SP: One of the many things I LOVE about your label is that although you’re technically plus size, it’s not the be all and end all of the clothes. They are more fashion forward than anything else.
SJ: LaLA doesn’t fit into the stereotype of plus size clothing. LaLA is a design driven, plus size clothing label, that caters to a more contemporary market that represents the kind of lifestyles we lead.
My focus is what I want to wear as a plus size woman. My taste and the way I design is what is perceived as “fashion forward”.
SP: Tell me about the background of this?
SJ: I didn’t know plus size was going to be my world until I was offered a job at The Carpenters Daughter. Caroline Marr rang me and offered me a job after my graduating show at university.
At university plus size didn’t seem like an option, it wasn’t a norm. There weren’t many plus size designers, plus size models, or visibility. When we showed at Fashion Week 2009 it was one of the first times that plus size had shown in the World, let alone New Zealand.
SP: You know I love your FAT tees – tell us about this. What made you make plus size tees with the word FAT on them?
SJ: The FAT tee was created as a confronting statement of a descriptive word. FAT as a word is so discriminatory, it is loaded with so many negative connotations and causes so many people so much pain. I feel like wearing the word FAT boldly spelled out on a t-shirt shoves it back in the face of judgmental people. Take the power back, and be liberated.
SP: How did you become such an advocate for body love? Where did it all begin?
SJ: I think I truly started to look at my body differently when I was working at The Carpenter’s Daughter. I’ve always had confidence in myself because I had confidence in my brain and my abilities. Watching Caroline and being a part of that community gave me a new sense of self and self-worth and a different perception of beauty. I worked with women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities in all walks of life and it changed my total perception of beauty. I was allowed to be myself, I wasn’t being judged.
SP: And tell me about fat yoga? What’s the concept behind that?
SJ: In America and Australia, there’s been an increase of fat yoga classes and I thought “why the hell can’t I make this happen in New Zealand for my community?” It took about six months to find a yoga teacher, then I found Kristina and she got why I wanted to call it fat yoga instead of ‘fluffy body positive yoga’. We are creating a safe, nonjudgmental space where FAT people can relate to the people around them. Our bodies move and make shapes differently and I think it important to have a space that caters specifically to this.
The term body positive is a bit too soft for me, for me ‘fat’ goes straight to the root of the issue. There is a big reclaiming of the word ‘fat’ in reaction to the body positive movement, because it’s not quite enough. It’s a pre-existing historical fight where ‘fat’ is quite a new concept because we own it. Fat people were historically seen as wealthy, privileged and the rich changed this because they wanted something elitist. In World War 1 and 2, the elite were fat, food and luxury were scarce. Then canned food came along and became more readily available for the poor. The poor became fatter, so the rich decided they needed something else to be ‘elite’. That is when the media and advertising started, it has been pushed onto a trajectory and here we are. Fat has connotations with being lazy, poor or stupid. It is classist and racist. So many bad stereotypes that come with it. A great resource is The Militant Baker’s Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls.
SP: Who inspires your creativity?
SJ: A good night’s sleep. Coffee. When you’re creative, you’re just kind of naturally creative. You listen to your instincts.
SP: Who are your favorite designers/influences?
Sj:I admire what other designers do. I find it hard to relate to a lot of designers because I can’t relate it to my body. I think people do really beautiful things and I don’t discredit it. I look at the world differently and their work in an objective way because I don’t think “ooh I wish I could have that”, because I can’t.
SP: What do you love most about what you do?
SJ: My LaLA babes. About how my designs change people’s perceptions of themselves and make women feel good. LaLA is about changing the landscape of fashion.
SP: Lastly, I always ask everyone I interview what advice they would offer to up-and-comers. What would you suggest?
SJ: Work experience. Work in your industry, for free if you have to. Get a job, work in your industry, learn from mentors and employers and make the contacts as you go.