All too often, countless women have gone into a clothing store and found the perfect ensemble only to find out that it wasn’t available in their size. Full-figured women constantly experience this, and as a result their style and bank accounts can end up paying a hefty price.
In 2009, Gwen DeVoe, a business woman and expert in the fashion industry, experienced this common dilemma when she attended a fashion week event.
“Although everything was fabulous—the clothes were just amazing—it suddenly hit me that I could not wear one of those outfits…because none of those things were going to be on the rack for me,” DeVoe shares soberly.
She saw no reason why she, and other women, shouldn’t have access to those beautiful clothes. At that moment, Full Figured Fashion Week was conceived.
“I just kind of went home and said ‘well that sucks’! I’m a working professional. I have money—I spend money on my wardrobe; either I save for it or I purchase outright, but I realized ‘you’re not going to be doing that with these things because they don’t come in your size’ and it was as simple as that.”
From there, her business sense kicked in.
She already had 15 successful years of producing full figured fashion shows under her belt and she was well known in the fashion industry due to her prior modeling career and related business ventures. Ultimately, the fact that she’s the creator and CEO of DeVoe Signature Events, a full service event production and management company, made her goal significantly more attainable. She tapped into her networking circle and started the planning and production phases.
“It was just one of those things that ‘fit’. Everything in life, to me, is about a ‘fit’. If I don’t feel that I can ‘fit’ into it, then I just don’t do it,” said DeVoe.
The challenge was getting corporate sponsors to buy into the concept. She said many of them loved the concept—so much that they wondered why someone hadn’t thought of it before—but they wanted to see how she did on the first FFF Week before investing their money.
“To this day I will always thank my first corporate sponsor, which was Ashley Stewart.” said DeVoe. With the Ashley Stewart sponsorship and support, money saved from her personal income tax returns, and the participation fee for the designers, the First Annual Full Figured Fashion Week was launched on June 25, 2009.
As she waited backstage less than an hour before the launch, DeVoe began receiving calls from all of the scheduled media representatives informing her that they could no longer provide publicity coverage.
“My event launched the night Michael Jackson had died. They were cancelling in droves. All of the media personnel were being dispatched to get the story behind the story, and to get the reactions of the public,” said DeVoe.
Thankfully, she invested a substantial amount of funds into imagery; when the press called to get follow-up coverage of the event, she was able to provide the necessary videos and photos. Full Figured Fashion Week went on to grow steadily until 2011 when it nearly double in size and exceeded DeVoe’s five year plan.
“We have women that are traveling from Switzerland, Paris and Australia to this event and most of the marketing that we do is only via social media. This has become an annual pilgrimage to New York City,” said DeVoe.
But, why? What separates Full Figured Fashion Week from any other event that targets the plus size audience?
“We have managed to bring together people that probably would not be in the same room; all the heads of major retailers are there. I have the CEO of Lane Bryant, the CEO of Ashley Stewart, and all of these other major retailers sitting in my front row. Sometimes these are events that they don’t always get to go to because their schedules are too busy but they want to come to Full Figured Fashion Week,” said DeVoe.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who attend FFF Week’s symposiums and workshops are actual customers.
“Here’s an opportunity in the forefront for people to ask these big CEOs— and have them actively participate. The CEOs and Senior Vice Presidents want to be on the panel. So I think we’re doing some good work and I think that people recognize that it’s an opportunity to bring people together.”
Full Full Fashion Week 2012 starts today in New York City. To find out more about FFF, click here.