirred up by the life-changing events, look around them to see what good can come of it. They may live quite far away, and have had no previous knowledge or experience of our shop; they may not ever have known that we are here. But when they discover they are going to make a trip to a strange city, they go online and start Googling plus-size stores - just on the off-chance that something nice may turn up. And when they read about us, somehow they manage to fit in a soupcon of retail therapy.

I love meeting these customers for the first time, as I do with all new clients. It’s so good to see the looks of surprise and delight when women realise that, not only do we have what they want, but we also have it in their size! Sometimes people who have always had to wear extra-extra-large clothes find that they are now described as a medium.

It’s truly lovely to see how poignancy turns to delight when a mother realises that if she is just going to have to visit Brighton frequently over the next few years, then that means a visit to a designer boutique. But hey, what can you do? Things start to look an awful lot more cheerful all of a sudden.

I have women from all over the country whose offspring now have school-age children of their own, but who still feel the need to do their annual visits to this city. These visits have become a regular part of their lives.

That’s the kind of serendipity that happens when you make the best of things.

 

Emma    Saturday 08 September 2012 at 17:11

 Post #309 



 
Subject: Men

Some years ago I went to a ‘BBC Antiques Roadshow’, which had visited our locality. It was a wonderful day, at which my friend learned quite a bit about her Victorian ring, whilst I was able to wander around and see all kinds of antique objects, and listen to their owners’ stories.

One expert was particularly interesting. He is Geoffrey Munn, who is the ‘Jewellery Specialist’ on the programme. He is a true enthusiast about his subject: endlessly informative, with appreciation, taste and knowledge that are a pleasure to watch. I think I really relate to him, because, although I would never pretend to emulate his wonderful expertise, I do believe that I could match his enthusiasm in my own specialist subject - fashion.

He said something that I was amused by, and found myself instantly agreeing with. He was talking about men (those readers who do not like ‘sexist generalisations’ had better stop reading now). He was speaking to a lady whose husband had bought a collection of gorgeous gems for her, and he told her that she should treasure the jewels, but especially appreciate her husband, because he was a very rare and unusual specimen: a man who had the understanding and taste that enabled him to be able to select beautiful jewellery.

Thinking about this, I realised that it is exactly the same situation with fashion. Yes, it’s very true that we have some men who come into our store, and match us all the way in their taste, appreciation, creativity and love of fashion. These men usually enjoy helping their wives select their apparel. Sometimes they wander around our shop floor, picking up pieces here and there, holding them up against other items, picking out matching accessories and suggesting outfits for their partners.

It’s always heart-warming to meet these ‘other halves’, and we really appreciate their input, just as they appreciate ours. We find ourselves in a ‘joint venture’, where we are all adding something to the pleasure of the hunt for lovely items.

But just because these men exist, does not mean they are common! To be entirely honest, such men are rare creatures. Indeed, one can easily go six months in our store without seeing one.

In reality, most British males really aren’t that interested in fashion, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. If someone doesn’t have the taste or facility to know what looks good, it is far better that they step aside and allow other people to make their own choices. This would often be greatly helped if their wife or partner recognised the situation. Unfortunately, sometimes this is far from the case.

Very often we are witness to some unfortunate man being referred to for every decision by a wife who seems not to have noticed that female fashion is actually not his ‘specialist subject’. When asked to be the final arbiter between this or that outfit, he may look panicky, like a rabbit caught in car headlamps. He stammers out an opinion, with a tone of voice that suggests a question, rather than an answer. “This one?” he says, a look of desperation breaking out on his face. When asked why he preferred that particular garment, he really starts to flounder. “Because you look younger in this one!” You can feel the subtle shift in the earth’s crust when such comments are made. It’s cruel to watch.

But, however difficult this situation is, it pales into insignificance when compared with the other variation that can happen. This is when the unfortunate gentleman has absolutely no concept of female fashion (nothing odd there!), but somehow believes that he is, in fact, the reincarnation of Coco Channel. These gentlemen come in many forms, but the most distinctive type is the one who I refer to as ‘the recogniser’. This is a personality that (as far as I have been able to ascertain) only exists in the male population. They have a particular quirk that is, in its way, both charming and admirable. They will examine any garment in their vicinity very carefully, trying to recognise what group of objects it falls into. Normally, they will discover a memory engendered by the item - and this will help them to ‘know’ what the garment is.

For instance, if the garment is stripy, then it is a deckchair. If it is spotty, then it is a Dalmatian. Flowers suggest a sofa. Animal print is a pub landlady. Purple portrays his great aunt Ethel (whom he never liked). And this can go on almost endlessly: green is unlucky, red looks like a pillar-box, etc. This type of person cannot look at a garment for what it is: a piece of clothing that may or may not enhance the appearance of their loved one!

To a man like this, every garment has a strong association with an inanimate object - and not in a good way. The end result of taking advice from such an 'expert' is either to wear the most non-descript clothing (for example, the dullest beige) at all times, or to walk around in the nude!

There is only one action to take if you are married to this type of gentleman and need some new clothes. He should be dropped off at his favourite spot to enjoy his own activity, while you do your clothes shopping unhampered.

This is not going to present a problem in the long run. I have it on very good authority that what generally happens is that - although when the gentleman first sees some new garments all the associations start shouting at him (‘why have you bought a pillar-box and a deck-chair?’ he may well wail) - it wears off extremely quickly. That’s the thing about associations: they get replaced by something new all the time. So the ‘pillar box’ soon becomes the lovely dress that you wore at Ascot, when the sun was shining... and his horse won.

So my advice to customers is to take a long, cool look at your man before you take him shopping for clothes. If he is a ‘rabbit in headlights’ kind of guy, then leave him in peace on our sofa with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. If he is a ‘recogniser’, please don’t walk into any fashion store with him; that will only end with gnashing of teeth.

And if he is a jewel beyond price - a wonderful boon in the selection of clothing - then treasure him, and please bring him in here where he will be greatly prized and much appreciated.

 

Emma    Thursday 19 July 2012 at 18:16

 Post #302 



 
Subject: Emma Plus Summer Sale Starts 10.30am Friday 20th July

It’s not every year when the stars align to the advantage of the British consumer, but this year does seem to be one of them!

We have been waiting for summer for so long (and almost giving up hope), when along it comes - just in time to take advantage of summer clothes at super-bargain prices!

As our regulars already know, we clear all stock every season to make way for the next tranche of goodies. This means that all current stock has to go. In this instance, that opens up a gorgeous collection of summer clothes at truly wonderful prices.

I have mentioned before that, in my opinion, the best possible option for the stylish plus-size woman who is thrifty (either by necessity, or by nature!), is to buy designer clothes in the sale. The difference in price between designer and high-street clothing, even at full price, is nowhere near as great as the difference in what you get for your money.

Designer clothes are fashion-forward (in the main, the style of a designer item will look band-box fresh for at least two years, and usually considerably longer); the quality means they are a delight to wear, and the fit is superb. Adding that to the fact that designer clothes tend (these days) to be easy-care and incredibly durable, the only possible argument against buying high-end clothing is the price. However, if you are lucky enough to source items that are correct for you in the sale, then even this disadvantage melts away. And this season, not only are the prices fantastic, but the choice is brilliant.

I really would recommend any plus-size woman interested in looking good to hurry along to our Sale. She will not be disappointed.

The Sale starts tomorrow (Friday 20th July) at 10.30am. We look forward to seeing you in store!

 

 Sharon Cross    Thursday 26 July 2012 at 13:55

 
I've booked a day off work tomorrow to come down and have a good attack on your sale stock. Hope the weather holds up :-)

 

 Emma    Thursday 26 July 2012 at 23:05

 
Hi Sharon!

You are indeed a very discerning woman, if you don't mind my saying so!

I can't think of anything better to do with a lovely day than come down to Brighton, park in the NCP car park next to Emma Plus (to get two hours' free parking), have a spot of lunch in one of the North Laine's gorgeous little cafes in the sunshine, see a few of the sights of Brighton, and find some goodies in the Emma Plus sale, in the air-conditioned cool......what's not to like?

I do hope the weather holds up, and that you have a lovely time on your precious day off....

 

Emma    Friday 22 June 2012 at 11:42

 Post #299 



 
Subject: People

It was only half-way through the conversation that I realised what I was really saying. A friend and I were chatting, ostensibly about travel. I am not a particularly well-travelled person, but I have been on a few really interesting trips, and always feel that I have gained some kind of knowledge (however small) that's unique to the country I have visited.

My modest experience of Italy has shown me that it is a particularly beautiful country. A lovely climate, amazing architecture, and really beautiful countryside and coastline. However, more than anything, what I enjoyed most about the country were the wonderful people I encountered. It strikes me that the Italians have an age-old tradition of professional hospitality that means they really know how to make you welcome.

Later we were chatting about India, where I had made a business trip for about 10 days some years before. I did think the country was amazing... a really unique and special place. But, more than anything, I thought the people I had dealings with were exceptional. I had to use a conscious effort of will not to burst into tears when I was saying goodbye at the airport. I found a kind of fellow-feeling and empathy among my colleagues there that was so wonderfully warm.

I have also been very lucky to visit Australia, to visit some well-loved friends who have emigrated there. I thought the country was truly eye-opening. How could it be that one country - with a modest population - could have such an embarrassment of riches? However, no matter how incredible the environment, it was the people that stood out for me as the major attraction. I found them generous, quirky, independent, friendly, and incredibly funny.

Similar experiences seemed to be repeated, always with a slightly different emphasis... the locals I met when I visited Spain were so welcoming, and I really appreciated the way they went the extra mile to help when I was just a stranger to them. I would have thought that many Greek islanders, living on their tiny, perfect islands, may have seen enough big galumphing English people to last a lifetime - yet they couldn’t have been more friendly and lovely, and appeared genuinely delighted to see me.

When I visited Finland, I was moved by the way we were entertained to the utmost, and with such obvious good grace, by the wonderful, civilised people we encountered.

It was at this point that I realised I was beginning to sound like a broken record. I just seem to like the people, wherever I am! Couldn’t I just stay at home? So I started to think about the people of Brighton, and – guess what - I came to the conclusion that Brighton people are marvellous too! They are funny, weird, creative, clever and very, very friendly. And we have wonderful sights to see as well (such as our Royal Pavilion, top right). If only we had Italian weather - then there would be no point in going anywhere else!

If you're in the fashion industry, you may think you are in the clothes trade, but in fact you are in the people-business! If you don’t like people, you will probably not enjoy this kind of work, and you'd better find something else to do for a living.

One of the wonderful things about the travel business is that it is another industry where you really do need to be a ‘people person’. Hotels, shops, restaurants and visitor attractions have to be run by ‘people who like people’... otherwise they would end up acting like Basil Fawlty, and that would certainly be bad for trade!

So travelling naturally gives me the opportunity to come across like-minded people who are glad to see me, and with whom I find myself bonding.

From these musings, you may be able to guess why my mind has been concentrating on this subject. Next week I'm on holiday (nothing exotic; I’m going to East Anglia). I’m confidently expecting to really enjoy the experience.

Weather permitting, of course.

 

 Haley - Hautespot for Style    Thursday 12 July 2012 at 11:34

 
Emma plus is awesome. Liked it.

Haley
http://www.socialbliss.com/

 

Emma    Wednesday 30 May 2012 at 10:56

 Post #293 



 
Subject: Bank Holiday opening hours

During the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, many people will take the opportunity that a longer bank holiday weekend will afford to have a bit of a mini-break.

If the weather is good, my experience is that there will be a significant number of my customers who decide to come down to the seaside for a welcome change of scene. Brighton is a very good place to visit, as - being on the south coast - it tends to have some of the best weather in the country, an - as it is a very varied city - there is something for everyone.

We have our piers (the Brighton Pier, with its traditional British seaside attractions, and the old Palace Pier, which has now become a romantic ruin), and our beach. There is also the Brighton Eye, which provides an unrivaled view of the city and coast for miles around.

In my opinion, though (and I would say this!), none of this compares to the wonderful attractions of the North Laine area. We have super little artisan food shops and cafes, theatres, pubs - in fact venues of every kind. But most of all we just have fantastic shops. These include amazing fashion shops (everything from clothes to shoes and accessories) - which make a stunning contribution to the attractions of the area.

I can't imagine anything I would like more (especially if the weather is good) than to come down to Brighton and visit the North Laine. I would drive to the NCP car park in Church Street (where, if I spent £100 or more at Emma Plus, I would get 2 hours' free parking). It's nearly always possible to get an easily-accessible spot to park in there. I would then pop out of the Church Street entrance, walk the two or three yards necessary, then disappear into Emma Plus. There I would find refreshments, air conditioning and beautiful clothes!

Once I had finished indulging my inner fashion goddess, I would exit Emma Plus, and walk just a few steps down the road to the plethora of lovely restaurants. I would probably decide to lunch at Temptations - a scrummy cafe just on the next corner.

Then, having enjoyed a relaxing, delicious and leisurely lunch, for the first time I would find myself in a dilemma: what to do next? I could browse through the intriguing variety of different, individual shops of the North Laine, or I could wander down to the gorgeous and classy mainstream stores on East Street. On the other hand, simply by crossing the road and wandering a few dozen yards, I could visit Brighton Pavilion - surely one of the most quirky and amazing palaces in the country.

In any case, I may choose to do all of this on Tuesday 5th June (which is a Bank Holiday in the UK), because we at Emma Plus (along with most of Brighton) will be open for business!

Here in the shop we wish all our customers a thoroughly lovely day, whatever you decide to do!

Bank Holiday Opening hours: Saturday 2nd June - open as usual (10am-5pm). Sunday 3rd and Monday 4th - closed. Tuesday 5th June - open as usual.

 

Becky Barnes    Monday 14 May 2012 at 09:44

 Post #290 



 
Subject: PLUS NORTH

 
Exciting Plus Size Fashion event taking place in Leeds, 7th July 2012. visit www.plusnorth.weebly.com for more details.
Tickets are £5 which includes entry to the prize draw,stalls from high street and independent brands, drinks, canapés, catwalk show, beauty treatments and much more!!

 

askpreeti    Saturday 28 April 2012 at 07:36

 Post #285 



 
Subject: Increasing Trend of Plus Size Women’s Clothes

 
The women of the globe, no matter what measurement, have equal opportunities and the same goes with style declaration. Plus size fashion has spread its wings across the market.In today’s world, the fashion business has recognized that there are a huge percentage of full figured women who are looking for clothing for their type of figure.

Many full-figured women get nervous when it comes to dressing up for any occasion or party. Being attractive is about having self-confidence. Show off what you have and everybody close to you will notice it. Plus size women’s clothing isn’t as difficult to find as it was before. There is a great deal of remarkable plus size women’s clothing accessible today.

Tips for buying plus size dresses
1. Avoid shapeless, over-sized clothes - Don’t choose oversized clothes that are shapeless, baggy and old-fashioned.
2. Don’t choose clothes that are not well fitted or too tight. Clothes that are too tight or bunch up will draw attention to unwanted areas.

To look beautiful and fashionable, you don’t need to be thin-bodied. Plus size women can look trendy and cute by wearing the proper style of dress. Full figured women should never have a hard time purchasing trendy and comfortable clothes that they can show off at parties or any other occasion.

Growing market of plus size clothing

Designers realized that in order to capture a larger share of the market of women’s clothing, they need to come up with trendy clothing for plus size women. With the growing market and demand for women’s plus size clothing, online stores are also enjoying excellent business by selling gorgeous examples of plus size clothing. The plus size market is now outstripping that of the regular fashion industry.

In today’s fashion market, there are many options for plus sized women. From stand-alone stores, to department stores to online fashion websites; women with curvier figures can easily find stylish apparel to fit their lifestyle.

There are a variety of trends available in the present market for plus size clothing. There is great variety of formal, informal and casual wears, swimming costumes, professional attires and a lot more other kind of clothing are available in the market.

 

 Emma    Saturday 28 April 2012 at 11:42

Thanks, Askpreeti, for your views, which may or may not be seen as preaching to the converted!

Over the years I have found that few customers in my store need general tips about dressing... they know what they want, but they need help in finding what they want!

However, I think that your points will very likely be of great help to those customers who do not normally frequent a plus-size designer store, but who may be visiting this website whilst surfing the internet.

I think all comment, debate, views and exchange of information is vital, particularly at this time of change in the plus-size fashion market.
 

Emma    Thursday 26 April 2012 at 18:00

 Post #284 



 
Subject: Plus fashion

So farewell then (at least for now!) Evans, Brighton. You have been here for a long time, and will be much missed. It was rather a shock to the system to hear that our local Evans is closing down tomorrow.

Over the years there have been many other plus-size stores here in Brighton. When I first started in 1990, Evans was on the high street, and nearby in Brighton Lanes there was a lovely designer shop called Park Plus. Round the corner from us was a 250-year-old department store called Hannington’s - which stocked various ranges that crept towards the plus-size mark (at the most around size 20). Later on, Hannington’s opened an Elvi department - specifically for plus-sizes. A short way along the coast in Hove was the grandmother of us all: a lovely shop called Dresswell, which, although it was not a specialist plus-size shop, stocked some larger sizes.

Shortly after I came here, a new store, Box 2, opened-up a stone’s throw away, selling designer plus-sizes.

Back on the high street, and some time later, we were told that a new, slightly more up-market high street shop was opening, and it was to be called Ann Harvey. It was an unfortunate time for them to open, starting off as they did in virtually the same week as near namesake Ann Summers - which caused much confusion, consternation and not a little hilarity when various mistaken customers blundered into the wrong new stores. (For the uninitiated, Ann Harvey sold, at the beginning, rather pretty plus-size clothes, whereas Ann Summers is an - ahem - intimate apparel and adult toy store!)   Also on the high street was a shop called Etam, which momentarily opened a plus-size department. Later, another plus-size high street store, Rogers and Rogers, opened in our nearby shopping centre. We also benefitted from one of the largest plus-size departments of H&M stores in the country.

A little later a store called Hampstead Bazaar opened, selling a layered look that many plus-size (and small) women wear, and, in a similar mould, The Glass House boutique also opened nearby. About this time a new store called Cinnamon, which specialised in plus-sized designer wear, opened in Burgess Hill, and then rapidly expanded into Brighton.

In those days many locals regularly made the trip up to the big London stores to supplement their wardrobes. Liberties had a gorgeous plus-size department, as did Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and the really big players in the field: Harrods and Selfridges.

One by one I have watched these stores close down or otherwise pull out of the market. Various offerings have diminished and become something else: I believe that Elvi, Ann Harvey and Box 2 are now available predominantly online. Rogers and Rogers has gone into out-of-town discount fashion store, Matalan. Our H&M plus-size department has massively diminished, and cannot even be called a shadow of its former self.

Many have simply gone: Hannington's, Park Plus, Cinnamon, The Glass House, and now Hampstead Bazaar have all disappeared, and after 60 years of trading, Dresswell of Hove closed down late last year.

I was surprised when Liberty's closed its plus-size offer; less so when Harvey Nicks did not continue with it. That John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges no longer have plus-size departments is nothing short of a national scandal.

The biggest shock of all, however, is the closure of our local Evans - a monolithic high street presence in the plus-size market, and one which I never dreamed would disappear from Brighton’s high street.

As of tomorrow, Emma Plus is the last plus-size women’s fashion store in this city. As I said to someone yesterday, I feel that we have been on a journey, and one by one our travelling companions have disappeared.

An economist studying the situation here would no doubt conclude that there can be no requirement for plus-size fashion in this city. Perhaps we, as a population, have been shrinking in size? Maybe fashion has ‘gone out of fashion’? Perhaps plus-size women don’t really want or need to look fabulous? Or maybe there is something particular about plus-size women that mean they don’t need to try things on in order to see if clothes suit them, and are perfectly able to select items of clothing by looking at photographs online?

Every day beautiful plus-size women come through my door and prove these ideas wrong. Why the high street (and, to be fair, many designer stores too) have retreated from this vital, expanding market is bizarre and needs urgently to be questioned.

Professionally I enjoy the extra custom that being a ‘sole trader’ in this field affords, but as a plus-size woman myself, I am furious and bewildered.

 

 Nicola    Sunday 29 April 2012 at 12:48

 
Hi Emma

I think what you have said here is very interesting and also a reflection of the failure of the high street, both high and low end, to cater to larger women's needs.

I think that the key is in the service, or lack thereof, from the larger stores such as Evans and Harrods. Having shopped at both the thing they have/had in common were their failure to provide a good level of service. In the case of Harrods the assistants were cold and offered no useful advice (more interested in selling than find the best for their customer). In Evans the service was non-existant with disinterested staff.

The result - you went away with clothes sure, but they didnt make you look good and left your self-esteem at rock bottom, and in the case of Harrods an empty bank account toboot.

The uniqueness of your store Emma is that you provide, along with a great range of clothing, sound & honest advice, which leaves you with happy customers who feel good about themselves.

The tradgedy of the closures of all these stores is I feel larger women are being humiliated off the high-street and onto the internet where they can remain anonymous. Younger women in particular are going on-line and are losing out on the guidance and advice of professionals like yourselves.

Nicola

 

 Emma    Tuesday 01 May 2012 at 15:24

 
Hi Nicola,

thank you so much for your lovely comments, Nicola! I think there may well be a chicken-and-egg situation here. You would suggest that it is the lack of good customer service that has done for these stores, whilst I would stick to my own personal hobby-horse of the lack of good fit in the plus-size market!

However, we are perhaps just both reflecting the fact that the customer is in dire need of help in order to get a fit and a look that is right for her. Let's be honest, with the horrendous fit that is available for most plus-size clothing on the high street, the consumer needs all the help she can get when sourcing her wardrobe!

Without that help, she may just as well buy online, because she is never going to find things that really fit her well anyway!

 

Emma    Thursday 12 April 2012 at 11:39

 Post #279 



 
Subject: Trouser Day 21st April

We've decided to burst forth this spring (actually, we always burst forth, not just during springtime but at any time of the year... but I digress) and ‘go for it’ with an emphasis on really fantastic events.

I feel sure that any right-thinking plus-size woman would agree that one of the great struggles of modern life is the eternal quest for the perfect pair of ‘good trousers'. Trousers are a particular problem, not just for plus-size women, but for all of womankind (and perhaps mankind for that matter). There are so many variables in the proportions of the lower portions of the human body that it’s a bit of a wonder that anyone would ever undertake the thankless task of creating a pair of good trousers. I use the term ‘good trousers’ to mean not the kind of trousers that are bought in a sale, or picked up in a budget-priced high street store, or online, scooped up amongst the bewildering array of styles - all of which are displayed in photographs on generically-shaped models. These are simply ‘will-do trousers’, which will spend a short but useful life providing leg-coverage during the routine tasks of one’s everyday life... shopping in the supermarket, walking the dog, housework, doing a spot of gardening - that kind of thing.

No, ‘good trousers’ are quite a different beast, and cannot easily be picked up in such ways. I can honestly say that I have never heard the phrase ‘these trousers fit me beautifully, are incredibly flattering, lasted for ages and feel gorgeous... I picked them up online’. It’s not that I don’t think such an occurrence is possible; one look at the internet will immediately make you understand that, with the vast scale of humanity, virtually anything is possible - from a cat that speaks to a man capable of summersaulting from the top of one building to another. It just means it isn’t really all that likely.

Good trousers are a treasure. You slip them on and feel confident about your nether regions. You can put them on and forget about them. But if you were not inclined to forget about them, then thinking about them would give you nothing but pleasure. They look good, they feel good, and they have no vices (like a visible panty line, showing your cellulite, riding up, being baggy on the bum... the list of ‘trouser problems’ goes on).

A really good pair of trousers will take you into the office on an important day. You can wear them on a date, or out for lunch with the girls that you haven’t seen since you left school. They will see you through the tough times (when you don't have time to do the ironing, but still have to look 'put together') and the good (effortlessly looking smart at a moment’s notice). They will be your secret weapon, and your quiet, useful little friend that will stay around for years. They are quite literally worth three times the price that you'd pay for your high-street trousers - and a whole lot more!

And, of course, if you choose to also wear them to walk the dog, do the gardening or suchlike, then there will also be life left in them for that when they grow old!

A pair of good trousers should, first and foremost, fit you superbly. Until recently it was a bit of a mystery why this presented such a problem. The top designers were doing their best. They were cutting the trousers as perfectly as they could in order to fit the body shapes that they had identified. And yes, for the lucky women who enjoyed these body shapes, there were always superb trousers to be had. Yet there were very many women who found those trousers unsuitable. Routinely women would tell me that they just ‘didn’t suit trousers’.

Then of course there was the problem that one range tended to vary in shape from another. Some suited the slim-waisted bigger-bottomed woman, some the snake-hipped lady with the wide waist. How on earth was the customer to know which range was going to suit her best?

During the past 20 years the plus-size industry has expanded and improved immeasurably. More ranges have come on to the market, there is more choice, with the look becoming more directional and varied. Suddenly not only were there a host of different ranges from which to source trousers, but there was a greater selection of looks. It was all only serving to become more bewildering - but luckily, at the same time, independent stores were also improving and trying to develop an expertise in the whole area of body shape.

Recently, some manufacturers, like Finnish company, NP, for example, did widespread studies of body shape as it applied to trousers - and the reality started to emerge from the gloom. Not only were we in the plus-size industry able to identify what shapes of trousers would suit women with any number of different body shapes, but we were offering the differing shaped trousers to satisfy these requirements.

Hence the advent of our ‘Trouser Day’. We have had a couple of these events before, and they have been some of the most successful days we've had in our store. We assemble the biggest selection of trousers we can, and we identify which body shapes will suit which trouser styles. Then we train our staff and ensure that the most knowledgeable will be in the shop on this day.

Trousers are sorted into different groups, and our customers are fitted properly with trousers that many could never imagine would look as good.

On this day there will be refreshments and a prize draw, where a lucky customer will win a pair of trousers. Moreover, when a customer buys one pair of trousers they can then purchase a second pair at half price (exclusions apply). This generous offer is almost unheard-of at this end of the season - when choice is so wide.

The atmosphere buzzes on our Trouser Days and most customers find it a sociable and pleasant way to pass a Saturday!

Anyone spending £100 or more on the day will also get a ticket for two hours’ free parking at the NCP car park, adjacent to our shop.

Emma Plus's Trouser Day is on 21 April 2012, between 10.00am and 5.00pm. We really look forward to seeing you in store!

 

 Kim P    Friday 20 April 2012 at 19:10

 
Good luck with the day! A fantastic opporunity to buy flattering and comfortable trousers which as you mention is not something easily achieved in larger sizes. Some of my best buys fron you have been various wonderful trousers by Brand. I know the Trouser Queen aka Kim will be in her element! Can't make tomorrow but hope to pop in again soon.

 

 Emma    Saturday 21 April 2012 at 17:03

Hi Kim

Thank you for your lovely words of encouragement! I am here at the end of the day in the shop, tired, but very happy!

We had a wonderful Trouser Day... We were very busy and sold dozens of pairs of trousers to very happy customers.

I love these events; we always have a really lively, pleasant atmosphere here.

Now, the next event to look forward to is Anna Scholz Day...!
 

 Kim P    Saturday 21 April 2012 at 23:02

 
So pleased everyone had a great time, very hard work for the Emma Plus ladies but must be so satisfying seeing the joy on customers faces when they have found their perfect trousers.

I noticed the Anna Scholz event on the 12th May. Very exciting news!

 

 Emma    Thursday 10 May 2012 at 18:16

Just a quick update...we held our 'prize draw' for our Trouser Day event. All those who went in for it were placed in a jar, and a friend of Emma Plus (my old schoolfriend, Clare!) pulled the winner out. The winner is Debbie Bright.

Debbie is now the proud owner of another pair of Emma Plus trousers!
 

Emma    Wednesday 14 December 2011 at 15:34

 Post #263 



 
Subject: Fashion democracy...

I find that I now remember rather little of what I was taught at school; I think that, for me at least, I am more likely to be able to use the skills I gained during my education, than to recall facts or specific lessons.

However, one particular statement made to me (during an economics lesson, of all things!) did stick very firmly in my mind. We were told that every time we purchased something, we voted. My teacher (a wonderful, inspirational man) taught us that even though we were only called upon to vote in parliamentary elections every 4 or 5 years, we were able to express our preference several times a day by carefully picking out what it was that we wanted to spend our money on. His point was a brilliant one: if you don’t like the company or the product, show your disapproval by removing your hard-earned cash from their premises forthwith - thereby (hopefully) concentrating the minds of the business owners on what they can do to improve their relationship with their customers.

Of course, my teacher’s argument continued that the converse is also true: if you welcome how a company is run, and enjoy their product, it is worth going the extra mile to endorse their service with your custom.

His message really went into my head, and I can honestly say that it is one of the few lessons that I had during my childhood that has had a daily influence on my behaviour. Some people may think I am an obsessive, but I will always seek out companies that I approve of, or ones whose products I really like, and make an effort to patronise them when I can. And I know I am not the only one: almost on a daily basis I have evidence of my own customers acting in this way.

I remember when I first opened a shop under my own name (almost 18 years ago now). I had worked for the previous two owners, before making the daunting jump to take it over for myself. I had built up good relationships with my customers, and had promised that I would try to continue this when the shop re-launched after its refit. One morning, half-way through the building work, whilst the shop was still closed, I found a note had been pushed under the door. It asked me to put a sign in my window to tell the sender when I was re-opening, because the lady was intending to come in immediately, and ‘buy something, even if I don’t like anything!’ The note was signed by a long-standing customer of mine!

These days when I see customers who have travelled all the way over from Wales, up from Cornwall, or down from London - or made the trip from Norfolk, Essex, the Midlands, or whatever - I am driven to think about these economic realities more than ever. Time was when there were many small local stores selling designer plus-size clothing. Many of these shops were somewhat lacklustre, and perhaps it was time for them to disappear. However, I do feel that many more have been seen off by the temporarily difficult trading conditions that have afflicted the fashion industry over recent years.

Many plus-size women used to rely on going up to the London stores - like Harrods, Liberties, John Lewis, Selfridges, etc. However, these stores no longer have their plus-size departments. Women are having to travel like never before in order to get beautiful clothing.

In my opinion - were I not in this business and if I lived in some part of the country that still enjoyed a good local plus-size boutique - I would rush to that store straight away to offer them whatever patronage I have at this time, in the hope that others will do the same. Although I clearly have a great interest in what the economists have to say about my trade, I do know from personal experience that some of it is rubbish. Economists seem to believe that nature abhors a vacuum and that where a business is needed, one will automatically spring-up to service the demand. I happen to know this is not the case in the plus-size industry. Over the past few years, when the independent designer shops have closed down, they stay dark.

It is obviously very important to watch the pennies if you have to, but it is not, I would argue, a wise option to spend those pennies in the large, cheap chain stores, thus starving out the very small businesses - which in the future would be sorely missed. Once lost, those individual shops will not return in a hurry. It is a situation that may well benefit a store like mine, with its reputation, long history and established internet presence, which can draw customers from far and wide. But a long car drive across or down the country, followed by a stay at a hotel, in order to find some gorgeous clothes, may well be the only option to many plus-size women in England, and this situation is getting more extreme all the time.

To have a good designer clothes shop on my doorstep, selling a wide range of gorgeous clothes, is something I would vote for any day.

 

Kay    Thursday 08 December 2011 at 17:37

 Post #260 



 
Subject: christmas opening

 
hello,
Im planning on making a special trip down from London either before or after christmas for a new year outfit. More likely after christmas, as Im a busy bee at the moment.
Please could you tell me your opening hours over christmas and the new year.
thanks Kay

 

 Emma    Thursday 08 December 2011 at 18:15

Hi Kay!

Thank you for your very useful question: useful because it is reminding me to do something that I should have already have published on this forum!

Our hours are as follows:
Saturday 24th December 10am-3pm
Sunday 25th Closed
Monday 26th Closed
Tuesday 27th Closed
Wednesday 28th Closed
Thursday 29th Closed
Friday 30th 10.30am-5.30pm
Saturday 31st 10am-5.30pm

Sunday 1st January 2012 Closed
Monday 2nd Closed
Tuesday 3rd (onwards), normal opening hours.

Now, Kay, I am going to throw caution to the winds, and tell the readers of this blog something, at this early stage, that is normally only revealed to the lucky ones who are on our mailing list. Our Emma Plus Winter Sale starts on the 30th December at 10.30am.

I would advise coming early because those who get notice of this will be thronging to us (our sales are well-appreciated, as it is our custom to reduce everything from the current season so as to be completely freshly-stocked with the new collection, which will be in store soon after the New Year). So we always have good reductions, and this year the selection of gorgeous evening wear is particularly delectable....

It may also be worth reiterating that anyone spending over £100 in store will be eligible for two hours' free car parking at the NCP car park adjacent to our shop.

I look forward to seeing you in store, and if I don't see you until after Christmas, may I wish you, and all other readers of the forum a very Happy Holiday!
 

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 09 December 2011 at 12:41

 
I dont know if you saw this but I wrote about it in my blog.

Computer generated models - what is the fashion industry coming to when they have to create a body to display their clothes?

 

Jenny Itzcovitz    Friday 02 December 2011 at 10:40

 Post #259 



 
Subject: Sixtyplusurfers - a website for the over sixties

Hi, I've just found out about Emma Plus and I think it's a fabulous collection for the plus size lady.

I write for a website called Sixtyplusurfers - which is an 'online magazine' for the over fifties.

We have a new issue every month, with interesting articles, free to enter competitions, celebrity interviews a Fashion & Accessories page, a Beauty & Hair Care page, and lots of ideas for days out, and things to do.

There's also a Readers' Letter page and a Chat page where you can meet other members. Everyone here is very friendly. And it's all free of charge.

You can find us at www.sixtyplusurfers.co.uk

All the best

Jenny Itzcovitz, Sixtyplusurfers

 

 Emma    Friday 02 December 2011 at 13:37

 
Hi Jenny!

Thank you for your post...it's very interesting to read about your online magazine.

As readers of this forum will know, we are always interested in any posts that touch on our core subject....plus size fashion. Although many of our customers are younger, there are a significant number of sixty plus women who source their fashion from us.

People tend to get larger as they go through life (often bringing them for the first time into our store), and we have found that people simply are not ageing the way they used to. Time was, when you were over 40 it was considered that you had no interest in fashion (or shouldn't have). Now my customers, whatever their age, are incredibly stylish and attractive....there is simply no reason why we shouldn't be like this in this day and age.

When I first worked here I honestly couldn't believe my customers when they told me their ages: many larger women look literally decades younger than they are.

Which goes to show that fashion nous, a joie de vivre, an attention to detail in one's appearance (and an extra layer of fat under the skin) can make a huge difference.....

 

Emma    Thursday 01 December 2011 at 15:10

 Post #258 



 
Subject: Parking!

After much thought and effort, we think we have come across a way to help our hard-pressed customer with her parking needs.....

We have introduced a scheme where anyone spending £100 or more in our shop can have 2 hour's free parking in the NCP car park right next door to our shop. This is effective immediately, and is for any day (including Saturdays).

This is a trial, and it will be effective all the time this post is up. For details, call us on 01273 327240, or just ask us whilst you are in store....

 

 Kim P    Thursday 01 December 2011 at 22:57

 
Great idea Emma, that really is a saving worth having as is the 10% off the gift vouchers.

 

 Emma    Friday 02 December 2011 at 13:59

 
Hi Kim!

Thanks for your post. Yes, I think it is so convenient to just park next door and stroll over. Knowing that you can get 2 hours for free does make the difference!

 

Emma    Saturday 26 November 2011 at 15:09

 Post #256 



 
Subject: Happy seasonal news...

Although the mild weather tells us otherwise, the fact is that it’s nearly December, and Christmas is thundering towards us, leading inexorably towards the thought... 'what on earth am I going to give as presents this year?'!

In our shop we often have people buying gifts for loved ones. It’s a bit of a fraught area, because it isn’t always easy to pick out something that will fit someone else, not to mention suit them! So more often than not, when seeking something lovely, friends and family choose to buy a voucher from us.

I know that, among some people, gift vouchers have a bit of a bad name as a ‘lazy’ or unimaginative present. However, I think that the truth rests entirely on the kind of vouchers they are. Like flowers - which, if picked out individually with love and care from a wonderful florist, rather than bought at the last minute from a petrol station - there are some gifts that show thought and love, and some that are used to merely satisfy an obligation at the last minute.

Some of our happiest experiences here at the store have been with the recipients of our gift vouchers. Many women have absolutely no knowledge that we existed, whilst others knew we were here, but for a long time had mistakenly felt intimidated about visiting us. Some larger women ‘need permission’ to feel OK about spending time and money on themselves, and others don’t feel it appropriate for them to buy a beautiful garment while they are ‘this size’.

A voucher can drive a coach and horses through these objections. Someone has thought about you, as a larger woman, and seen you as a person who is attractive and fashion-minded. They have heard you mention how difficult it is to find lovely clothes. They have gone to the time and effort to find a shop that has the very things that you would love to have. And they have had the foresight to completely disregard any comments made by you about how you should just put up with not having anything nice to wear, at least until you are down to a size 14.

Over the years I have seen many women who have come in to spend their voucher, never having stepped over our threshold until that day. Often they are amazed and delighted; it can be a whole new world to someone who has not seen designer clothes in plus sizes before. To these women the gift is two-fold. On the one hand it is the present of a garment, and on the other it is the gift of our store. These women become our regular customers... and many of them have become my friends.

Last year we had a special offer on our gift vouchers, which was very popular, so we have decided to do one again this year: 10% extra free when you purchase online. This means that, each voucher is worth 10% more than it costs you. The offer is available until Christmas Day, and the vouchers are redeemable at any time.

Please click here to go to the Gift Voucher section.

 

Kalli    Monday 07 November 2011 at 21:21

 Post #252 



 
Subject: Opinions please ladies!!

 
Hi ladies,

I am doing a university project on the Plus Size market. I was hoping some of you would be kind enough to give me your opinion on what you think of plus size womenswear that is in the market today.

Do you think it could be improved?

I would very dearly appreciate your insights on this,

Kalli

 

 Emma    Wednesday 09 November 2011 at 11:15

 
Hi Kalli

Thank you for your post... and question!

To be honest, I don't know what response you'll get on this. I'm unsure for two main reasons... Firstly this forum has never really developed into a discussion site. I don’t have a reason why this should be: although it’s my website, I am entirely happy for it to go in any direction. However, what seems to have happened is that readers have asked very specific questions - like, what should I, with my own particular body shape, wear to my daughter’s wedding; or where on earth can I get tights? If anyone simply wanted to chat, then they went elsewhere!

However, alongside this I have been writing my blog, which often does address the topic that you are looking into: the current state of the plus-size market. Sometimes this has elicited readers’ responses - but by no means always.

The other reason for my uncertainty is that the question is such a vast one! It’s a bit like asking what we think the world is like, and how we think it can be improved!

I often get letters (emails nowadays) from scholars like this. In the early days I used to write reams about the problems involved in this industry (after all, they are legion), but as time has gone on I have realised that much of my information is probably not useful. Because it is such a huge subject, it may be worthwhile - if only in this instance - to take a small area of it to make a more manageable study...?

However, I do congratulate you on the method you have employed - i.e. actually asking larger women for their opinions and needs. In doing this, you can teach the large companies a thing or two!

I really do wish you the best of luck in your study Kalli, and hope that you get something of use from our forum!

 

 Victoria Hollis    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 16:43

 
Hi Kallie

I'm actually a member of a facebook group which could possibly help you with this - drop me an email to victoriahollis@ymail.com

Victoria xx

 

 Kim P    Sunday 13 November 2011 at 15:30

 
This blog contains much information from both customers and a specialist retailer of plus size fashion so take the time to read back if you have not already done so. First hand experience is valuable, why not go into plus size high street retailers and specialist retailers like Emma Plus and road test them as a customer? The levels of service and product on offer will give you a clearer idea of the good and bad of the sector. If you are not plus sized yourself then maybe you have a friend or family member who could accompany you. Plus sized ladies are just as varied in their likes and dislikes as any other size customer. Good luck with your research.

 

 Emma    Monday 14 November 2011 at 15:57

 
It's a fact that our industry is hugely dysfunctional. I don't know of any business that pays less attention to its own customer base.

Could you imagine if, for example, one learned that the aircraft industry only manufactured sufficient components to satisfy demand for parts needed by half the planes in existence? And that the owners of the aeroplanes which were not catered for spent large amounts of time and money tracking down what they need (and were still extremely dissatisfied)? Wouldn't it be strange if you heard that consumers in that industry were not consulted, and that their money went unspent, because their needs were not being addressed? If this happened, how long do you think it would be before some large company moved into what was clearly a lucrative and unsatisfied market?

Yet this is the reality of plus-size women in their dealings with the fashion industry.... I know this, because I come into daily contact with women who tell me so. Our shop benefits immensely from this unsatisfied demand, meaning that we regularly have women travelling the breadth of the country to shop with us. As a businesswoman, it's great news for me, but as a larger woman, I am disgusted.

There is something very odd about the fashion industry that seems perversely dead-set on ignoring many of its potential customers....

 

Emma    Thursday 03 November 2011 at 16:05

 Post #251 



 
Subject: Dark energy

I was chatting to a lady today about how much black we wear, and in that kind of vague, fashion-brained way that things reverberate in one’s head, the conversation seemed to resonate with something I had heard in a programme on TV. It was a science programme, and it revealed that there was an enormous amount of ‘dark matter’ in the universe: it’s unseen, and went unnoticed for a very long time; no-one really knows what it’s there for, or really understands it, but it is pervasive. It influences everything, and our cosmos would be a completely different place without it. How very like the ‘dark matter’ within my own wardrobe!

Working in fashion, as I do, I find that over the years I have accumulated just about every ‘must have’ item of black clothing (and then some). I’ll tell you a fashion secret that we all know, but which is never alluded to by the fashion writers: not everyone has the time, space nor money to have all these ‘must have’ pieces! However, each item is extremely useful, and ultimately no-one regrets investing their money this way.

For instance, I would always recommend that you have a smart pair of black trousers for daytime. You know the kind of thing... crisp, tailored black trousers which, for instance, can be worn with a contrasting jacket for a job interview.... or teamed with a fashionable blouse to go out to lunch or a work meeting. This is the kind of trouser that is kept ‘for best’ and should last years. There are women out there who can rock the ‘crisp white shirt, gold necklace, smart shoes, handbag and black tailored trouser’ look, and it will take them anywhere!

Then, of course, there are ‘evening’ trousers. These could be any interesting, pretty, occasional trousers. They could be a fluid jersey, velvet, satin - even brocade - as long as they are cool and comfortable. It’s a terrible mistake to buy clothes so smart that they are actually uncomfortable.

Then you have the casual black trousers (dear me, who knew we needed so many pairs!). They may be really casual (black denim, say), or a step up - perhaps a stretch viscose mix with a bit of smart-casual style. Or even ‘leggings’...

Then we move on to dresses. These could hardly be described as ‘must have’ items, because so many larger women have to learn to live without them - as they are difficult to find. A good, plainish black day dress is a fantastic item. It could be worn to work on its own, or under a work jacket. It could be teamed with a smart jacket for a wedding, or it can be worn under a super-smart little jacket for Ascot - or a hundred other summer (or winter) events. It’s a wonderful foil for a superb piece of jewellery or pretty scarf.

This is not to leave out the ‘little black dress’, which is all about eveningwear. A good black evening dress comes in many incarnations - from the full-on ball gown to the minimal base over which a beautiful jacket shimmers.

Obviously, we all need a tailored black day jacket (obviously!). This could be a blazer or a traditional suiting jacket. Then there is the smart evening jacket. I know we don’t all really need one of these in order to live, but life is so much easier if you have one! Popped over a little cami, and teamed with the aforesaid black evening trousers, you are good to go at a minute’s notice.

These black items nestle quietly in my wardrobe. They are not the show-stoppers, and (for me at least) lacking in colour, they are always in the background of my look. When I am seeking out the ‘outfit du jour’, I don’t usually notice them; I’m thinking about my coloured pieces. The black supporting acts are just there. They are understated, and their utility and excellence are just taken as a given. Yet they provide my wardrobe with enough ‘dark energy’ to look smart at a minute’s notice, and without any stress. They may not be screamers, but they are vital and pervasive.

 

 Victoria Hollis    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 16:52

 
I read this with interest as I'm sure with many ladies I have a lot of black in my wardrobe. I went through a phase in my late teens/early twenties when all of my wardrobe was black as I had such poor self esteem I wanted to hide into the background.

Not so anymore lol I have a number of black items which I call into service to act as a foil to the large number of brights I have. I also have a love for prints which mix black with brights for example Anna Scholz's lumencent leopard print of a few years ago to this seasons stunning snake print items.

I refuse to restrict myself any longer. With my cool colouring pastels look dreadful on me I need stark clolours.

So (hoping to get a heads up here lol) what kind of prints can we look forward to S/S 2012 Emma?

 

 Emma    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 17:42

Hi Tori!

Thanks for your question, and thanks for, as always, really understanding what I was trying to get at with my piece: the fact that we all wear black items, but they don't have to rule our lives!

Sometimes, it seems that we larger women can go to either one extreme or another.... we drape ourselves in acres of black, or we can rebel against it, and wear no black at all!

Yet the best course is to use black for what it does best....as you say, as a wonderful foil with which to set off colourful or printed garments.

When I do my buying, (I have to admit) I do tend to buy a lot of colour, but mainly in plain fabrics. It's not that I don't like pattern (I love it). It's just that, quite often the patterns that certain companies think are suitable for larger women are mumsy and uninspired.

Over the years, however, we have sourced some wonderful collections that have superb fashion-forward patterns. Next summer has a plethora of such lovely items. The colours are varied: proper 'summer' colours. There're blues, purples, greens and a lot of different pinks.

Many of the prints are rather 'paintily', as if they are original art works, and are not like the run-of-the-mill patterened fabrics, A good example of this is the Marina Rinaldi Spring/Summer 12 T-shirt I am modelling here....to look at it you would think it was individually hand painted. It's gorgeous.
 

 Victoria Hollis    Thursday 10 November 2011 at 20:49

 
That top is gorgeous it looks very impressionist and the colour is gorgeous on you. Umm sounds like we have a lot to look forward to next season. I have to say your heads up on Anna Scholz's AW11 was right as always the black label is to die for this season.

 

 Emma    Friday 11 November 2011 at 15:43

 
Hi Tori-

I noticed that you have been known to wear Marina Rinaldi yourself, and look lovely in it. So I think you will be really excited by what's comming in next season.

This Italian collection (as you know, the plus-size range from the Max Mara stable) really is superb. It isn't cheap, but it is beautiful, is fabulous quality, fashionable, and a wonderful fit.

 

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 11 November 2011 at 19:36

 
I love the Max Mara stable of labels. Marina Rinaldi and Persona are my absolute favorites. I have a black wool and cashmere coat from Persona which is stunning, gorgeous and as warm as toast and I have a feeling I will be needing it this winter. The fact is yes the items are expensive but the quality is VASTLY superior to anything on the high street they are made in the EU and on a cost per wear basis they work out far better than other items I have bought, worn once and then languish in my wardrobe.

 

Emma    Monday 03 October 2011 at 18:35

 Post #246 



 
Subject: Heeling words

“I was incredibly irritated by what the sales-assistant said”, my customer told me. “So much so, that I decided I wasn’t going to buy the outfit after all. I left the shop, and I won’t be going back there in a hurry!”

I was listening intently to this statement, coming as it did from a very pleasant and easy-going lady. She was not an easy person to annoy, yet she had obviously been very irked by what she had experienced in that fashion store, and as an owner of a similar kind of shop I had a professional interest in her story.

Apparently she had been shopping for an outfit for a particularly smart occasion. She had gone into a shop with a good reputation for having interesting clothes, some (but only a small number) of which were in large sizes. She had picked out a three-piece suit which was very pretty: the colour was lovely and the fit was good. It was very expensive, but she felt it was worth going for. It was at this point that the ‘helpful’ sales assistant started to give her some advice.

The lady was told (by the stick-thin sales assistant) that she should, on no account, wear the outfit with low heels. It would look ‘ridiculous’ and ‘frumpy’. It didn’t matter, apparently, that the customer found high-heeled shoes uncomfortable. This was irrelevant. One should suffer for beauty.

To be honest - although I had complete empathy for my customer’s annoyance at what happened - I would probably not have acted as she did. Usually, nothing in the world would prevent me from buying an outfit that I really liked. In fact, I would often be quite sanguine about simply tuning-out when small people try to give me advice about fashion. Much of it is outdated (it’s a truism that many smaller people think they can advise larger people because they feel they automatically know more about style. Often, these are the very people who are the least informed and knowledgeable). What isn’t outdated is usually irrelevant, or unachievable for a larger person.

In fact, I think we are living in a much-improved world when it comes to more realistic shoes (are those stifled guffaws I hear?). Fashion at the moment is very fragmented; women can, and do, formulate their own style, and choose from a much wider range of looks.

I think it is the very fact that much high-street footwear is ridiculously and vertiginously high that has ensured that alternative looks must be acceptable. Putting it simply, the majority of women just can’t wear those very high shoes.

During the summer I was visiting a stately home where, in one of the function rooms, a smart wedding was taking place. My friends and I were sitting in the large hall taking tea, where we had a ring-side view of the wedding party as it passed by. It was actually rather funny (in a cruel way) to watch the young women, often in groups of two or three, clinging to each other and they tottered, limped, tripped, slid, swayed and shuffled their way into their room (and no, they were on their way to the bar, before they had drinks!). None of these women were accustomed to wearing those incredibly high heels (not to mention the platform soles) that they had picked out to team up with their pretty summer dresses. So none of them had built up the skills, not to mention the calf muscles, necessary to walk elegantly through that hall.

In fact, I’m not sure that anyone really builds up those skills. Many people watching the royal wedding in the summer noticed that various celebrities (who surely should be used to this kind of footwear by now) had to hang on to their husbands' arms in order to be able to move in a straight line. This is why many smart women of whatever size have decided that enough is enough, and are opting for different shoes.

If tiny, slim, experienced-high-heeled wearers are not able to wear these sky-high shoes, then it is less likely that we larger women, who have to put greater stress on our feet, are going to carry it off with beauty and grace. And this fragmentation goes all the way through the industry, spreading out from the super-high, to the completely flat, and every height in between. Where once only one height of heel was acceptable for the stylish woman for smart occasions, by necessity now there are many.

Call me old fashioned, but I think that beauty and grace are not just about what you wear, but also about how comfortable you are in your own skin. If you are wearing painful shoes, this will show on your face. If your shoes discombobulate you, you will not be able to move properly, and if your shoes make you tower over people, your posture may be adversely affected.

So balance is necessary (quite literally!). We have to be able to choose an ensemble that makes us feel graceful, elegant, well-dressed, fashion-forward and confident. And it is eminently possible to do this without recourse to high-heeled shoes.

Like my customer, I won’t let anyone tell me otherwise!

 

Emma    Wednesday 21 September 2011 at 16:03

 Post #244 



 
Subject: Service, please!

I was shopping in my local area yesterday and I realised how the kind of service I could expect from any given store really affected my mood.

I admit that, for several reasons, I almost never buy clothes anywhere other than in my own shop. One is that if I don’t rely on my own products, then I can’t see any reason why anyone else should. I have set my store the task of having everything that a woman like me needs to wear. So I stock everything I can get my hands on - from casual wear such as jeans, through outdoor wear and knits, right up to the smartest kind of eveningwear that I could wish for.

Another reason why I don’t shop in the High Street is that, as far as I can tell, nothing they are selling is designed with me in mind. If I were a small woman I would be shopping in places like Reiss, Hobbs, Jaeger, etc. Obviously, as things are, nothing in these stores is going to fit me (until that mythical time when I wake up one day to find out that I have morphed into a size 14, 5’4” woman). So, if I weren’t shopping at Emma Plus, I would have to go to those few specialist high street stores that we have here in Brighton (heaven help me). Let’s just say this would not provide clothing sufficient to meet my needs.

So when I say I was shopping yesterday, it was not for clothes. I had in mind to buy myself a new bag; in common with a lot of other women this season I wanted a ‘nude’ handbag. In theory, I should find one easily (they are everywhere at the moment). My problem, however, was one I see among my customers all the time: I am very particular about the item I'm looking for. I would like it to be a true nude, not beige and certainly not baby pink. I would like it to be quite small (with a shoulder strap), and I would like it to be made of really lovely leather. Oh, and I’d like it to be vintage-looking, with silver not gold findings. Phew!

Well, I may not be able to shop in most stores for clothing, but I can zoom in anywhere on a quest for bags. So I moseyed round to my usual handbag-hunting grounds. The first port of call was the aforementioned Jaeger. However, I did not go over the threshold on this occasion. I stood outside the shop, casually walking backwards and forwards, trying to see if there were any nude bags within. There were not (luckily I could see this easily and did not have to go inside - something I was only going to do if they definitely had what I was looking for).

Why on earth did I not want to go inside? Well, there is a member of staff in the store, who, although absolutely lovely (she truly is the most wonderful person; had I needed to find a mother to adopt my first-born child, I would have looked no further). However, she is so incredibly chatty and effusive that I find it almost impossible to simply walk into the shop, smooch quietly around for a bit, and then stroll out within fifteen minutes. I would be lucky to get out within an hour. And I didn’t have a spare hour.

So, having seen nothing in Jaeger, I went to Hobbs. I like Hobbs handbags this season: they have that vintage vibe off pat. However, as I walked in the door, I was surrounded by a gaggle of assistants, all vying for my custom. When I showed interest in some (gorgeous, long) leather gloves, fisticuffs nearly broke out. This ended up with several pairs of the same gloves on the counter, and two ladies gently trying to nudge each other out from behind the till in order to make my sale. I dismissed the idea of spending any more time there; I thought I would rather come back when there were more customers in the store... I like a bit of attention, but this was ridiculous!

My next shop was a lovely one which we have locally. It’s called Comptoir Des Cotonniers... a store that has some interesting leather goods, and there did seem to be a bit of neutral colouring going on there. However, as I idled around the shop floor, I seemed to have a shadow. A sweet young sales lady was following me very closely, keeping up a running commentary on what I was absent-mindedly looking at. “Those shoes also come in grey... That belt is sold separately... The jacket has mohair in it”. As I knew she was just trying to be helpful, I really couldn’t give in to the urge to turn and ask her if she would kindly leave me to my own devices. I left the shop.

Yes, there seemed to be an awful lot of incredibly helpful sales assistants around, and it was making me feel uncomfortable. However, I am aware of the fact that I am a very contrary, unfair creature. If I don’t get enough attention, it doesn’t take long before that also makes me irritable.

For example, I walked into All Saints, the kind of edgy, youthful fashion store whose design seems to be based on a science-fiction concept of a future where civilisation has collapsed. Apparently, the remaining mutants had to scratch a living selling distressed clothes from some kind of post-apocalyptic dungeon. Anyway, I digress; they actually had a very nice-looking handbag. However, it was hanging on the wall halfway towards the ceiling (I say ceiling: it was more like the underside of a 600-year old, very dirty, interplanetary mining spacecraft). I am quite tall; however, even I would need a step-ladder (or perhaps an anti-gravity device) to get up to the bag. I looked around for the shadow when I needed it. However, this emporium was far too cool to employ sales assistants - so I left several frustrating minutes later, still having made no contact with whatever alien life I would have had to deal with to buy that bag.

So I crept into Reiss, which was almost next door. I was already feeling slightly snubbed, so perhaps by this time I was a delicate creature. As I entered the shop, I was greeted by two sales assistants behind the counter. All looked well here; yes, there were two of them (and no other customers), but they did not leave their safety zone of the counter. However, they did welcome me. Excellent start!

The problems began when I spotted a leather bracelet (sorry, but I am always off-message when I am shopping). Sadly, because the lighting in the shop was so poor, I couldn’t see whether it was silver or a gold buckle (the all-important gold/silver issue!). When I tried to make eye-contact with the two of them, suddenly I realised I was invisible. They had far more interesting things to be thinking about than a middle-aged woman who was far too large to buy anything in the store (they may have thought). Eventually, Mohammed had to go to the mountain, and I approached them with the offending object. Almost immediately I found out that the metal was gold (not good for me), but was instantly rousingly assured that this really shouldn’t matter! It was just the same as silver, really! I was even given some hints as to what to wear with gold (more gold, apparently!).

As I walked back to my own place, I started to muse about how vital it is to get the level of service right in a shop. Too friendly, and we may actually be wasting someone’s valuable time. Too keen to make a sale and we don’t really help a customer. Too intrusive, and we make people uncomfortable. Too absent, and we are useless. Too distant and we are alienating. Too ignorant and uninformed, and we cannot help. Too uninterested, and we ignore a customer’s real needs, and dismiss them.

We have to walk a careful path where we are available and capable of providing our customer’s needs, whilst giving them the time and space to enjoy their shopping experience. I reminded myself yet again that it’s vital to try to ensure that we always get the balance right.

 

 Victoria Hollis    Wednesday 21 September 2011 at 20:21

 
I read this laughing.... sometimes shopping can be almost like a comedy sketch.

The balance with service is a fine line some of us need our hands held whilst others are intrepid adventurers who will quite happily walk alone.

I cannot understand how any assistant worth their salt would say to a lady with your colouring Em to wear more gold like me with my milk bottle blue skin gold just does not work.

But what I can say without a qualm is the mix of lovely ladies you have in your shop are fantastic

Kim the trouser queen, Jac the accessories guru and you yourself the sheer genius I have never felt pushed or ignored in your shop speaking of which I'm hoping to come up mid october so cant wait I was wondering if you had the ponte jersey frill shift tunic from Anna Scholz in store ?

 

 Emma    Thursday 22 September 2011 at 15:24

Hi Tori

Thank you for your lovely comments!

Yes, I don't know what's worse... a sales assistant (specialising in fashion) who either doesn't know that certain complexions cannot wear certain colours. Or one that knows this is so, but doesn't care!

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news... we did order the tunic quite comprehensively, but (as is usual with Anna Scholz items), it has sold very quickly. We even re-ordered them, and now the cupboard is bare.

However, there is a bright ray of hope on the horizon: this season is one of the best ever, and there are some absolutely gorgeous things here now, and still coming in!

I really look forward to seeing you soon.
 

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 23 September 2011 at 17:50

 
Darn it too slow again lol...

I'm sure it will be worth the trip up anyway.

But the thing is and im sure I have mentioned it in prior comments you and the girls genuinely care about your customers and getting it right. I feel totally disenchanted shopping on the high street when staff are in identikit uniforms with a bad attitude more interested in chatting to each other than serving customers.

 

 Emma    Saturday 24 September 2011 at 13:27

Hi Tory!

Thanks for that... I'm so sorry you are suffering from 'High Street Shopping Frustration Syndrome'. It's horrible.

I was chatting to another of my customers this week (a gorgeous lady who reads the blog, but does not, as yet, contribute herself), and she had some thoughts about tights.

She used to buy the Levee tights, but hadn't known they had gone down (was that quite recent?).

She also said that she buys a collection called Gipsy, which she has delivered, ordered from their website. It does seem that Gipsy may well be a good option (being definitely currently available; all the others being a little bit of a colder trail).

I hope this helps you; if it does, it will show that the forum is working!

By the way, I have accompanied this reply with an entirely gratuitous picture of Jaq - replendent in a gorgeous Marina Rinaldi coat...
 

 Victoria Hollis    Sunday 25 September 2011 at 16:40

 
OOOOHHHH fab coat (Tongue hanging out drooling lol)

I heard the Levee have gone over the last couple of months

Ummm thinking mid october might be too long a wait for a trip down....

 

Emma    Thursday 01 September 2011 at 15:40

 Post #240 



 
Subject: A singular shopping experience

In my blog I have always been careful to keep ‘on message’... this forum is designed to be a space where plus-size fashion is discussed. In my opinion, our fashion is almost never mentioned in the mainstream media, so it is well worth giving it a bit of space here on our humble website!

So I hope I am not letting myself down when I move off message to talk about a subject that to everyone else but us has absolutely nothing to do with larger womenswear.

I would like to talk about the area where our shop is situated: the North Laine in Brighton. I have been running this shop for over 20 years now, and when I first came here, I didn’t really understand the significance of where we were. Yes, I realised that Brighton, as a destination town (which drew a huge number of visitors both from Britain and abroad) was a jolly good place to have a business that relied on people walking in our door. However, before I had worked here, I had never heard of the North Laine.

Of course, I knew of the Brighton Lanes, a lovely, quite chi-chi area of Brighton, famous for its tiny roads (the old fisherman’s lanes), and sweet little (somewhat tourist-orientated) shops. I guess that in my naiveté, I had thought that the North Laine (which is just inland from the Lanes, within easy walking distance) was just another one of the lanes, albeit with a slightly different spelling. I had sometimes noticed, though, how the locals winced when the uninitiated visitor referred to it as the North Lanes (without an ‘i’, but with, heaven forbid, an ‘s’). It’s a common mistake to make, although the Laine, is, in fact, far too singular a place to require an ‘s’.

In actuality the name does not have anything to do with roads or lanes; Laine is the old name for a field, and this particular field is one whose rich crop is shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, galleries, libraries, workshops, clubs, theatres, studios, commercial properties and general mixed activity, with the odd sumptuous palace (Brighton Pavilion) thrown in. Unlike the Lanes, there is only one North Laine... and it has an entirely unique character.

It is the haunt of performers (many and various venues are in the Laine), artists, media types, fashionistas, vegetarians, gays, foodies: rare and authentic characters, all. The area is the antithesis of the ‘clone town’, where all shops are part of a chain, and each road looks exactly the same. Here, the shops come and go, with a ‘blink-and-you’ve-missed-it’ ethos that locals take as a given. Most of the businesses exist because their owners had a dream of what they wanted to present to the world, and many times this idea was without any rhyme or reason. Amazingly, some (but by no means all) of these businesses find their niche and survive.

The result is a kind of insouciance about what is on offer. For example, no-one turns a hair if the shoes on sale are completely weird and wacky, or superb hand-made originals... or vegetarian.

Someone may decide to run a hardware store here, but only if they can go berserk and make sure they sell everything possible, and have the best customer service in the western hemisphere.

If you fancy something to eat, you really can start to call the shots: would you like vegetarian? Certainly! Organic? Gluten free? Child friendly? Macro-biotic? Artisan-made? Locally sourced? Gourmet? Cheap and cheerful? The answer always seems to be yes, in an area that shouldn’t be big enough to sustain all this diversity.

Naïve is quite a good word to describe my relationship with the North Laine in the early days. Somehow, I thought it was just a co-incidence that a plus-size womenswear boutique had been opened here (I did not launch this store; I inherited it from its first owner), nor did I see it as part of the reason why our store had taken root and flourished.

It took me a while to start to look around at the Laine, and see it for what it was. Then the penny dropped as to the role our geographical situation has had in sustaining and nurturing our business. I see design, artistry, fashion, originality and quirkiness all around, as well as uncompromising specialists who have enthusiasm and really know their stuff. Had our shop been started somewhere else we may never have taken off. However, in coming here, I believe we found our natural home.

 

Nerys    Monday 22 August 2011 at 12:43

 Post #236 



 
Subject: your fab selves

 
To Emma and her team,
I would like to thank you very much from the bottom of my heart for everything you did for me and my friends on Friday 19th August.
From opening early for us as we only had the spare hour in the morning to your expertise, time, knowledge and most of all the Emma plus experience!!! Which believe me I will be telling everyone about! ( I'm sure if you could bottle it you will have yourself a best seller)
No pushy sales woman trying to sell us everything in the shop and having a genuine interest in us and not the sale.
I am so happy with my Anna Scholz dress and for once will be able to enjoy a wedding without having to worry about an ill fitting outfit.
The biggest shame is that we are so far away but believe as the saying goes I will be back!!!
Diolch yn fawr iawn (Welsh for Thank you very much)
Nerys Willams

 

 Emma    Wednesday 24 August 2011 at 16:52

 
Hi Nerys!

Thank you so much for your kind words, which really are appreciated! I have passed them on to Kim, who really was responsible for opening early!

I'm so glad you had the dress...it really is wonderful. From a retailer's point of view, it is a very frustrating dress because it is so beautiful and sold out almost immediately, and we can't get any more! There are going to be a lot of disappointed women out there! I'm so glad that this one went to someone who really suited it so beautifully! If you get the chance, we would love to see a picture of you at the event, wearing it.....

 

Emma    Saturday 23 July 2011 at 11:26

 Post #227 



 
Subject: SALE STARTS 29th July

Well, it's that time of year again... bargain time! I am wondering if this year may be a very good year for the bargain-hunters among us?

I say this because so far our summer has been somewhat (ahem) lackslustre, meaning that many of our high-summer clothes (which are particularly beautiful this year) have been overlooked by customers, and are still hanging on our rails.

As we are hammering towards our sale (which starts at 10.30 this Friday 29th July), it looks like we will be heavily marking down our high-summer styles. This means that, unusually, beautiful blouses, dresses, trousers etc, in gorgeous natural fabrics and superb colours will, in every probablity, be on sale for ridiculous prices.

What would that matter, one may ask, if the summer is as good as over? Well, I would reply that we are not into August yet. And, those among you who, like me, make a particular study of the weather, will know that it often follows the American experience... only shortly afterwards. This is because we tend to find their weather travelling towards us 'across the pond', following the prevailing winds.

And what kind of weather are they having in the US right now? It may still end up being a very hot August, by which time our beloved bargain-snafflers will have, in all probability, had all the gorgeous summer wear at very good prices. Anyone rushing-in to buy a summer dress in August will probably be faced with our (beautiful) autumn/winter collection of knits.

We look forward to seeing the wise and well-informed on Friday or Saturday...

 

 Kim P    Wednesday 27 July 2011 at 21:16

 
Good luck with the sale, it will be hardwork for you all! I know from previous sale vists how great the reductions are. There will be plenty of lucky ladies picking up fab bargains!

 

 Emma    Friday 29 July 2011 at 15:17

 
Thanks, Kim!

Yes, the first day of our Sale has been very busy....the reductions this year are quite radical, and I think word got out about that (we are famous for our sales).

All I can say is, thank heaven for the air conditioning!

 

 Emma    Saturday 06 August 2011 at 11:00

Just a quick update...we have now had a round of 'further reductions', and, true to form, have placed a whole new group of items onto our 'everything must go' rail....

We love to clear all summer stock in order to make way for the new autumn/winter collection, and we are quite ruthless with our reductions!
 

Emma    Monday 04 July 2011 at 00:09

 Post #223 



 
Subject: Fit

There is a subject that I can’t help returning to in my blog. It’s one that's very important, not just to me as a plus-size fashion retailer, but for me as a plus-size woman - and, I think, also for many women reading this page.

The subject is that of body shape. This is so important because it is Big Retail’s failure to deal with it that is responsible ultimately for the failure of the high street to provide the clothing choice necessary for plus-size women.

I would like you to imagine that I am - as indeed I am - a woman aged 50, and interested in fashion, yet with one vital difference: I have shrunk down to a size 12. In this situation our high streets would look very different to me. I would be able to buy my clothes in dozens of chain stores and thousands of independent shops - providing me with a rich tapestry of fashion options.

In the chain stores I could, for instance, buy from the cheap-and-cheerful fashion ranges like New Look, Hennes and Zara. Or, if I were looking for mid-range, I could have a quick look in Marks and Spencer, or scan Next’s range. Later, I could hop off to Warehouse and French Collection. Climbing up the price and style ladder, I could browse my way through Hobbs, Cos and Jaeger. There would be a huge variety of styles, quality and exciting fashion looks.

If I were in London - with the world my oyster - I could visit the big stores like Harrods, John Lewis, Liberty and Selfridges. I could spend days just doing these stores and come away loaded with great looks.

In the afternoon I could pop my nose round any one of any number of thousands of really lovely independent boutiques and see the latest in designer styles.

So why, if I have the same money in my pocket - and the same interest in fashion - am I (in reality a larger woman) not given these options? In our city, Brighton (my own shop aside), I would only be able to try on a tiny selection of items in New Look, a very few somewhat depressing pieces in Hennes, and some (frankly frustrating) clothes in Marks and Spencer. After that I would have to go only to stores that specialise in items made in plus sizes. In Brighton, these are Evans and Anne Harvey.

The price point of these stores is relatively low (I leave aside the issue of whether it is actually rather high in relation to the quality on offer). The fashion is disappointing and the quality can be frankly shocking. I’m not criticising those stores for being what they are, any more than I am criticising Zara for being what it is - or, for that matter, Jaeger for being Jaeger. My question is this: the vast majority of clothing on offer for this half of the population is strikingly similar. Where is the variety?

In our business the received wisdom is that larger women don’t want to pay for nice clothes... that, in some way, we don’t really care about looking good or being fashionable... that any shop specialising in plus size fashion of higher quality, fashion and price, will fail.

In a funny kind of way, I agree with this analysis - but only up to a point. Many larger women simply won’t pay for pricier clothes. But the reason for this is not what the industry thinks. In my opinion, the horrible supply and demand problems that afflict the plus-size fashion industry stem directly from the failure to address the fit problem.

If I were to take, say, a hundred size-12 women, they would all be different body shapes. Some would be apple shaped, some pear, some hourglass, some well-proportioned, some top-heavy, some athletic. This is what human females are like: we come in a range of shapes. However, with the size-12 women, the variance between them is small. Most of them would still be able to fit into the same clothes, even if they did not necessary all have the same silhouettes.

However, if I were to take a hundred size-22 women, the story would be strikingly different. Yes, they would have the same range of body shapes. Yet their body differences would be amplified. In this case there could easily be 10 whole inches of difference between women of the same size but different body shape. For instance, if I were a size-22 apple shape, my waist would be considerably larger than my pear shaped friend, who takes the same dress size. And my hips, in turn, would be much smaller than hers. It’s quite possible that if an item of clothing fitted one of us, the other one simply wouldn’t be able to do it up.

If I were forced to try to shoe-horn my friend and me into wearing clothes with the same fit, I would have to start thinking about a sloppy, unflattering, generic shape. It would be impossible for us to actually look fashionable, attractive or chic. And the number of styles that could be made to fit both of us would be small.

Were I to stumble into a shop that sold clothes with this kind of 'apathetic' fit and paucity of styles, I would rapidly start looking for the exit. But if, as is the situation in many towns in Britain, this were the only store that sold my size (and I really needed something to wear), then I would probably buy something.

One thing I would never do, however, is pay good money for clothing that is generic, sloppy and makes me look lack-lustre. Nor would I fork out for the same-old, same-old. I would happily have a little splurge on something beautiful that made me look and feel good... I love fashion and believe it is important to me as a person. Actually, I am rather prone to spending a little too much on fashion. But I baulk at paying out for something that does not inspire, delight or excite me.

As a population, we are getting bigger every year. The section of the population that wears plus-size clothing is not going to go away any time soon. And the big retail companies are all about exploiting markets to make money. Sooner or later, someone, somewhere has got to start to ponder why the plus-size fashion industry is so dysfunctional.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good for my business that women get in their cars in Swansea, Billericay or Totnes - or even in Madrid (to travel to the airport) - and make their way into our shop. The desperation of our customers, who - fed up with having so little choice of clothing in their locality - decide to come to Emma Plus, is very good for business.

But as a plus-size woman myself, it makes my blood boil. Something really ought to be done about it! Even if it spoiled my own trade, I would be more than happy to offer help and advice to ‘Big Retail’ to try to sort out their shortcomings. It simply can’t go on the way it is.

 

 Kim P    Friday 08 July 2011 at 23:14

 
Great comments as always Emma. The easiest way to look like you have lost weight is to wear clothes that fit well and luckily there are plenty of such garments in Emma Plus!

 

 Emma    Monday 11 July 2011 at 00:20

 
Hi Kim!

Yes, it's an interesting point you make... I've had numerous customers over the years who have told me that friends or family have found it very difficult to believe that they are plus-size women, despite the obvious fact that they are!

Eventually, we have come to the conclusion that, to many small people, being large is synonimous with being badly dressed and presented. As soon as a woman looks gorgeous, they forget that she is plus-size, and find they simply can't believe she is, even when the fact is pointed out to them!

 

Emma    Monday 30 May 2011 at 20:45

 Post #219 



 
Subject: Ker-ching!

In keeping with my habit of rushing in where angels fear to tread, I have decided to write on the subject that most designer store owners try their best to avoid... price.

Over the years there is a story that I have come across many times. This is when a woman comes into our shop for the very first time, even though she has known about us for several years. She has been curious, but has diligently avoided actually entering our portals.

Her friends or family have been trying to drag her in, and she has always resisted. Eventually something has forced her to come to us. It could be a family wedding that has driven her (after many fruitless and depressing hours trawling just about everywhere on the high street) into the shop as a last resort. Or it could be that she has decided that the only way she is ever going to stop her sister going on about us, is to give in and pay us a visit.

Then something magical happens - she is stunned and delighted. She buys all sorts of lovely items. She rushes up to us, and tells us that she wishes she had come in before. After this first experience she becomes one of our regulars.

I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times this particular scenario has been run and re-run in our shop. I appreciate that this sounds like an ‘advertorial’; an attempt to sell our service to any customers who read the blog. I genuinely don’t intend that to be the case.

In fact, I am happy to suggest that this experience is not unique to Emma Plus. I feel certain that this is something mirrored by every good designer shop in the country. It speaks volumes about the way women, and in particular larger women, feel about designer clothing.

For many it is an expensive indulgence that they are not permitted, and should avoid at all costs. People think they do not deserve designer clothes. And some are afraid even to take a look inside a shop like ours.

The kind of clothes we sell are not cheap. They are not impulse buys. Many of them may cost twice - or more - the price of their high-street counterparts...

But exactly what kind of prices I am referring to? As I have said, many of our items do have a steep price-point. The most expensive collections, like, say, Marina Rinaldi (from the superb fashion stable Max Mara) or Anna Scholz (arguably the best-ever plus-size designer) can be expensive. Although Anna Scholz’s Black Label collection has a price-point that is not too far from the high street, her White Label collection can provide, for example, dresses which will set you back £400 or more, and Marina Rinaldi is priced at about the same level. Any decision to buy pieces from this end of the market had better be well considered.

Purchasing at the top end of the market is not a rich woman’s game, however. Items from these designers are investment pieces. Often they will be bought for special occasions: a sister’s wedding, a special party, a reward for a promotion. But these clothes will be incredibly fashion-forward, beautifully tailored and well-made. They will be your friends, and you will joyfully turn to them on many happy occasions over a number of years. By the time you have had your last wear out of them, you may find that they are the cheapest per-wear item that you have had all along. And then you might even sell them on eBay!

But a good designer plus-size store does not only sell high-end fashion. There will be a host of mid-range fashion as well, from companies such as NP (the Finnish collection that has specialised in plus-fashion since 1925) or Verpass (a German range that is really hitting its stride at the moment with 1950s inspired design). Prices start at about £65 for a blouse, and many of these items will be as well cut as the top-end clothing. They are extremely utilitarian, being comfortable, washable, durable, yet stylish. It is in these ranges that we often see amazing fabric innovation. Years before anyone else was putting stretch into fabrics such as cotton or linen, these were the ranges that were trailblazing, as they are now with the new body-cooling fabrics.

Again, items bought at mid-range prices are good long-term investments. These are usually clothes expected to perform as smart everyday pieces (often workwear) over quite a long period of time. They have to be reliable.

I think what shocks the uninitiated, however, is the low-end of our price range. We sell items from collections like Brand (the brilliant German house famed for its trousers) and Nanso (a Swedish range of beautifully colourful jersey items), and these prices are very accessible. Starting at £49 for its tops (which are amazing quality - these gorgeous tops really are bullet-proof), Nanso has its own keen following amongst our customers. When priced against the high-street these items are only a degree or so higher, yet their look is a million miles away.

I believe that when we begin to think of ourselves as the very people for whom all this wonderful fashion is being created, at every price-point, we will rush into the designer shops to see what's on the menu. We may not be able to afford everything we want, all the time. But that doesn’t matter, because, whatever we can’t get in this season, there will be something equally lovely for us in the next. And the purchases we have made will still be there to mix-in with our wardrobe, which over the years will build to become our style fingerprint.

The value of that individual, beautiful, unique resource is - as it is worn on our back every day of our lives - incalculable. This is how we are seen by the world. And yes, I believe it is worth the time and the investment.

 

 Kathy    Wednesday 01 June 2011 at 14:55

 
I totally unreservedly agree with Emma
I love clothes, I love shopping and my wardrobe is brimming with items that cost a bit less and were worn a lot less then that.
I rarely throw things out so I live with all my mistakes....
Take it from me - quality delivers and it is worth the money.
I am still wearing clothes from Emma's that I bought ten years ago...
Sure have fun for a season - and buy the thin fabric high street Tee in a seasonal tangerine... but come next summer it will sit unloved and unworn... and a waste of money!
Better spend your hard earned cash on Emma's lovely wearable durable clothes.
Money saving tip- shop her sales... divine and at very attractive prices!!!

 

 Emma    Wednesday 01 June 2011 at 17:04

 
Hi Kathy!

Thank you so much for your contribution!

You are one of our most stylish customers (and, we are talking about an extremely stylish body of women), and I do really appreciate hearing your views!

 

 Victoria Hollis    Wednesday 01 June 2011 at 22:54

 
Hi Emma and the lovely ladies at the shop......

I just wanted to stick my nose in on this one - apologies in advance lol if it's a bit long winded....

The cost per wear issue is a good one all of us want to wtach the pennies at times BUT there is no point in spending a minor fortune on a high fashion item wearing it once feeling uncomfortable and then hiding it at the bottom of the wardrobe.

The fact is there are a great many larger ladies, bbw's or whatever we choose to label ourselves as who think they don't deserve nice clothes and use that horrid phrase "oh I will buy something like that when I lose weight"

Buy yourself that gorgeous dress now......You will feel fantastic.

Anna Sholz for example her clothes are TIMELESS and frequently multi seasonal for example her summer maxi dresses can easily be wintered up with knee high boots (duo go upto a very large calf size) and one of her gorgeous cardies and coat (ummmm fallen in love with the pink once you wore in your pic Em)

We deserve to look good and feel great

 

 Emma    Thursday 02 June 2011 at 23:45

 
Hi Tory-

I couldn't agree more! I think that sometimes there is one small advantage to making a more substantial purchase...that the decision has to be a considered one.

Often it simply isn't worth having that 'high fashion' tangerine top, if it doesn't suit either your body or your personality.....

 

 Kim P    Saturday 04 June 2011 at 21:51

 
The Brand and Nanso ranges are very good value, as you say Emma they are not much more expensive than regular High St prices but are well styled and a little different to what you'll see elsewhere.

 

 Victoria Hollis    Friday 17 June 2011 at 16:20

 
The tangerine thing this season is VILE I know very few women who can get away with that shade I have to say Anna Scholz's coral dresses are far more flattering

 

Jennie Ferrigno    Monday 07 March 2011 at 15:13

 Post #199 



 
Subject: shopping

 
Hi there

I drove to Brighton on Saturday for the purpose of visiting your shop and what a pleasue it was. I found two perfect items to bring home and saw many more that are possibilities. It was also a real pleasure to meet you and your staff Emma and I enjoyed our conversation. When will you open another shop in our nearest town (Marlow):-)

 

 Emma    Tuesday 08 March 2011 at 14:02

 
Hi Jennie

Thank you for your kind words... it makes all the difference for us to have this feedback. Also, hopefully, your post will be read by other women who are considering 'hitting the road' to visit us here in sunny Brighton, and will encourage them that it will be worth the trip!

I really enjoyed meeting you, and was fascinated by your encyclopaedic knowledge of the plus-size designer fashion business. It is through meeting people like you that I learn so much, and I was very glad to be able to exchange views and experiences with you....

 

Emma    Thursday 30 December 2010 at 15:32

 Post #182 



 
Subject: Opening hours...

As the Christmas/New Year's holiday this year lands in a rather unusual way, I think it may be a good idea to mention our opening hours over the next few days.

We will be open on the 31st December (Friday) for our usual hours (10am to 5pm), but this year New Year's Day lands on a Saturday, so we will be closed, as we have always been closed for New Year.

To be honest, we have decided to be closed on the Saturday because it has always been our tradition to close, not just on this day, but on all bank holidays. We have found that our customers do not expect us to be open at such times, and would not be planning to call into the store anyway. However, we are always keen to move with the times, so would be very interested to hear any comments about this issue!

We will be open again on Tuesday 4th January, and from then on, for our normal working hours...

We expect our sale (which, as I have mentioned previously, is a superb one this year), to go on until the end of January. However, the earlier you are able to come into the shop, the more prized the items are likely to be!

 

 Kim P    Friday 31 December 2010 at 17:03

 
I'm a reletively new customer of Emma Plus so did assume you'd be open on the Saturday. It's going to be a normal shopping day with the BH being on the Monday so perhaps some customers who work during the week might have wanted to come for the sale? Having said that your sale runs for a while so it should give everyone a chance to visit the shop should they wish to.

 

 Emma    Monday 03 January 2011 at 12:26

 
Hi Kim!

Thank you for taking the time to give your opinion on the subject... it really means a lot to us to know what our customers think about this. Really, we will only know how to decide these things once we have found out what our customers feel, and what their needs are.

The background to our closure on New Year's Day is our past experience of opening on Good Fridays. This was the only regular bank holiday that fell on a day that we were normally open (we are always closed on Mondays, when most bank holidays apply). For the first seven years of running our shop we opened on Good Fridays, and in that time I did not make a single penny in takings! This was because we were sitting in an empty shop (at what is normally a very busy time of year), whilst our customers went elsewhere because they expected us to be closed.

However, there is a subtle difference in this case: Saturday may have been New Year's Day, but it was not a bank holiday!

The only way to know whether there were many other customers who, like yourself, would have expected us to be open is for us to canvas opinions.

I walked the North Laine on the day, and it did seem that many of the established independent businesses (like Dockerill's, for example) were closed. However, the funky young stores (catering to teenagers) and chain-owned shops were all open... interesting!

The only good thing I can take from this experience is this: I have been here for over 20 years and this is the first time we have been faced with such a dilemma on a Saturday. It's very rare, and by the time it happens again, our shopping culture will no doubt have changed definitively, and there will be an obvious solution!

 

Emma    Friday 03 December 2010 at 12:04

 Post #179 



 
Subject: Gift vouchers!

It’s December, and the thoughts of many people are turning to the exciting, yet sometimes thorny subject of Christmas presents.

At this time of year we usually see friends, partners or family members surreptitiously entering our shop, discreetly seeking out the perfect gifts for their loved ones.

Some people worry that buying clothing for a larger woman can be a bit difficult. Most of us do not like to reveal our size to all and sundry – even our nearest and dearest – and, of course, there is the issue of fit when clothes are bought without having been tried on. So there are many people who would love to buy clothes from Emma Plus or elsewhere for someone special in their lives, but find the prospect of it somewhat complicated!

The truth is, buying a present from us is actually quite problem free! Although (as a true English person) I hate to blow my own trumpet, I can’t help mentioning that I think we are passed-masters at helping with the selection of the perfect present. We have items of clothing for just about any larger woman, and we have a lot of experience in asking the right questions. We are also very adept at remembering the requirements of many of our established customers.

To put it mildly, our sizing can be very discreet, often with husband only aware that we have sold him a ‘size small’ for his wife! Unsurprisingly, many in the know make the pilgrimage every year to our shop to pick up a present from us, in the knowledge that we will recommend an array of lovely items from with to select their perfect choice.

As a fail-safe, anyone who buys items from us is welcome to bring them back within the season in order to exchange them, should they need to, and our alteration service extends (of course) to items bought as gifts. Many of our customers are really touched that someone has really paid attention to them to the extent of specially seeking out ‘their shop’ from which to buy their present.

Another great favourite for a present is a gift voucher. It is a real delight to watch a customer stride purposefully through the door in the New Year, with a glint in her eye, and a gift voucher in her purse! Our vouchers come in denominations of £10, £25, £50 and £100.

Because we are aware that some people are a little behind this year in getting their presents (due to the inclement weather), we have decided to do something we have never done before... a special offer on gift vouchers! For every £50 in vouchers bought this December, we will give an extra £10. At an unprecedented 20%-off, we have produced a limited edition of gift vouchers, which are being sold strictly on a first-come-first-served basis, and you will need to quote this Blog when you purchase. We will happily supply these vouchers by post in time for Christmas. You only have to telephone us on 01273 327240.

How pleasant to be able to find a thoughtful, appropriate present (with added value!), without even having to leave the house!

 

 Kim P    Friday 10 December 2010 at 13:17

 
This is a fabulous deal! My vouchers arrived this morning and they are a gift from me to me!

 

 Emma    Friday 10 December 2010 at 17:04

Hi Kim

Yes, it is such a good deal that we have had to do it as a 'limited edition'! The truth is that a wise woman (but only one who reads this blog regularly!) can end up getting 20 percent extra off her sale purchases after Christmas, or from new season's stock!

It's a special treasure reserved for our blog customers... and they don't even have to come into the store!
 

Emma    Sunday 26 September 2010 at 21:53

 Post #166 



 
Subject: Fantasy fashion

We’ve all heard of fantasy football, but how about fantasy fashion? Very few people ever get the chance to design their own fashion range, but that shouldn’t stop us dreaming...

What if I were to formulate my own unique collection of larger-size clothing? Say that somehow I was given the resources and talent to produce my own designs from scratch. What would I create?

Of course there are an infinite number of answers to this question, so if I am to develop this idea I had better concentrate on a single criterion: what kind of clothes have I always wanted, yet never found to my own personal satisfaction in the shops?

In other words, what are the clothes that I have been longing for? This, of course, is a very different collection of clothes than I would be creating if I were a real designer - where I would be producing a look that was fashion-forward and relevant to one particular season.

Instead, I’m talking about the eternal wish-list items that I have wanted but always been denied; a kind of clothing anti-autobiography, whose title would be ‘The Clothes I Never Wore’.

So, with so many items to choose from, I will edit my choices and just throw out a few random ideas...

Let's get the ball rolling with casual trousers. I would love to produce a pair of super-soft stretch leather leggings - the sort that one never sees in larger sizes but which would be incredibly useful under long tops or short dresses.

I would also love to get a really gorgeous long stretch-denim dress. Comfortable and practical, it would be a wardrobe staple that would still be fashionable decades after it was produced. When was the last time you saw a larger-size garment like this in the shops?

For outerwear, I would design a top-fashion raincoat. It would be 100% waterproof with a proper hood. And I’m serious about it being waterproof; mine would be functional enough to sail across the Atlantic in, yet incredibly funky and in a lovely colour... deep Atlantic blue, perhaps.

But I would go really nuts with my knits! In fact, I find the whole subject of knitwear in larger sizes both a great inspiration and a cause of real frustration. It’s true that one can get wonderful larger-sized designer knitwear this season, but there are still huge gaps in availability. Why, for example, is it so difficult to find patterned knits in our sizes? I would take Missoni as an inspiration and create gorgeous stripes in subtle yet unusual colour combinations. And I would design a line of soft, super-long dresses, supported by plenty of stretch (so there would be no sagging), with luxe layers of jackets, coats and capes.

One of the wonderful things about fantasy clothes design is the incredible optimism it engenders. I have been in the large-size fashion industry long enough to realise that many dreams do actually come true. Wait long enough (admittedly in the world of plus-size fashion, often rather too long), and you will eventually find items like these.

This is what the job of the clothes designer is all about: making people happy. For example, I have written in a previous blog about how I dreamed for years of a gorgeous sheepskin coat - and then James Lakeland created one so much better than I had ever desired. And this is far from an isolated case. Many times I have looked at an Anna Scholz item (like her long stretch-silk wrap dress from last winter) and thought ‘at last’!

Somehow, by osmosis, our personal clothes wish-list seeps into fashion’s collective subconscious. Keep looking long enough and you may well surprise yourself. And the deep satisfaction of finding the item that you always wanted, rendered in such a way that it exceeds your wildest expectations, is a source of great joy.

In fact, one of the things you have always wanted is probably in a store somewhere right now!



 

Liz Rylance    Wednesday 18 August 2010 at 16:42

 Post #154 



 
Subject: What a success!

Hi Emma & Jaq

I just had to drop you a line ('FINALLY' I hear you shout) to thank you for the 2 wonderful floaty tops and the absolutely stunning hatband that I bought from you recently. What a wonderful way to spend a few hours - thank you!

Needless to say, the hatband and top were a huge success at the wedding, worn with the lovely jade/turquoise wide leg trousers that I bought earlier in the year and a gorgeous turquoise swimming cossy to protect my modesty! Yes, believe it or not, I AM modest ;-)

Please ring me (as usual) if you get anything in that is 'me'.

Love to you both
Liz x

 

 Emma    Wednesday 18 August 2010 at 19:18

Hi Liz

Thank you for your post. You looked lovely in that outfit; I'm not surprised it went down well. I'm really glad you had it.

I will always think of you in turquoise... it really suits you!

Darker versions of this colour are the 'in' shades this autumn/winter, so I think you will love this season.

It's a very dangerous thing to ask us to phone you 'if' we get anything in that will suit you... expect to get called some time soon!
 

Wardah J Bakr (Saidi)    Tuesday 01 June 2010 at 01:21

 Post #138 



 
Subject: Locals who carry any of your line?

 

Hi Ms. Emme,
I am in the US and expect to retire soon. I plan to return to the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) hopefully in 2012. I was hoping that perhaps there were some places here in the USA that possibly carry maybe a few of your items? Thanks!

 

 Emma    Tuesday 01 June 2010 at 10:32

Hi Wardah

Thank you for asking this question on the forum. It's one I get asked a lot, and I really think it will help to have the answer to this connundrum here!

As we do not produce clothes, and exist only as a retailer, it's arguable that we actually have a 'line' as such. The collection we have is a selection from all the designer's lines that we carry. We don't sell to anyone other than our own customers (yet), so in some ways we would not be able to help you, unless you were here in our store.

However, as usual, nothing is quite as simple as this... nor as disappointing. If I were in a different part of the world and found that I really liked the content of a website like ours, I would use it as the base for a bit of research.

I would start to look through the designer names that the store stocks. For instance, if you see an image on my site that you like, then find out the designer's name (you can always post on the forum - we are always more than happy to help). So then you'll have the name of a designer that you know you like (for the sake of argument let's say Anna Scholz).

The next step would be to Google that name. This would bring up Anna's website. Some designers actually sell directly from their websites, so you now have access to their range!

But we all know that buying mail-order really is not a very good way to acquire designer clothes, so your next step would be to ask this designer if they sell to an outlet in the region of your choice.

If they do, then you have struck gold. Because if that store sells one really good collection, they probably sell others! In a single swoop you may have homed-in on one of the only stores in the entire country that sells what you like. If this first attempt fails, try again until you are successful. I do believe that, using this technique, you will turn up the best stores in any location now.

Hoorah for the internet!
 

 Kim P    Thursday 03 June 2010 at 11:06

 
It was through viewing the stockists listed on the Anna Scholz website that I discovered Emma Plus!

 

 Emma    Thursday 03 June 2010 at 21:28

Hi Kim-

And the rest is history!
 

Emma    Tuesday 18 May 2010 at 16:04

 Post #136 



 
Subject: Size matters...

Before our recent fashion show we spread out all our accessories and had a high old time selecting the right items to complete the looks that the models would be wearing. There was plenty to choose from... at Emma Plus we do quite a wide range of accessories to co-ordinate with our clothing ranges.

When I first started at the store I really wasn’t anticipating that I would be providing accessories, because I felt it was so difficult to find beautiful clothes in larger sizes, that that should take priority.

When you first think about it, buying the right accessories should be the easiest thing a larger woman can achieve for her wardrobe. After all, every street corner seems to have a shop providing beautiful handbags, jewellery, scarves, shawls, etc., yet women often have to travel for hours to get to a store that will sell them the clothes to go with them!

However, I have discovered that providing the correct accessories to go with our range in store is key. So over the years we have sourced suppliers that create exactly the right look for the larger woman... and one that is very specific to our requirements.

For instance, many of our scarves are specially made for us, to our own design. One of our designers, Jennifer Lumer, creates wonderful bias-cut scarves in a shape and unique design that is so practical for the larger woman. They are lightweight, yet quite long, and open out so that they can be worn as a shawl (essential if you find that you have to take your jacket off, yet are self-conscious about showing your arms). They are also cut very narrowly at the back of the neck, so they will not create extra heat and bulk when worn as a scarf, and will help to make your neck look longer.

For many years we have been specially commissioning necklaces from designers all over the world. This enables us to get the colours that tone with our range (and eliminates the need for our customers to adopt the time-honoured ‘trudging the pavement’ ceremony associated with trying to find the right colour of necklace to match a new outfit).

However, the single most important feature of all our accessories is that of scale. Our bags, scarves and necklaces are subtly selected to effortlessly reflect the larger scale of our size range.

I was reminded of the importance of this over the weekend. During May, Brighton has its arts festival. And Brighton festival means the ‘Artists’ Open Houses’ - a wonderful local event whereby the artists and craftspeople of Brighton open their doors to the public to buy their wares. I can thoroughly recommend it to all my customers, as I know a high proportion of them are very interested in design.

At one such open house I spotted a beautiful silver necklace, which I tried on with a view to buying it myself as a treat. When I had put it on, however, I was a little disappointed. It was gorgeous (two silver swallows, all hand made, delicately flying on a silver chain). However, it did not seem to be quite as lovely as the one being worn by the artist herself. This necklace, although identical in every other way, was considerably larger. I would have said that the chain was at least 4 or 5 centimetres longer, and the birds probably a third bigger. I asked the jeweller if I could commission her to make me a necklace just like the one she was wearing.

She looked at me with surprise, and took her necklace off; laying it side by side with the one I had been trying on. The two necklaces were exactly the same. Because I was a larger woman than the designer, the proportions of her piece looked entirely different on each of us. Although the size looked perfect on her, it was too small for me.

It was a confirmation of the need to select all aspects of one’s look with care - not just with reference to colour, fashion and style, but also with careful attention to size and proportion. Something professional stylists have known for years...

 

Emma    Monday 03 May 2010 at 22:49

 Post #133 



 
Subject: We've come a long way, baby!

Seems funny to think back on it now, but for some years I lived in a country where most of the women I sold clothes to tended to abide by quite a strict rule of modesty.

By this, I mean that it was not thought seemly for my customers to show anything much of their bodies, and very often they were put under powerful social pressure (and sometimes internal pressure!) to be extremely demure in their dress. Mainly dressed in black or other dark shades, they wore all-enveloping garments, which showed-off their shape to the minimum, and almost none of their flesh.

So the garments that we had to stock in that store were, in the main, dark coloured and rather shapeless. The main purpose of most of the clothing seemed to be to disguise the shape, rather than to express or flatter it. Skirts were as long as possible, almost floor-length, and wide... a long pleated skirt was a sought-after style because it expressed almost nothing of a woman’s shape and, even then, they were often worn with a slip underneath. Blouses were never low-necked (heaven forbid there be any cleavage on show), and sleeves were always either full- or three-quarter length. Jackets were baggy, shapeless and long. Many, many women considered it to be completely inappropriate to wear trousers at all.

The customers who did feel free to wear more revealing clothing were sometimes frowned upon, and some of them told me that they had to endure some kind of moral censure from friends and family when they ventured out in their (relatively tame, by our standards) less repressive looks in public.

I did try very hard to buy beautiful, sexy, relevant, fashion-forward looks for the store I was working in at the time, but it was an uphill struggle to come by the kind of clothing I was seeking. I wasn’t looking for anything too outré... I was just wanting to stock something relevant; not the new Lady Gaga wardrobe!

Time after time agents and designers told me I was on a hiding to nothing: no-one would want to wear anything that pushed the envelope. Even if the customer had enough self-confidence to be able to ‘flaunt’ herself, the social pressure would be too great, and she would be too uncomfortable to enjoy her more liberated look.

Wow, you may be thinking... where is this country, and what was it that caused this restrictive style of dress? We often find that different religions can expect such modesty from women. Fundamental Christians, strict Muslims and Jewish women often choose this sort of fashion language... did I live in a country populated by one or several of these groups?

Of course, the answer is that the shop I worked for was in Brighton, United Kingdom. It was actually in the exact location of the store I now inhabit. The date was 1990... only 20 years ago. My customers were large women then, as they are today. And at that time, whilst the slim girls were wearing miniscule tight skirts - showing their midrifts or in super-short sweater dresses with towering high heels - the larger women were expected to cover up.

The truth is, when I first started in plus-size fashion in this country, larger women were expected to be invisible. Or I should say, the shape and flesh of their bodies were not considered to be decorous enough to be on show. Most of the styles we sold at the time were demure to the point of being yashmaks. Quite seriously, most of the looks could have been worn by community nuns.

Nowadays, we have got used to the fact that the shape of larger women can be beautiful, and that their flesh can be as lovely as any human flesh. And (perhaps more importantly, for most of us women) even when we are not beautiful, we are lovely, and it is our birthright to be as visible as anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t feel the need to show myself off, warts and all. Actually, in my opinion, a lot of the skill of a fashion stylist is to hide or disguise those parts of one’s physique that are not (shall we say) in prime condition. I, for instance (in common with many women over 40, whether they be large or small), would rather stick pins in my eyes than show off my upper arms.

However, there are certain assets that I am more than happy to display, and I have found a way of showing my figure to its best advantage. There really is no need for any woman to try to 'anonymise' herself by draping her physique in what amounts to a dust-sheet!

Consumer pressure has brought many of the designers on line, and new, sexy collections have erupted on to our scene. Now that there are more larger, younger women, social pressure has been turned on its head, and women are not only allowed, but positively expected to make the best of their looks.

Larger women are seen as sexy, sassy beings, and there is no need to hide themselves away unless they choose to do so. We have come such a long way, in such a relatively short space of time.

 

Emma    Tuesday 06 April 2010 at 01:10

 Post #128 



 
Subject: Turning back the clock

Not all expensive clothes last longer than cheap ones. Expensive designer clothes are often made of tender, gorgeous fabrics. They can have fine, delicate surface finishes... or construction details that speak more to aesthetics than utility.

For example, an invisible hem can be a fragile way of finishing the bottom of a garment. The ultra-fine thread is carefully drawn across the hem, catching tiny pieces of fabric at regular intervals. It’s possible that this hem will last a lifetime. However, if you are unlucky, you can break the thread and the hem will need to be replaced. The designer has not chosen this method for its durability. If that had been the intention then a good, robust double-seam would have been used. This hem has been carefully selected as the perfect way of making a garment look 'effortless' and 'pure'.

Expensive fabrics can also have a shorter life than cheap ones. Let’s face it, if you would like a garment to last a lifetime you would construct it from thick polyester. Something, say, like crimpeline (a heavyweight knitted polyester) would be perfect. I once watched a Marks and Spencer staff uniform, made from such a fabric (the sleeve of which had got caught in the door of a giant industrial washing-machine), spinning backwards and forwards at enormous speed for an hour or so. It came out of the wash in perfect condition. This would not have been the case if the garment had been made out of the finest cotton lawn.

Yet, despite this, designer clothes do tend to last considerably longer than high-street clothes. This is because they are much better made, and the fabrics have been developed to perform as well as possible, within the confines of their natural limitations. Designer clothes are also 'fashion forward', which means than even after several years, they will not look dated.

Many of the clothes that I sell will be worn many dozens of times while they remain ‘smart’, but there is more to them that this. They may go on to have several lives.

The first life is that of the treasured, beautiful, trendy garment. This is the ‘go-to’ item when you want to look good, and you need your clothes to make a statement about yourself. It is your top look.

Then, after several years, the garment becomes an everyday staple. You would wear it to the office on a normal day.

Inevitably, the item then becomes the ‘old friend’: something worn around the house. It is so comfortable that you are happy to do the gardening in it.

Eventually, the garment is sent off to the charity shop, where another larger woman swoops on it and takes it home as a treasured find, and it starts a whole new existence. It's perhaps not surprising to learn that the ecological pressure group, Friends of the Earth, has done research that has found better-quality fashion items to be kinder to the environment over time.

I was rummaging through one of my cupboards the other day and pulled out an old treasure that had fallen on hard times. It was a Persona knitted jacket, from about six or seven years ago.

It had had rather a hard life. I'd loved it when it was new, and wore it often in the shop. Persona is an Italian range whose quality is legendary. It is a cashmere mix - as light as swan-down, and warm and soft as puppies’ ears. The colour is incredibly fashion-forward, a kind of pinky-purple. Even the embroidery on the back (in a petrol blue and lime green) was prescient of the embellishments that have come into vogue over the years since its creation. It came with a matching silk shirt (long since given to one of my friends) and shawl.

It has never looked unfashionable in all the time I have had it, yet it suffered from something for which it was in no way to blame: I put on weight, and no longer felt that I could carry it off at work. But it was so beautiful I couldn’t rid myself of it, and it was so comfortable I felt it calling me as a snuggly (perhaps a little too snug!) everyday warmer to wear around the house.

So that is exactly how it has lived its life for the past four or five years. I have done the housework in it. I have walked the dog in it. I have (it seems from the available evidence) cooked and eaten spaghetti bolognaise in it!

When I took it out of my cupboard the other day it presented a rather sorry sight. There were dog hairs... there were stains... and bobbles. It looked as if the charity shop was calling for it.

However, it is such a beautiful garment and so on-trend at the moment, that I just couldn’t bring myself to let it go, particularly as - now that I had lost the weight - it fitted me again. I decided to try to turn back time.

It was too late to gently wash it by hand with a wool detergent: that horse had bolted. So I washed it in my washing-machine, with plenty of Vanish on the marks. When it had dried I carefully removed the dog-hairs using Sellotape. Then I used my trusty de-piller, bought from John Lewis, to remove the bobbles. I carefully pressed it, and then looked at my handiwork.

It had returned to what I would call ‘excellent vintage’ condition. When I put it on I was so glad that I had my lovely old friend back again. I will really enjoy wearing it to work once more with pride, and I will be happy to watch it start its life all over again.

This jacket was an expensive garment: Persona is one of our highest-end collections. I doubt if it was any less than £150 when I bought it. However, if you were to tot-up how many times I have (and will) wear this garment, it works out at just a few pence per wear. And each time I was spending that few pence, I was enjoying a beautiful, fashion-forward, comfortable work of art.

I would rather be wearing that than a garment that was cheaper to invest in at the outset, yet which would have a much shorter, less comfortable, less aesthetically pleasing, and ultimately less economically sound life.

 

Angie    Wednesday 02 December 2009 at 23:03

 Post #96 



 
Subject: leather coat.

 
I have searched the web far and wide to find a decent leather coat in the U.K.
I am looking for a hooded 3/4 length parka, or duffle style, and although I found just what I was looking for in America, do you think I can find one here?
We have places like Simply be, who offer fashionable leather jackets that end just under the bust. Could you imagine what I would look like in one of those, with my size 48 boobs???
I am a good size U.K.22

 

 Emma    Thursday 03 December 2009 at 15:13

 
Hi Angie

Thanks for your post. The simple answer to your question is no, I am not aware of anywhere in the UK that you could rely on for buying a coat like the one you describe - or, in fact, any really nice leather items in larger sizes - and I find this very disappointing. If an online supplier of good leather coats in larger sizes exists, then I have not heard of it. Perhaps if any other user of this forum has some information on this subject, they will reply to this post...

You really would think that what you are looking for (a good, useful, stylish leather coat, in what is actually not a very large size) would be readily available in the UK. I guess the Americans are ahead of us in some areas!

Designer stores like ours are one of the only ways to source a really good leather coat, but they are a fringe item in our ranges. We would commonly only stock a very small quantity of styles, and finding the one that ‘lights your fire’ and is available at any one given time, is a bit of a long-shot. We don’t have any leather coats in stock at the moment, I’m afraid.

In general terms I do feel that you have touched upon a real difficulty - i.e. the problem one encounters when trying to get something quite specific in larger sizes. When customers contact us with this kind of enquiry, the way that we deal with it is to try to source something specifically for a customer, but I would be the first person to admit that this is a far from perfect system.

What we would do is find out exactly what it is that the customer wants (it could be anything from a corset to a leather coat to a sweater dress), discuss details such as price point, colour, size, etc., check our stock, and then, if we don’t have it, note the item down in our ‘Wish List’. Then we would see if there is anything similar available from our suppliers.

Sometimes it can take up to two seasons to actually get the desired item, so it is a good idea to opt for a belt-and-braces approach, and still actively search online even while you are waiting.

I would give a word of warning, though. With items like a leather coat it is best to buy a very good quality item, spending as much as you can reasonably afford. Mail-order items are often a real let-down in this area. This sounds like the kind of thing a designer shop-owner would say, of course, but truly, I think it is all too often a false economy to choose the mail-order option.

I think you may have already pinpointed one of the problems of mass-availability items: design. Many of the larger companies show a shocking ignorance as to what suits a larger woman (no, by the way, I don’t think a short jacket usually looks good on a larger bust!). The other thing that is supremely important in an item made of leather is the quality of the hide. A stiff, cardboardy leather is never going to be a pleasure to wear, no matter how many times it gets an outing. In fact, it will only usually look worse with wear.

Alternatively, if you were able to wait, reach out to your favourite designer large-size store, and buy a really good quality item as soon as it is available, it will be worth it. A quality leather coat is a real investment. It’s a very practical piece of apparel that's wonderful come rain or shine. A designer coat will be fashion-forward - giving you a great deal of aesthetic satisfaction, and is likely to be in a classic or individual style that will not date. Best of all, unlike other materials, the leather will improve over time.

Unfortunately, I am only too aware this is one of my replies that goes all round the houses without actually helping you with your specific problem - for which I apologise! The only bright spot is that I truly believe that availability of a wide range of items in our size range is improving. It is up to all of us to keep on asking for what we want - we need to drive home to the manufacturers out there that the demand for these kinds of items exists!

 

Emma    Monday 26 October 2009 at 01:08

 Post #85 



 
Subject: The journey

 
As many women reading this will already know, you don’t always go to a designer clothes shop just to buy some clothes. That’s the main purpose, of course; even with recent improvements in the high street brands, the independent store still remains the prime source of fashion.

You can simply go into a shop, quietly select the clothing of your choice, try it on in a peaceful environment, make the purchase, then just go home. There are many women who choose to do exactly this, and are very happy.

Most women, however, whether they know it or not, are actually using another service provided by this kind of store... the service of a skilled stylist.

What does a stylist do? Most of us have seen a certain type of fashion stylist at work on television. This kind of stylist will normally take a woman who has avowedly no interest in fashion (and, often, shocking taste) and do a makeover on her - seemingly turning her into a completely different person.

Often this changeling not only ends up looking different, but also ‘benefits’ from a complete emotional overhaul, usually (apparently) against her will. She ‘goes on a journey’... No region of her body is held sacrosanct from prying eyes, cameras and often hands, and all areas of her psyche, no matter how private (or apparently irrelevant), are probed. The all-knowing stylist will brook no opposition, and by the end of the programme the transformation is complete. It has to be said that the participant usually looks younger and much more stylish as a result of the process - but often more than a little shell-shocked and browbeaten.

It’s not for the fainthearted - and that’s just the viewers! I do enjoy these programmes, and I feel they fulfil a purpose. They give ideas and advice that we women can put into practice in our own lives.

The enjoyment is a rather guilty one, however. It’s a kind of fashion blood sport; a modern take on throwing Christians to the lions for public entertainment. The original woman, shown in all her bad fashion and 'old hag' hair, with 'mad woman' makeup and gnarley teeth, is cruelly exhibited for our titillation and disgust. The stylist is seen as the all-powerful force for good. And the transformation is magical.

This could not be further removed from the work of the stylist in her everyday life in a fashion store. For a start, the women who call on her advice and help are far from being fashion-challenged. They are usually the most stylish women in any given population. This is, after all, one of the locations where all the most fashionable women buy their clothes, although by no means are these the only people that frequent the fashion store. Most customers have a less maintained look than the diehard fashionista (and are real women who actually have a life, after all), but they don't have hag hair. And their makeup does not scare small children.

The customers of a designer store emphatically do not need a makeover... so why do they require the services of a stylist? These are women who know what suits them and get a lot of joy out of dressing well. By and large, if they could not find a stylist to help them, they would still look great.

However, there is no denying that a really good fashion stylist is a very useful tool in the important task of looking fabulous. She is the 'go-to' person when you are looking for something particular that you really can’t live without. (Need that little black dress for your pear-shaped figure? Or that pair of velvet trousers? Or the business suit for the important interview?) Even if it is not in stock anywhere, your friend in the store will move heaven and earth to obtain it for you.

Perhaps you just aren’t sure about something... does your bum look big in this pencil skirt? You know that she will subtly steer you clear of fashion faux pas.

She makes her living by being your secret weapon in outshining the thin girls in the office at the Christmas do - just when you were about to feel a bit intimidated about finding the right thing to wear.

She will also tirelessly dig through all the tops to find the one that goes with the skirt you love. And she will magic-up a colour that goes perfectly - and is on trend.

She has no other agenda than to make you look good. After all, if you look good, she looks good. Your psyche is none of her concern, and she will keep her hands and eyes off your private areas. She’s in your corner. She does not compete with you, judge you or browbeat you.

And the only journey she will expect you to go on is into the changing room for a jolly good trying on session...

 

 Liz Rylance    Monday 26 October 2009 at 09:18

Good morning Emma
I just had to respond to your comments on the 'stylist' Emma. Before I found your wonderful shop I wouldn't have been able to relate to this at all but for the last 15 or so years that has all changed. Whenever I come into Emma+ I KNOW that I am going to have a wonderful time both socially and as a shopping experience. You and Jaq find a fantastic selection of clothes for me to try on some of which are well outside my 'comfort zone' but thank goodness for that! Thanks to your knowledge I have worn so many more colours and styles - even - shock horror - a white linen long jacket (one of my absolute favourites)! Me? In white? Surely not? Oh yes, and it makes me feel fantastic :-)
So thank you both for opening up the world of fashion to me. Long may you reign!
 

 Emma    Monday 26 October 2009 at 09:36

 
Hi Liz

Thank you so much for your kind comments. When I referred to stylish women who get joy out of looking good you were just the kind of woman I was talking about!

 

 Lara in Melbourne    Friday 30 October 2009 at 15:13

 
Hi again from the antipodes.

Emma, Jaq; please consider a relocation. The weather's lovely :) Sitting in the lounge with the aircon charged, and it's only October. Time to get the lighter gear out for comfort.

Reading your discussions on stylists was intriguing; I'm bordering on a career change, and a land purchase (with a view to dropping a house on the block at some stage; all too scary to deal with :) )

It's makeover time. I need to drag myself out of the "special pieces are for special times" mindset that my current job, working from home, has allowed me to slip into (well, and that I've allowed myself to fall into), and get back to "I want to look fabulous every day!"

Odd how the prospect of additional money makes me want to present myself at my best, when at the moment I'm prepared to have only one or two "special" pieces which are brought out only for "good". Why should I not feel "good", every day?

To be honest, I have no idea why I've let myself bumble my way into only owning one or maybe, at a push, two outfits I'd be pleased to be seen in in public. The rest are "acceptable", or "not embarrassed" to be seen in. Not a great start. I need to be more brave, and ditch the stuff which makes me feel less than fabulous. I need to make the effort. For me.

I'm looking forward to the transformation my change in circumstances and responsibilities will bring. I've started with the basics: nails and hair. Next is a full rework of my makeup. After that, it's time for the "real world" clothes . And then I can adjust the hair, nails and makeup to match the package. I can't wait :)

Wishing I was in the UK, because I know exactly where I would be spending my next Saturday. Hell, I'd bring the bottle of bubbles for effect.

Best wishes, and hoping everything is running smoothly,
Lara

 

 Emma    Saturday 31 October 2009 at 15:53

 
Hi Lara

Thank you so much for your post. I don’t know whether you realise this, but to the reader what you have written comes over as very inspirational!

All the time I see women in similar positions to the one you describe. This is often what brings a customer into our store for the first time.

There is sometimes a moment in life when things start to move forward and change, and you realise that you have the opportunity to shape the kind of person you are going to be in the years ahead. To use an Aussie analogy, it’s a wave that has come along, and you can choose to catch it and ride it for a while.

These are really precious moments - and can be the source from which a lot of different opportunities spring. If your instinct is to develop an aspect of yourself, then I would definitely go for it.

Fifteen years ago I was made redundant from a job I loved. I had little money, and the economy was tanking. For some unknown reason, instead of being depressed I felt liberated. I took over the shop and reinvented myself into the kind of person that I am most happy with.

It was a scary time, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I wish you the very best, and I hope that you move forward towards where you want to be. I only wish I was there to see it...

 

Emma    Sunday 04 October 2009 at 17:56

 Post #81 



 
Subject: Navel gazing

When reading the way fashion is written about in newspapers and magazines, one sees the various angles from which this subject is usually tackled.

There are journalists that talk about fashion from the top down, and examine the influence of the most famous designers from their shows in New York, Paris, London and Milan. Alternatively, there are writers that concentrate on what is happening on the high street, or the youths that create street fashion.

Some journalists get obsessed with the influence of the economy on clothing trends, whilst others turn to politics (high heels as seen from a feminist angle, anyone?).

You can read articles about what women should wear at any particular age. And there have been many helpful stories about the best looks for people with various different coloured complexions, and body shapes.

However, there is one huge area of fashion that seems to be virtually ignored by the learned fashion writer. I’m talking about the massive impact that personality or psychology has upon what an individual is prepared to wear, and the look one is trying to achieve.

What kind of thing am I referring to? One important issue is: do you dress for yourself or for others? How confident are you?

For instance, imagine yourself in this situation. You are standing in front of, say, 50 people - all strangers - wearing an outfit that you are particularly pleased with, and feeling good. Then you find out that the people with you are going to be asked to comment on your clothes.

How does that make you feel? Are you relaxed? Confident? Do you have any idea what the people are likely to say? Will their opinion override your own? Indeed, is this whole scenario your worst nightmare?

So the 50 people all proceed to have their say on your outfit. Of that number, imagine that 49 agree with your own analysis of your style. The general consensus is that you are looking hot. Your look hits the spot - it’s fashionable, stylish and suits you.

However, there is one person among the 50 who has a different opinion. She feels that you are looking frumpy, lumpy and stumpy.

Be honest with yourself: would you actually be more likely to listen to that one dissenting voice, simply because it is being critical? Are hers the comments that you will take home with you? Do you find it easier to accept criticism than praise? Maybe that is what you are actually listening for?

Actually, are you your own worst critic? Even if everyone admires the way you look, do you still doubt yourself?

Perhaps you take an almost scientific, dispassionate view. To have the huge percentage of people agreeing that you look wonderful speaks volumes about how you are seen by others. And that one disapproving observer? Well, we all know that there is simply no pleasing some people!

On the other hand, are you the kind of person who can stand your ground, even if the proportion of approval to disapproval were reversed? Imagine that out of 50 people asked to comment, 49 felt that you were not dressed successfully, and only one felt that you looked superb. Would you simply smile, shrug and quietly realize that you were in the company of philistines, with the exception of one enlightened person?

Perhaps you would delight in their disapproval of your clothes, because nothing makes you happier than to be a rebel, with your own renegade style?

Or, if you were told that a group of people were going to make a comment on your fashion sense, would you simply not want to hear what they had to say, because you would find it tedious and pointless? You have no interest whatsoever in what people think you look like (we could call this the Anne Widdecombe attitude).

Do you get impatient with all this navel-gazing, and feel that we should snap out of it?

A woman’s reaction to these issues is key to the kind of look she is trying to achieve. Yet very often she has never really given any conscious thought to them. This is a major cause of confusion and frustration in my business.

There are women who know they look good in various colours and styles, and who feel that they ‘ought’ to wear them - yet find something standing in their way. Friends try to encourage them to break out of their safety zone, but they are unable or unwilling to do so. The obstacle is coming from within themselves.

Then there are women would love to try a more colourful, exciting, perhaps more revealing style, but instead stick to dull colours and demure shapes, which draw less attention (and less judgement) upon themselves. They are feeling pressure from others.

I think that, when it comes to buying clothes, you have to think about more than just your body shape and colour suitability. You have to understand, embrace and develop your own psychological makeup with reference to your look. Because although your body and skin may slip effortlessly into a chic, colourful and distinctive style, your psyche may have to be shoe-horned into it - with real mental discomfort!

The only way to deal with this is to meet it head on. To look at how you would like to dress, and what is standing in your way. You may decide that you really have nothing to fear and should ditch some of your inhibitions, embarking on making a radical new departure.

However, you may conclude that your tried and tested style has stood you in good stead, and has given you a welcome comfort blanket which has helped you in your life. Stepping outside this safety zone would not be worth the net gains... you have a busy life to get on with!

Either way, it’s worth knowing that it is a choice that you make each day of your life. In fact it is never too late to change, and I know from personal experience that real people do so all the time. The results can be truly life-altering!

It would be a good idea to think about what you are up against, though. Because if you find that for every 50 people voicing admiration for your look, you always seem to hear one negative opinion, it may be worth checking out the source of that one critical voice.

It may just be coming from inside your own head.

 

Emma    Tuesday 28 April 2009 at 11:28

 Post #32 



 
Subject: Retail rivalry

 
Many women choose to come into the shop alone - to set about the serious business of clothes buying unencumbered by a companion. These are women who do not feel the need to consult with husband, friend, or family member when buying their outfits.

But most women do, at some point or other, bring someone in with them in order to get a second opinion. Or an only opinion if they are one of those individuals who have difficulty formulating an idea about how they look for themselves.

I’m not saying this facetiously; it can be very difficult to know how you look in something. You are sometimes, quite literally, too close to the subject to be able to form an objective view. Believe it or not, I've been there myself!

The staff here at the shop can offer such a view, but ironically, this can be a little bit too objective. For example, we may be able to see whether a customer physically looks good in an item of clothing, but we cannot judge whether it is the correct image or personality for her.

One may be forgiven for thinking that all that matters is that someone looks lovely in something - surely there can be no better reason for wearing anything? This was my view when I first worked in fashion, but I was soon disabused of it. In the early days there were several times when I was disappointed to hear that a customer had never worn an outfit that I had sold to her, despite the fact that she looked gorgeous in it.

This is because these early looks did not always take account of a customer’s personality. If a woman has a quiet, timid personality, there really is no point in persuading her to have a bright red suit in her wardrobe, even if she looks knockout in it. This is because the suit will in all probability remain firmly in the wardrobe, for the very reason that she looks knockout in it! Not every woman wants heads to turn when she enters the room, even in admiration. This particular modest and self-effacing woman would get much more use out of a grey suit teamed with a red blouse, for example, and maybe a dash of red lipstick and co-ordinating scarf. It won’t be knockout, of course, but that’s the point. It will be subtle and easy for her to wear, yet still with a hint of the scarlet that will light up her skin.

So this is where the shopping companion comes into his or her own. He or she, presumably, knows the customer well, and can really help with the selection of an outfit.

But it is well to choose this companion with care. If you are relying on their opinion, you will need to have someone who has good taste and judgement... and motives that gel with your own.

I have had occasion to watch shopping companions over the years and they make a very interesting field of study. Some of them are talented at styling their friends. Many of them are incredibly kind and supportive. Some are incompetent. And a few have rather strange motives.

I have seen, for example, sisters and female friends sit on my sofa and shoot down in flames the most beautiful outfits you can imagine. And I have, on several occasions, had those shopping colleagues take me aside, and quietly tell me why. Apparently, there are people out there that believe it is their duty not to ‘encourage’ their friend/relative to buy anything nice ‘whilst they are this size’ - for fear of taking away their incentive to lose weight. So no matter how lovely a woman looks in something, their companion has already decided that they are going to try to put them off it. In fact, the more gorgeous the woman looks at this size, the more she must be slapped down - ‘for her own good’. It just wouldn’t do for her to feel really good about herself as she is now!

In all honesty, I don’t think this has as much to do with us being a large-size store, as it may look at first glance. Before Emma Plus, I worked in various other branches of retail, and I have noticed a certain rivalry that can surface between shopping companions of any size. And this rivalry does not just have to involve clothes - a similar situation can arise even when someone is buying a sofa!

You can tell from what I am saying what I think of these ‘virtuous’ motives. I’m sorry to say I have a cynical view of them. I think they have more to do with flaws in human nature, rather than with someone being concerned about a friend’s BMI. I may be the one accused of being cynical, but I believe I know what good intentions look like. Despite the bewildering phenomenon that is Gillian McKeith, most intelligent women don’t really think that bringing someone else’s self esteem down will help them in their life in any way - and my customers and their friends tend to be very intelligent women.

I have seen friends run around the shop and seek out the loveliest outfits, tirelessly attempting to help create the perfect look. I have been there when two sisters, working perfectly as a team, have sifted the options until they have found great looks for each other. I have seen daughters giving their mums the most enthusiastic advice about the latest directional clothes, and nearly crying with delight when they see they have helped her bring out the best in herself. Believe it or not, I've actually seen a work colleague secretly club together with others in their office in order to buy a woman the dress she really loved. That’s what good intentions look like.

Luckily, the resilience of the female shopper is usually great to behold. Most times, bogus objections are swept away by the awesome force of good sense and a really superb look.

And if they are not, there is always another day, and perhaps another shopping companion. And next time let's hope it will be one of the good ones...

 

Emma    Monday 23 March 2009 at 17:24

 Post #21 



 
Subject: Shopping

 
I hate clothes shopping. There, I’ve said it. I know it will be a very shocking thing for many of my customers to hear.

When I tell people I hate shopping, they tend to be surprised. I do own a retail outlet, after all! I get the impression that some people think I am a bit of a hypocrite to be a shop owner if I hate shopping myself. But I believe this to be an ideal qualification.

When one analyses what constitutes shopping for clothes, it doesn’t sound like there’s anything to dislike. It should entail leaving the house and travelling to a retail outlet where there is plenty of choice, choosing items to try on, selecting the desired purchase, paying, and returning home with lots of goodies. What’s not to love about this process?

If only...

When I go shopping, nothing seems to work like this. First there is the trailing around loads of different shops, pounding the pavement, looking for places that sell the correct size. There are thousands and thousands of shops dedicated to selling small sizes. These are businesses engaged in jostling for market share in the overcrowded section of the fashion industry, selling items for the minority of women who appear to have all the choice. Yet there is a dearth of shops selling items in my size. I would have thought that my money is the same as anyone else’s, but it is not competed for on the high street in anywhere near the same way.

Eventually I find a large store, enter it, and immediately start to find lots of tiny irritations that end up building into a giant headache.

For instance, it’s difficult to find a specific size, or to find matching items in an unfamiliar shop floor layout. I look around for advice, and there appear to be no staff anywhere. As a retailer, I find this bizarre. What is there then to prevent theft? I push these thoughts aside and battle on.

The rails are overcrowded, and the hangers are the standard ones for small clothes. This means that as soon as I try to pull an item off the rail to look at it, several other items slide onto the floor. There follows the guilty 10 seconds when I contemplate leaving them there. I know that if I try to put these large clothes back on the insufficiently large hangers, they will simply slide off again.

The shop itself is overcrowded with stock. Rails are squeezed in everywhere - meaning that you can't see the wood for the trees - and manoeuvring around the rails is annoying.

It’s also very hot and there is nowhere that I can put down my coat, so I have to lug it around. My feet are swollen, and I could really do with a sit down and a cup of tea. This, of course, is an absurd notion. I am far too busy having fun shopping to take refreshments!

The changing room is tiny and ill lit. The view of the mirror is too close-up to be able to make an informed, yet private, decision. There are not enough hooks, and no chair to sit-in whilst I try the trousers on. To add to my delight, there is loud, jangling music blaring overhead. There is a bizarre mis-match between the ultra-loud, ultra-trendy music that seems aimed at teenagers, and the frumpy clothes aimed at an altogether older age group. This music, with the throbbing strip lighting, is putting me in a bit of a mood to say the least. I just hate this kind of experience.

As the Honda adverts say, hate can be a powerful force for good. When arranging my shop, I have tried to think about all of these disagreeable aspects (and more) - to make a more comfortable shopping experience. I have made larger, brighter changing rooms, with everything you need inside. I have bought flock hangers that grip the clothes - so nothing ever slides off. I have placed the rails further apart, sorted out the lighting (as best I can), quietened the music, provided a comfy chair (and husband-friendly space), sorted out the provision of teas and coffees. We’ve got staff who want to help and who know their stuff. The shop is as cool as I can get it, especially in summer. To top it all, I’ve also gone to amazing bother and expense of making sure our shop is next door to a large car park, so no pavement pounding is necessary.

I’m not saying it’s a perfect shopping experience, but we try. Actually, I believe that nothing qualifies you better to be a shop owner than a hatred of shopping.

 
 

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