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

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.


Emma    Monday 28 November 2011 at 17:40

 Post #257 

Subject: Shrinkage

I was channel hopping one night recently when I happened to turn on a popular TV soap, which I don’t normally watch. I was arrested by the face of an actress, who seemed extremely familiar. It appeared to be an acquaintance of mine. The thing was, I knew this television-woman couldn’t be the one whom I knew, because the actress on screen was a completely different size.

A few weeks later, I bumped into my acquaintance, and she confirmed that it had indeed been her that had starred in this episode (I hadn’t realised until then that she worked as an actress). I have to admit I was shocked, because the woman in front of me then was about five feet tall, and a size eight or ten, whereas the woman I had seen on the screen was probably five foot eight and a size sixteen. I know that the camera adds a stone of weight, but this was ridiculous. What on earth could have caused this temporary morphing from a petite person into an average-sized one? After mulling it over for a few moments, I was driven to one conclusion: all the actors on the soap were tiny, making this woman look much bigger in comparison. I couldn’t help wondering; did they have to build a special set to accommodate all those teenie-weenies…?

This is just one example of how size is a highly comparative issue, and I’m not sure if any of us really understands just how much this matters. When I was a schoolgirl, growing up in the seventies, I was huge. As a five-foot-eight and a half (the half was very important) size sixteen, with (shock, horror!) size seven-and-a-half feet, sixteen-year old, I stood out as a one of a kind. If you don’t believe me, I still have the school photograph to prove it. The picture shows our whole school year... Teenagers are lined up in three rows, in all their glorious nineteen-seventies bad hair and unflattering acrylic clothing: boys and girls looking strangely similar. And there am I, head and shoulders taller, and twice as wide as everyone else, towering like Shrek over the whole proceedings.

I often think of this scene as I drive past our local school in the mornings. There are many taller girls nowadays (we have been growing a centimeter taller every decade since the war), and a lot more generally larger and heavier people. A size 16 sixteen-year-old really is nothing to write home about now. Today, I can walk into every shoe shop and buy what I want (something I could only dream about when I was younger).

A similar thing happens in our shop every day. Women often ask me if we have flattering mirrors, because they feel they look so much slimmer. Obviously, one should take into account the effects of our beautiful clothes and fabulous styling (!), but it cannot be ignored that our shop is a plus-size space. The vast majority of people entering are larger people. Really, anyone below a size 20 looks child-sized; it's the ‘mainstream’ sized people who are out of scale - should they enter our portals.

This week the latest figures showed that a quarter of the women in our country are plus-sized (even though our TV programmes still don’t reflect this reality), and this is not something that is going to go away anytime soon. Whatever you feel about this, the reality is that we larger people are gaining in numbers all the time, and this is going to have a profound effect on how we look and feel, and how others view us. The world has changed, and is continuing to do so.


 Victoria Hollis    Tuesday 06 December 2011 at 21:49

I read this once again laughing Em

I was the 5.9 shoe size 8 and size 20 wearing 16 year old. Looking through all my school pictures I was the girl in the back row with the boys while all my petite classmates were in front.

Size is so much a matter of perception. A good example of this was Natalie Cassidy the eastenders actress I saw at the curves in couture show. To me she seemed tiny and delicate. In the press shes been battered for weight gain of late.

You can see how so many women end up hating themselves because they dont fit the so perfect shape being paraded in the press.


 Emma    Tuesday 06 December 2011 at 23:24

Hi Tori-

At the risk of sounding a bit paranoid, it does almost seem that there is a conspiracy in the media to pretend that we (as a population) are all tiny. Yet in fact we are as a nation are getting bigger and bigger.

I don't think I am alone in not feeling as large as I did years ago, because I know from personal experience that my customers are demanding and expecting a fashion-forward look more than ever before. I feel certain this is due to the normalising effect of the increase in our numbers.

All we need now is for the fashion industry to truly reflect this new reality....


Caroline Abram    Monday 24 January 2011 at 13:39

 Post #192 

Subject: Miranda Hart

Hi Emma,
Did you spot Miranda Hart's Anna Scholz dress that she wore when collecting her Comedy awards at the weekend? As soon as i saw her i turned to my husband and said ''i bet that's an Anna dress'' and of course, i was right!!! I am a huge fan, of both ladies, and can't wait to see the new spring collection in your shop. Any news on a date yet for the fashion show?
Look forward to my next visit very soon,


 Emma    Monday 24 January 2011 at 14:17

Hi Caroline

Thank you so much for your message - which hits the bullseye of two of my obsessions!

I love Miranda Hart, and I have been following everything she has done for years. There's something about her that just tickles my funny bone. I know it's really sad, but I have been toying with the idea of writing to the BBC to see if they will let me send her an invitation to come and visit our shop... any time, day or night! I think she would like our style...

Our fashion show with Anna Scholz is happening in April (another source of great excitement and enthusiasm for me). I will give out the exact dates just as soon as I get them. I really think it is going to be the event of the year. I just love what Anna has got in store for us this summer... On the right you'll see another showing of the photograph taken of Jaq and me (with the Anna Scholz model, Anna, and their sales director, Penny) trying on some of her gorgeous stretch silk dresses that will shortly be coming into store!

Miranda obviously likes Anna's clothes (she looked fabulous in the Triangle Anna Scholz dress receiving her award at the Comedy Awards), so who knows, she might even turn up!

Emma    Saturday 15 January 2011 at 13:06

 Post #187 

Subject: Real-sized models...

I am always interested in the images used by the fashion industry to sell their wares – which some would say is a rather blunt way of describing fashion photography. After all, it really is about selling, isn't it? Or are fashion images an art form? Don't they provide an aspirational, fantasy outlet for women’s imaginations? Surely, they are only obliquely commercial?

In my opinion, yes and no... The pictures created by the fashion industry are made for one reason: selling clothes. So in one way the answer is a clear no; it's an airy-fairy notion to think it is just art. It is highly commercial, and if the commerce behind the production of these images were not a profitable one, then they would pretty soon stop being published.

When we who work in clothes retail do our buying at the big fashion shows and fairs, we are bombarded with pictures of the items we are there to look at. Yes, the clever and artistic photographers and creative directors are using all their wonderful inspiration and skill to make images of female beauty... up to a point. When you speak to the agents, you are immediately struck by their emphasis on commercial concerns. Their first words often are: ''Do you like the main picture in our catalogue? Do you think it will encourage your customers to look at our range?''

Yet there is certainly an aspect of fashion images that is entirely fantastical, and nothing to do with reality. Top fashion models are often a size 6 – but they are usually over 5’ 10” tall. As the average British woman is 5’ 4”, and a size 16, this is obviously a 'fantasy version' of womankind.

I have so often heard it suggested that fashion images have to be 'aspirational', that I decided to look up exactly what that word meant. The list of synonyms is: ambition, goal, objective, target, hope, desire, wish and want. Hmmm. I would suggest that, for an average woman, the image of one of these models could hardly be described as 'aspirational'. 'Normal' women may (or may not) desire, wish or want to be this freakishly tall and thin – but it is surely not something that they could reasonably set as an ambition, or attainable target, or goal. Arguably, doing so would be very unhealthy.

I think that such obsession with the unattainable spreads right across the fashion industry, and our part of it (the plus-size specialist) is not spared. It has been said before on this forum that the pictures of plus-size clothes are often modelled by slim models. Ironically, the models used to promote plus-size clothing are far nearer to the average woman than they are to the plus-size community.

There are individuals and groups of women who are trying to redress the imbalance in what is promoted as beauty. I was recently looking at a website for the Real Bodies Unite Campaign. They have an on-line petition for women who would like to express their frustration at the images, which – when you think about it – are provided for us, and paid for by us... yet many of us find unsatisfying. Surely, we should be getting better representation from the fashion industry that serves us.

Sarah Jones, from Real Bodies puts it this way: ''I want to make a change to see body diversity in fashion so we can all feel happier in our own skin and be healthy whatever size or shape we are!''

For anyone interested in signing their on-line petition, the address is: http://100percentpeople.com/specials/real-bodies-unite-campaign


Emma    Thursday 02 December 2010 at 20:49

 Post #177 

Subject: Who wants to be a model?

I have been ‘away from my desk’ again... not playing truant, but suffering from another health problem that has necessitated yet another operation. It does seem like déjà vu, because I was in almost exactly the same situation this time last year, and was convalescing then as now during the ‘winter wonderland’ of a beautiful snow-bound England. Let’s face it (as some teachers may confirm), if you have to have some time off in the winter, it’s very lucky for it to coincide with the snow. One is able to enjoy the beauty of the seasonal weather without the worry of travelling anywhere in it!

One of the lovely things about being at home these days is the possibilities the internet provides for information and entertainment. I have been visiting my favourite sites, looking at the latest news and comment in the ‘on-line plus-size community’. There are a number of very interesting sites, like, for instance, Anna Scholz’s fascinating blog (www.blog.annascholz.com). I’m always interested to read what Anna has to say: she must surely be at the centre of the British plus-size fashion world.

Another site that I really like is called ‘Plus-Size Tall’ (www.plus-size-tall.com). I admire the support that these people give to the cause of plus-size and taller-fitting clothing. At the moment they have introduced a very exciting new competition, looking for a new plus-size model. The winning woman will be offered a trip to Las Vegas in February 2011, where she will ‘hit the catwalk’ at the Curvy Revolution, the world’s biggest plus-size fashion convention.

I am often asked by various organisations (usually TV companies) to mention to my customers some kind of competition or search for a larger woman who can take part in something-or-other. In general I take these searches with a pinch of salt; not all actually present a real, positive opportunity for larger women. However, in this case, I think what is on offer is a fantastic, exciting event for some lucky women. And most importantly, it is being run by a really good, genuine organisation that is truly interested in larger women’s fashion.

I hope that if someone reading my blog knows anyone who would be interested, they may mention it to them. I think it would be great fun, and I would love to hear the outcome!


Olga Gonzalez-Ramos    Wednesday 13 October 2010 at 15:58

 Post #169 

Subject: Loved your feature on www.Dailyvenusdiva.com


I loved reading about you and your eye for fashion. Just wanted to drop you a note saying 'thank you' for making these amazing designs for me to wear at a size 22/24. Wishing you all the best and keep making our curves look sexy and elegant.

Curvaciously Yours,
Olga Gonzalez-Ramos


 Emma    Wednesday 13 October 2010 at 17:53

Hi Olga!

Thank you for your lovely message! I only wish I deserved your praise! The truth is, I neither design nor create the lovely clothes we are able to have in our store.....

We rely on the fabulous designers who produce, every season, the most gorgeous fashion. Buying them is like being a child in a sweetshop, and is a real priveledge. It is a great pleasure to have my job. To be given credit for the creativity is just too much to add, I'm afraid!

You do look absolutely beautiful in your photograph...I dare say we will be seeing you modelling many of those lovely designs....


Nellie    Thursday 23 September 2010 at 01:16

 Post #165 

Subject: your friends fr. L.A.

Hi Emma,

I am so fascinated by your fashion ideas...and you inspire me with your beautiful styles. I wish you are closer to warm and breezy Los Angeles, California, USA....where fantastic Hollywood is....where the fabulous starts really shine!

I'm sharing a picture of interest taken in the Philippines which you can put in your ''overseas'' picture gallery ( taken in a wonderful Eden Nature Resort in Davao during our visit there )...

Just hope you read a separate e-mail that I sent through my e-mail add..., hey, I don't mind modelling around one of your lovely apparels...hope we can meet in L.A. why not?

Cheers to you Emma!:-)

Your new fan and a fashion lover,
La Nelle


 Emma    Thursday 23 September 2010 at 20:03

Hi Nellie!

Thank you for your lovely positive comments, and fabulous picture. That peacock is the epitome of glamour!

It seems so unreal to be able to converse with someone over in tinseltown, via cyberspace! And very flattering that you would take an interest in our forum!

Thank you for admiring our styles, which sadly I can take no credit for. Because we don't design anything ourselves, all the admiration has to be reserved for the fantastic designers who are working in our industry now. We are very lucky to be living in a time when every year sees great improvements in what is available for us to buy.

If I do make it over the other side of 'the pond', I will be sure to look you up!


 Nellie    Thursday 23 September 2010 at 22:53

It's certainly a pleasure, Emma!

And yes, you're right, the cyberspace has allowed people, from perhaps, all over the universe, to connect to each other. Been reading the blogs of your friends in your forum...and true enough, it is simply amazing what you do for people who have the desire for fabulous fashion and still feel great about their looks in spite of the size....who cares about the size....? ha ha ha!

Here's a picture in one of my strolls at Universal Studio mall in Hollywood...one of the most visited spots by LA visitors...where you can find lots of stores and resto bars...and that's me, in my black/psychedelic tops (inspired with a gold-snake accessory) over denim pants which I bought from JCPenney of USA...

May your great ideas keep coming...thanks to UK-based fashion designers which I can connect with virtually through your website...I am a big fan of websites with great ideas...you really attract your success Emma because you are passionate about what you do...!

Warm regards,

La Nelle of L.A.

 Emma    Friday 24 September 2010 at 13:20

Hi Nellie!

It's wonderful to see you in what we (in a rather damp Britain) would regard as a very exotic environment!

I love your outfit choice of colour, pattern and accessories!

Emma    Tuesday 08 June 2010 at 19:05

 Post #139 

Subject: Permission denied

I have a confession to make... in my blogs so far I have been systematically avoiding a subject which has a very important effect on our attitude towards fashion. I have done this because, quite honestly, I get rather cross about the issue being brought up time and again with regard to larger women. For a long period I thought I would never talk about it; not because it is a taboo topic, but because I felt it was nowhere near as central to the issue of larger women’s fashion as many commentators would have us believe.

I am referring to the subject of self-esteem. If you read the mainstream press you would be forgiven for thinking that all larger women suffer from ‘low self-esteem’. Yet in my work I rarely come across women who have a seriously depleted sense of self-worth. The answer to why this is is obvious. If someone doesn’t believe she is an estimable person, it’s unlikely that she will find herself in a designer store like ours, rummaging through the very latest in beautiful clothing, and choosing her next stimulating and transformative look.

So if I knew I was only going to be read by the women who come to shop in my store, I doubt whether I would ever talk about the issue. To hell with low self-esteem!

However, I have become more and more aware that other women out there in cyberspace read this blog, and perhaps it would be worth talking about an issue that, in all probability, is keeping many women from entering stores like ours.

It is not, as some would have us believe, only larger women who suffer from low self-esteem. Why would a huge, multinational cosmetics company like L’Oreal use the tagline ‘Because you’re worth it’, were it not an incredibly widespread issue? I have sold fashion to large and small women alike, and I believe there are equal degrees of self-doubt and self-criticism in folk of all sizes. The way perfect images of womanhood are projected in the media is enough to make anyone feel inadequate!

I don’t really know how you get high self-esteem; it may be something you are born with, and it's certainly something that develops as you get older. What I am referring to must never be confused with arrogance - just as low self-worth should never be equated with modesty... it's much more negative than that. It is quite possible, for instance, for someone to be more than thoroughly acquainted with their physical shortcommings, yet still have a perfectly healthy level of self-esteem. I know I'm hardly a raging beauty, yet I am lucky enough to have it.

I will give you an example of what I mean. A few years ago a couple of the women from Emma Plus and I went out for a meal in a local restaurant to celebrate our end of year. We were just tucking in to our food, when one of my colleagues told me that she was put off eating. I asked her why and she replied it was because the couple at the next table (particularly the female half) was staring at the three of us. I pooh-poohed this instantly. (I have subsequently read that it is a sign of high self-esteem that you do not notice what other people are doing!)

However, my other colleague confirmed that the woman was, indeed, staring at us. Of the three of us eating, I would say we had three different levels of self-esteem. I had high esteem, and had difficulty either noticing or caring what other people thought of me (to this day, actually, I genuinely think the woman was almost certainly only looking at us with admiration... frankly, the three of us looked gorgeous in our designer outfits which we had specially donned for our celebration dinner; had I seen the three of us, I would have stared - wondering where on earth we had managed to get larger-size clothes like those! Either way, I could not care less).

One of my colleagues had a normal level of self-esteem, and, unlike me, had noticed that we were being closely observed. She had no view as to why, but was irked by the woman’s lack of decorum. My last colleague suffered from low self-esteem all her life, and simply couldn’t eat her meal, so convinced was she that someone was judging her. This completely bewildered me. I couldn't understand why anyone could be upset by the supposed views of someone who was entirely unknown and unimportant to us.

I'm not saying that, as larger women, we don’t get looked at and occasionally judged because of our size - especially from a fashion point of view (often quite wrongly). I remember how, some years ago, I used to bump into my neighbour when I returned from my dog-walk every morning. She was habitually at the front of her property just as I strolled by wearing my walking gear of shorts and a casual top. ‘Wow, shorts!’ she cried, with great amazement, the first time she saw me so attired. She made a big show of nearly falling off her chair with the mock-shock of seeing me. I couldn’t help but wonder as to why she found it so surprising, as we were in the middle of a heat wave. What did she think I was going to wear to walk the dog, salopettes?

However, for the next month or two over that long, hot summer, I reckon I bumped into her, in exactly the same way, perhaps two-dozen times. And every time she exclaimed in amazement at seeing that I (a size 24 woman who as an apple shape had pretty good legs!), would have the effrontery to be seen out in shorts. Really, our conversation was like Groundhog Day, every day!

I can’t honestly say that this daily bludgeoning-home of her opinion (subtlety was not her strong suit, obviously) made me feel any differently about wearing shorts. It did, unfortunately, draw my attention to her own sartorial shortcomings, which I had not really noticed before, and very nearly resulted in my offering some fashion advice of my own to the unfortunate woman. However, I did find it funny, and took it in good part.

At no time was I tempted to trust this woman’s instincts more than my own. Had she been a glamazon style-diva, perhaps I would have considered her opinion as a valid one. But even then, I don't think I would have found it personally upsetting, just interesting. However, it was obvious this wasn’t the case. And that’s putting it mildly. As it was, even by our last late-summer encounter, I certainly hadn't begun to find myself feeling awkward in any way.

It has always seemed amazing to me that so many women are prepared to hand over an extremely precious and vital item, namely their self-esteem, to a person who they wouldn’t dream of lending their car-keys to. Surely, unless someone has shown themselves to be an incredibly adept arbiter of taste, probably your own opinion has more relevance when it comes to your own look?

Eleanor Roosevelt once said ‘No-one can make you feel inferior without your permission’. It’s a permission that I would not give easily, and my customers, in the main, seem to feel much as I do.


Emma    Sunday 31 January 2010 at 23:27

 Post #112 

Subject: Shameless self-publicity

Don’t you just love the BBC? I have to say I think it is a national treasure. I don’t know what I would do without 'The Archers', and I know my sister is addicted to ‘Larkrise to Candleford’. Before Christmas, I couldn’t get enough of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.

In Sussex, our local BBC radio is very good (BBC Radio Sussex). There is one presenter in particular, Alison Ferns, who does an excellent talk-show. On Monday lunchtimes she presents a programme called ‘Wagtime’, which is inspired by ‘Loose Women’ on the TV. Local women are invited to go on to talk about their loves and hates, and the ins and outs of their week.

I get asked to go on it every now and again. Actually, I will be on it tomorrow (1st February) at about 1.30pm. If anyone would like to listen to it and can’t do so at that time, it is also available on the main BBC website for a week afterwards.

I was there at Christmas, and we were asked to dress up for the occasion. To be honest, there was so much snow around that travelling into the studio seemed like making some kind of Artic expedition, so it wasn’t possible to go in for ‘full-on’ glam. However, we all scrubbed up well, and we took some photos.

In the front (seated) is the broadcaster herself, Alison, and in the middle behind her is her producer, Jenny Day. I am on the left, and on the right is another ‘Wag’, Nicky, who has a business called ‘Mumsinbiz’ - all about networking women.


 Kim P    Monday 01 February 2010 at 18:54

I hope the broadcast went well, you all look like you're having a good time. How lovely you look, is it Anna Scholz?
I hope to come by in the afternoon of the 11th to pick up my dress and trousers and of course admire your beautiful new shop!


 Emma    Monday 01 February 2010 at 22:23

Thanks, Kim

Yes, the broadcast went well - it’s always a bit of fun. In the photo I am wearing (as you rightly guessed) an Anna Scholz dress, from the Winter 09 season.

I can’t wait to see what you think of the refit - you won’t know the place! We should have a few rather choice things to show you on the 11th, as the new season’s stock is now coming in...


 Kim P    Thursday 11 February 2010 at 02:16

The weather has scuppered my plans to come and visit the shop later today but I hope to come next week instead.


 Kim P    Friday 19 February 2010 at 18:50

The shop refit looked lovely. The lighting was brilliant and the decor and layout so stylish, no wonder you are so pleased with it!

I managed to find a lovely turquoise top that goes nicely with the beaded grey Simply top you had in stock. It matches the beads very well so my purchase on Thursday was meant to be!

 Emma    Saturday 20 February 2010 at 15:30

Hi Kim

It was great to see you the other day. Clearly, this was a purchase that was 'meant to be'! These lovely Simply tops are going like hot cakes - I'm loving the turquoise!


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,


 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    Thursday 07 May 2009 at 20:11

 Post #39 

Subject: Mary Queen of Shops

After my last musings about Gok Wan’s recent success in styling a larger woman, I was put in mind of another TV programme that dealt with larger sized womenswear. For anyone who missed it, I’ll describe...

It was a BBC programme that went out last year called ‘Mary Queen of Shops’ and it was presented by Mary Portas, a retail and branding expert (right).

The premise of the series was that there were a lot of independent shops in the UK that were in trouble, and Mary - whose career spans working with Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Top Shop and others - would help them move their businesses forward. A different store was featured every week.

As you can imagine, this programme was immediately 'required viewing' for independent fashion retailers the country over - myself included.

Upon watching it I have to say that the information gleaned from most episodes was not helpful to me in my own shop. In most instances it was too basic for that. What I got from this series was the realisation that there are quite a few businesses in the marketplace that function radically differently to the rest of us. And not necessarily in a good way.

I won’t drone on with trade details. Suffice to say that every aspect of the business that we take for granted (where to buy garments, how to display them, how to serve customers, how to develop a knowledge of fashion, etc.) seemed to be unknown territory to many of the shop owners featured. I found it riveting.

Someone once said that every happy family tends to be happy in the same way, yet every unhappy family tends to be unhappy in a completely different way. So it seems, it is with fashion shops. Most of us bob along, running quite an organised system, perfectly recognisable to others in the trade. Yet each failing shop featured in this series seemed more bizarre and eccentric than the last.

But I also confess to feeling a frisson of jealousy when watching the programme... resentment even. The thing is I rate Mary Portas very highly. She is a real fashion professional. What she doesn’t know about fashion and branding could be written on the face of a perfectly manicured little fingernail. Those people able to benefit from her help are lucky indeed. The participating stores would also benefit from the publicity of being featured on television - a massive boost to any business.

I found it irksome that the BBC was giving these businesses such a bonus, when all they had done to deserve it was to be failing (and often in obvious ways). Why couldn’t some of the rest of us, who are rather good at what we are doing, benefit from the superb Ms Portas? And why couldn’t a really good large-size store ever get featured on the telebox!

We wouldn’t need the stream of ultra-obvious advice that she was called upon to give (‘your canopy is knackered - have it taken down’). You don’t require a top-line expert to give advice like that. I would have happily pointed that out myself. Sending Mary Portas, of all people, into these situations was like asking a Nobel Prize winning physicist to mend your central heating.

I wanted to hear the kind of gems that only she could supply – the expert branding and retail advice that she had been hired by the bosses at Harvey Nichols and Top Shop to give!

Of course, as I realist, I knew the score. The BBC had perfectly good reasons for using this format... it made superb televison.

So when I heard that Mary would be visiting a large-size womenswear shop, to be honest, I felt not only a bit of jealousy and resentment, but also a little anxiety. The shop was in Ascot, not a million miles from Brighton. Even as recipients of the best advice I knew they wouldn’t end up with a range to rival ours - that relies on relationships that take years to develop. But Mary might be able to equip this shop with a really great interior, exterior, branding, display, publicity, etc., that may detract from our own business. My customers may choose to go there - if only once for curiosity’s sake - and that could give me a blip in trade for weeks.

But I also felt quite excited and challenged - perhaps here would be some relevant Mary Portas advice that I could make use of!

I had never heard of the shop in question, which was strange. I thought I knew just about everyone in the large-size business in this country. With the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to say that I should have known that this fact alone spoke volumes about the shop in question.

If you ever get the chance to see the episode, which features a shop called The Fit, in Ascot, it is a must. I dare say it will be repeated at some point. It was truly one of the most riveting, eye-opening pieces of television for those interested in larger-size fashion.

A woman called Amanda, who was probably about a size 8, and who obviously had never been large in her life, owned the shop. As soon as she started to speak, she disgusted Mary with her tactless lack of appreciation of the larger-size woman. She had even developed her own demeaning terms for her customers’ body shapes. The ‘no hoper’ was a 'large' woman at the top of Amanda’s size range (size 22; that’s nearly the bottom of our size range - so much for being a ‘large size’ store!). The ‘bouncy castle lady' was her term for my own body type - an apple shaped woman with a large stomach. The ‘bullet’ was a short woman with ‘stumpy legs’. As you can imagine, her depressing and negative views of her customers were reflected in a dreary and undesirable range of clothes.

My jaw hit the floor as I watched this, and it was very gratifying to see Mary Portas with exactly the same expression as my own. Initially, listening to this woman, I felt annoyance and insult. I then started to see the funny side. Maybe years of working with the public has desensitised me. It’s true that I am rather slow to take offence... and quick to find things amusing. The woman was a real one-off.

This was a lady who had a business for large women that was failing, and she had no idea why. The fact that she was prejudiced against the larger-size aesthetic was one thing (bizarre as it was under the circumstances), but that she felt happy to go on national television to shout about it, is nothing short of hilarious! For a woman like her to have ended up with a large-size shop just seemed so random - one couldn't imagine what she was thinking. Looking at her, I was left wondering which screw it was, and how it had worked itself so spectacularly loose.

Mary’s face was a picture. Sometimes she looked completely stumped. Sometimes she gritted her teeth so much that she looked like she was chewing a wasp. She took Amanda aside and read her the riot act about her appalling attitude. It was then Amanda’s turn to look stumped. She couldn’t imagine what she had got wrong!

However, trooper that she was, Mary did her best for this shop, and for the good ladies of Ascot. She showed Amanda some of the best fashion houses and tried to educate her about fashion. She sorted out the shop for her, and re-launched it.

I really have no idea how this shop is doing now. I would sensitively suggest that it might not have taken off with anything like a bang. I certainly didn't notice any blip in trading at the time.

Ironically, although I have complained that Mary spends most of her time in these programmes dispensing advice that it does not take an expert to give, she does seem - in this episode - to have forgotten to give Amanda the most obvious help of all. It’s a piece of advice than any one of us could have given her, and it would be extremely useful...

For goodness sake, get out of the large-size fashion business. And leave it to people who love it!


 Sue Nelson    Friday 08 May 2009 at 19:52

Spot on, Emma. Amanda needed to be in a different business. Keep up your good work. GBP problems and err... dieting prevent me from revamping my wardrobe right now but I'll be back.



 Emma    Saturday 09 May 2009 at 13:21

Hi Sue

Hope you are well! How are your lovely dogs - I'm sure as gorgeous as ever!

We do have some lovely things in at the moment...

Good luck with the diet. Don't forget that if you find your clothes start feeling a bit too loose, we have a superb alteration service!

Jaq sends her regards...

Emma    Monday 04 May 2009 at 17:55

 Post #37 

Subject: Gok's Fashion Fix

This week I was very interested to see the latest episode of Gok Wan’s channel 4 programme, 'Gok’s Fashion Fix'. I was particularly intrigued, because the subject of this week’s makeover was Lisa - at ‘size 18’, a larger-size woman.

At this point I should admit that usually I am not the greatest fan of TV makeover programmes, especially when it comes to larger-size women. Sadly, they are frequently extremely unsuccessful, and I have a theory as to why this should be. I think that there is a world of difference between a fashion stylist who understands what it is to have a genuine body issue, than one who doesn’t know the meaning of the thing. I’m talking about the kind of fashion stylist who feels she has a ‘wobbly belly’ if she has put on two pounds.

In my world it’s very different. I’ll give you an example. I am generally quite happy with my body (I know that’s quite unusual, but believe me, when you have got some of the clothes I have, you tend to rather get over your bad points). However, there’s no getting over the fact I have a very unpleasant spare tyre round my waist. No matter what size I have been in my life, that dear tyre has always been there for me. Sometimes, it is the size of a rubber ring. Sometimes, a moped tyre. It has even grown to lorry tyre proportions. You could call it my bete noir, body-wise.

But many people who have known me for years, are not intimately acquainted with this delightful feature. They simply don’t know of its existence. Or, not, at least, it’s full extent. This is because I hide it. Actually, I’m very good at hiding it.

But this is not unusual. Every day of my working life I see clever women walking in my door who are equally adept at hiding their sore points. Like the women who wear the long tops to skim over their thighs. Or those who have found the exact length of sleeve that they need to disguise the defects in the upper arm. I could go on (and on and on!). However, it’s not necessary; I would imagine that at least 95% of the women reading this know exactly what I’m talking about.

When these customers come into my shop with an area of their physique they need us to work with, I don’t waste their time and energy trying to persuade them to let go of their inhibitions and show the world their worst part. I know that if, for example, I turned up to a friend’s wedding in an outfit that revealed my spare tyre, I would be mortified. And no amount of reassurance from a ‘stylist’ that I looked great would make me feel anything other than an embarrassment to myself. I need to look fashionable - (hopefully) gorgeous - and spare-tyre free!

This does not in any way mean that I want women to drape themselves in a tent. There’s an art to dressing beautifully and sensually without letting the cat out of the bag, and that, in a nutshell, is nine tenths of what is important when dressing a larger woman.

So if I see TV makeover queens grabbing hold of a larger woman and forcing her to wear a top tucked into her trousers (revealing a less that pert bottom), or thrusting a massive belt around her waist (making her ample bust look cartoon-like), I sigh in despair. These stylists just don’t get it!

So-hang on a minute - what’s going on with Gok Wan? His team seems to have been able to achieve the impossible. On his programme, Lisa looked lovely, and (uniquely, I think, in the history of TV makeover programmes) she doesn’t show off any of her weaker areas. The clothes look like someone who actually understood what it is like to have real body issues had chosen them. They skim the problem areas (I’m assuming there are some!) and emphasise the attractive curves.

Could this, I wonder, be anything to do with the fact that Gok himself, at one stage, weighed 21 stone? It seems rather a co-incidence.

I also think that Gok has revealed something else about himself. I think he was generous and thoughtful in his choice for Lisa. Part of the premise of his programme is to make women look good without using the designer labels, but by obtaining clothes in the chain stores.

Yet for Lisa’s new wardrobe, of the 12 pieces of textile clothing, five of them were from Anna Scholz, the top designer for larger women’s clothing. Of the remainder, there were just a couple of jackets from MandS, a pair of jeans and of trousers from Evans, and some camis. In other words, Gok gave Lisa a designer wardrobe, backed up with some simple basics from the high street.

I believe in doing so, Gok has shown that - as all true larger-fashion stylists should - he cares about the client’s look more than his own ego, and has been prepared to ditch his premise about high-street chic when it clearly wasn’t going to work.

In choosing to make Lisa look good, rather than just himself, he has managed to make both of them look good.


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