For all its glamour, New York Fashion Week has never been a beacon of body positivity, but The Curvy Con is a different story. Launched in 2015, the annual convention offers workshops, cocktail hours, and a chance to come face-to-face with some of the plus-size industry’s most influential women: CEOs and SVPs of brands like Dia & Co. and Lane Bryant, top-tier influencers Nicolette Mason and Alex LaRosa, and Dietland star Joy Nash, to name but a few. The brainchild of CeCe Olisa and Chastity Garner Valentine, The Curvy Con, which kicked off yesterday, has become the nexus point for style beyond size.
The idea arose out of necessity. Both influencers at the top of their game, Olisa and Valentine noticed a discrepancy between the options they were provided and those accessible to their readers. “We get interesting events, interesting shopping experiences, trips, and things like that, but our readers and our followers are still struggling to find a pair of jeans in their hometown,” says Olisa, who saw an opportunity to better serve the plus-size community and kicked into fundraising mode. Together, they sold the clothes from their own closets and used the funds to score a venue in New York. Though that first event took place in June, they quickly realized that a place at NYFW was important in order to take things to the next level. “We want to be a part of that conversation, and that’s where fashion takes place,” says Valentine. “We moved [dates] to stake our claim.”
The impact of the move was immediately felt. In three years, the convention has grown exponentially, becoming a three-day event with attendees flying in from around the world. Part marketplace—a host of brands are on hand to sell their wares—part information session, it is powered by consumers who have traditionally been underserved. For Olisa and Valentine, the rapid progression has been heartening. “The plus-size community was our first investor, and that’s one of the things we’re proud of,” says Olisa, and she cites positive word of mouth as one of the initial factors of the convention’s success. “Women would come by themselves, and then bring a friend or two. We didn’t have sponsors right away; we’ve guided the growth based on what the community wants.”
Those desires are often things that straight-size consumers take for granted. Though there’s been an uptick in the number of higher-end brands that have dipped their toe into the plus-size market, old stereotypes still prevail. In creating a premium event where luxury fashion is at the forefront—and regularly sells out—the pair hopes to combat the old ideas. “The brands that are coming for our pop-up shops are selling out of their inventory and wishing they had brought more stuff,” says Olisa.“It’s doing a lot to shake up the misconception that plus-size women don’t want nicer things or fashion that pushes the envelope.”
The Curvy Con throws its support behind those designers whose collections have offered a full range of sizes from the get-go; it also leads by example with the addition of panels that feature women of all shapes and sizes. Olisa and Valentine hope that future is one where everyone is invested. “It shouldn’t just be plus-size women who care about plus-size fashion, inclusivity, and body positivity,” says Olisa. “It should be all women, and we’re excited to put our stake in that philosophy.”
This article first appeared on Vogue.com