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SmartGlamour is a brand I’ve had my eye on for a long time. Created by NYC based designer Mallorie Dunn, they sell their totally customisable handmade range in sizes XXS to 6XL, which is the equivalent of a 63 inch hip. Inclusive and fantastic to say the least! They’ve always used diverse models; I’ve seen blind babes, size 30s, plus size women with big bellies, plenty of women of colour, and all the ages you can imagine, but their newest campaign really caught my eye. It uses only non-binary, trans and gender-fluid models, whose bodies fall right across their size range. It made me love the brand even more and I had to get in touch with Mallorie to learn more about SmartGlamour.
Where did SmartGlamour start, and what was your inspiration for it?
SmartGlamour launched on February 22nd of 2014 – we are coming up on our 3rd birthday and 4th year of business. We started, and still are based, in Queens, NYC. I started the brand for a number of reasons. I’ve always been interested in fashion – I studied it in high school and then went on to get a fashion design degree from FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in 2007. After getting a bachelors in Art + Design Education (as a back up plan – focused on teaching design) I went back into the fashion world and worked in corporate fashion design for a little over 2 years. I really disliked it – I was unsatisfied by the lack of creativity (everything is watered down copies of other designs), the ethics (everything is made as cheaply as possible overseas in China and India and we constantly accepted poorly made items because of the size of the order), and the high stress environment.
I spent a year freelancing after that – and had emotional and creative energy to think about how I could make my dream happen of starting my own company. Through many conversations with friends and loved ones – it was brought to my attention that I was super passionate about women + femme’s self esteem issues – and also the fit of clothing, and how that affects our self esteem. This is something I’ve always cared about – but when you are younger, it is more difficult to pin point your activism. In high school – I had to produce a collection, and unintentionally – I cast friends of mine who were all different shapes, sizes, and skin tones to model. Even before coming up with SmartGlamour – I knew I would never make clothing and only offer it to a small percentage of the population – what would be the point?
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I didn’t know body positivity was a “thing”, a movement, a culture, a community – or about to become an even bigger “thing” – when I started the company. I actually didn’t even know the word for it. I just knew – we are being misrepresented, that leaves people out and leaves people feeling less than. On top of that – people don’t have access to well fitting clothing, and they place the blame on their bodies instead of the clothing. What if I aimed to fix those two main issues? So I crowd funded the very first collection and runway show and then took off running from there.
Can you tell us a little something about yourself and who you are?
I am a 29 year old, straight size, cis woman who lives in NYC. I’m married, have two dogs, and have been a feminist killjoy since my older sister taught me what feminism was. If I wasn’t a designer – I’d be a teacher. And I was voted Best Dressed and Most Likely to Succeed in 10th grade. I’ve been told that I am intimidating by boys and men my entire life – and I’ve learned to subvert that by this point. I believe in creating community and standing up for injustice – and I think we can use art (and fashion) as a great way to do so.
Did you start the brand knowing you wanted to showcase different body types, or did that come later?
Oops – kind of already went into that! That was from day one. Without the main concepts of body positivity – SmartGlamour would not exist at all.
Your most recent campaign, #AllMeansAll is so wonderful, how did you come to make the decision to exclusively use trans, non-binary and gender fluid models?
Since SmartGlamour is so, so much more than clothing – we release campaigns in between our collections that focus on specific aspects of our message. (#ImFlattered, #AllBodiesAreGoodBodies, #FitForEveryBody, #SameSizeDifferentEyes, etc) I knew that this year was going to be a tough one – politically – and therefore personally for a lot of people. I knew marginalized people were going to get the brunt of it – so I knew that I would need to be even louder this year in my support. We have always cast models of every sexual orientation as well as gender identity – but different from characteristics like size and skin color, your gender identity is very often not visible to the casual observer. And I never wanted anyone to feel as if they were being exploited for their differences so we never called attention to gender. However – as with size – the best way to show that your products or clothing are for all people – is by putting all people in your products. I decided it was important to discuss how clothing is not gendered – society has assigned gender to clothing – and anyone can wear whatever they like, regardless.
My assistant is non binary – so I ran the idea past her and she loved it. She cast the majority of the models, and I cast the rest with the help of a friend who worked at the Anti Violence Project. I had my assistant, Nikki Padula, look over everything I was putting out there to make sure I was truly representing the LGBTQ community accurately – as someone who is not a part of it personally – but is a strong ally.
How do you find your models? You’ve used so many different people, it’s truly inclusive which is so rare.
The majority of my models are found through social media castings. There are also a few that are my personal friends, and then also friends of friends. Unfortunately – because of our society and because of most brands not actually meaning All when they say All – it is still sometimes difficult to get older people, people above a size 24, people over 40 years old, people with disabilities, etc – to apply to the castings. I don’t blame them for being skeptical! So I sometimes have to seek those individuals out purposefully – whether that is through social media – or through friends. We just held casting for our Spring shoot and runway show which will be in February and I truly, truly hope that more and more diverse groups of people apply of their own accord in future castings!
What is body confidence to you?
Body confidence to me – is firstly – not the same as body positivity. You don’t need to be body confident all the time in order to be body positive. Body positivity, to me, is the idea that even as your body ebbs and flows, and your opinion of it does as well – it does not change your self confidence, worth, talents, knowledge, or personality. Our bodies are just our packaging – what is inside that counts. But I think that practicing body positivity leads to more and more body confidence. The more you learn to see the beauty in others, the easier it is to see in yourself. And the less importance you give it – the easier it will arrive.
Your anti-airbrushing and photoshop stance is something I’d love to see more of in the fashion industry, how have you found it has affected SmartGlamour? Often brands claim they have to photoshop, or use typical fashion models or else their sales suffer.
Our models, in general – and then their expressions, “un-airbrushed-ness”, glasses, and disabilities are the things we get emails complimenting us on the most. Second is our size range, third is our customizations, fourth is the ethical production model we stand by. People want to see someone they can relate to. And they want to see someone who is just glowing and radiating with true, honest confidence from within. I’d say about 75% of my models have not modeled for anyone before SmartGlamour, and most don’t model for anyone else after (but we always invite back models who are reliable, personable, and who love our message) – about 15% model for a few other indie brands, and about only 5-10% have modeling as any kind of profession of theirs.
As a huge fan of the bralette, I love the diversity of your models wearing them. Seeing plus size babes with large chests in bralettes is so refreshing! What made you decide to include them in your range?
Well – there just was never a question. Once I decided to make bralettes – I knew they had to be for everyone. There is this overwhelming idea in the fashion industry that women’s chests need to look a certain way – sit a certain way, not hang, be symmetrical etc! It is what drives us all to wear incredibly uncomfortable underwire bras everyday. And if you truly, honestly love your bra – that’s great. But a lot of women can’t wait to take them off – so why not be comfortable, and embrace the natural shape of your body as it is without molding. I truly think breast shape is one of the last bopo ideas to be tackled.
I am a straight size woman, with a large – but not very large – cup size (an E) – and I can’t find a bralette in my size. I can buy the largest one and make do – but my chest always ends up falling out of the cups – or the band is too big. So I set out to fix that. I also hear a lot of complaints from plus size babes with small cup sizes – that their size just isn’t even being created. And then always, always from babes with large cup sizes – that bralettes just stop existing past a certain point.
So SG bralettes from in band size 28-60, and cup size A-II. And then, as per usual, everything is customizable – so honestly anyone can order one, even if those band and cup sizes don’t fit yours. But remember! All size charts and sizes are created differently from brand to brand – so check size charts, and measure yourself!
You offer everything from skirts and dresses, to swim wear and even affordable wedding dresses, what’s your all time favourite design?
Ah! I don’t know if I have one favorite. I wear SmartGlamour everyday, and the pieces I wear most are: Jackie Pants, Rose Tops, Allison Pencil Skirts, Ashton Tees, Sylvia Tops, Stefanie Tops, Micah Dresses, Arianna Tops + Dresses. And I think my favorite dressy piece is my DeWitt Lace Dress – its dramatic and sexy but super comfortable!
Who would you love to see in your designs?
Everyone. Anyone. All people.
I love seeing body positive babes wearing SG – Jes Baker and Whitney Way Thore both own some. I’d love to see Virgie Tovar, Roxane Gay, Mary Lambert, and Substantia Jones in some as well!
And finally, what’s next for SmartGlamour?
We will be releasing our Spring collection on February 17th – which will be followed by either a campaign, or a mini collection (like Valentine’s Day, Loungewear, Bridal, etc). And hopefully we will be back on the road hosting pop ups again this Spring and into Summer!
Brands could really stand to learn a thing or two from SmartGlamour. Diversity isn’t about tokenism, but is about true inclusivity, which this indy brand shows is genuinely possible. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what comes next!
All Photos Copyright SmartGlamour