Plus-size agency brings 'real girls' back in style
An ex-plus-size model is changing Irish fashion from within
Published 27/04/2014 | 02:30
THE country's first ever plus-size modelling agency has been set up to meet the growing demand for 'real' models.
V Plus Models is the brainchild of former plus-size model and stylist Vicki Mooney, who hopes to supply a bevy of curvaceous beauties to the fashion industry, to represent the many shapes and sizes of real-life Irish women.
And there has already been considerable interest from beautiful Irish women who aspire to be models, but until now felt they could not grace a catwalk or catalogue because they do not have the tiny waistlines widely regarded as the industry norm.
Vicki told the Sunday Independent: "The response has been absolutely incredible. We have 24 girls on the books at the moment and we've had over 800 applications from girls looking to join.
"I didn't think that there were that many girls who would be interested or feel that confident. It's difficult to go above and beyond and put your lumps and bumps out there; to say, 'I know I'm beautiful and I really don't care if you accept me or not!'"
The agency's establishment comes in the wake of a number of high-profile wars of words about Irish women's sizes. Designer Paul Costelloe sparked a heated debate after he publicly criticised Debenhams in a no-holds-barred interview with the Sunday Independent over its decision to introduce size 16 mannequins in its stores.
Vicki said she was extremely disappointed at Mr Costelloe's comments – and is equally unimpressed with claims recently made by former Miss Ireland Amanda Brunker that women who are a size 16 and say they are happy are lying.
"The fact that he [Costelloe] said that using size 16 mannequins would not help his business is just so unhelpful when his own clothes in Dunnes Stores go up to a size 22," she said. "I know so many beautiful size 16 girls who wouldn't change their figure for anything."
The tide of the fashion industry in Ireland certainly appears to be turning in the larger lady's favour as retailers adapt to their customers' changing shapes.
"The movement towards plus-size has only really happened in Ireland in the last few years," Vicki explained.
"I have been plus-size modelling for about four years now and at the beginning it was very slow to take off, but the statistics are that at least 40 per cent of women in Ireland are a size 14 plus, so the demand is there.
"As well as Debenhams, Forever 21 has brought in size 16 mannequins now. Dunnes Stores have a plus-size model for their swimwear and lingerie this year too and Penneys have upped their standard sizing to a size 20 and 22."
The new agency, which specialises in plus-size models from sizes 12 to 24, will host its official launch event in the Mansion House on June 20.
Vicki, who has previously been represented by both 1st Option model management and the Andrea Roche Model Agency, identified a niche in the market for a tailor-made agency to supply models to the expanding plus-size market in Ireland.
Vicki said she felt that she was uniquely placed to understand how to manage and advise plus-size models.
"You'd head out to a casting and stylists are used to getting a size 8 or 10 girl who has that perfect figure. They could literally throw the clothes at her and they'd look gorgeous and then suddenly they have a size 16 girl like myself and they're going, 'OK, we didn't realise that your hips were that big!' and things like that.
"You really need to live as a larger lady to understand her body and say to the stylists, 'The lady that you are going to get, she is not just a size 16 – she is a pear shape, or she has extra weight on her thighs'," Vicki said.
For Vicki, the days of a sole, token plus-size model being booked for a catwalk show are well and truly over. It is time for real women to be seen.
"I remember going out on the runway and getting a round of applause, almost as if to say, 'Well done, look at you! You're a fat girl!'" Vicki added. "I just thought, this is so strange . . . you see people like me all the time!
"We're all on a journey and we all deserve to look beautiful on that journey."