NYFW is in full-swing and fashion professionals spent the weekend rushing all over the city in the rain in search of some fashion magic and inspiration. Little did they know that more fashion inspiration than they could handle was just ready to be discovered at theCURVYcon, the third annual convention celebrity all things body positive and plus sized in Manhattan.
I've spent 25 years schlepping to the fashion capitals for fashion weeks and yet found more style and inspiration in one afternoon at theCURVYcon. The brainchild of Cece Olisa and Chastity Garner Valentine featured panels and workshops with influencers, plus sized models, style experts and more. There was an exercise class sponsored by Target, VIP lounge for Platinum subscribers, and a cavalcade of non-sample size superstars like Gabourey Sidibe (the keynote speaker) Venus Williams, Joy Nash, Lizzo, and Beyoncé's dancers Amore and Jore Marshall. Attendees travelled from all over the country and packed their most creative looks. Truly I haven't seen so much high octane fashion in one space since, well, I can't remember when.
Unlike typical New York Fashion Week, which at times can feel inhospitable even to the initiated, the atmosphere at theCURVYcon was welcoming, friendly and inclusive. I'm already planning to return next year.
We caught up with the founders of theCURVYcon, Cece Olisa and Chastity Garner Valentine, to discuss building a community-first event and the growth of the plus size industry:
How did the idea for theCURVYcon first come to you?
As plus size fashion influencers, Chastity and I are always looking for ways to serve and make an impact with the plus size women who follow us. The experience and access we have as plus size women with a large audience is very different than the experience that the average plus size woman has. We saw that the average woman can often be isolated in her body positive fashion journey.
For most plus size women, our community is built around social media and ecommerce but there isn't a tangible real life space that exists just for us. TheCURVYcon is that space—our pop up shop with dressing rooms eliminates the hassle that often comes with online shopping. Without brick and mortar options, we're constantly buying two sizes of every item to see which one fits, paying for returns and then doing it all over again with the next brand because size and fit is never universal. Our panels and workshops are a space where women can meet the celebs, YouTubers, bloggers, and influencers that inspire them. Our podcast, Cocktails and Confidence, is a space for the conversation to continue throughout the year.
What was the initial reaction like from consumers?
Consumers were our first investors! Our highest ticket level was sold out before our first sponsor signed on. I think that says a lot about the appetite that plus size women have for what we're doing. Women come from around the country and around the world (Australia, London, Nigeria, South Africa, Jamaica, and more) to attend theCURVYcon. They come with empty suitcases in preparation for the shopping they plan to do. Most importantly, they come back year after year and they bring friends along—that's a huge indicator of the support we have and we're grateful.
How much has it grown from the first installment?
TheCURVYcon has doubled in attendee size since we launched in 2015. We've gone from a half-day event on the bottom floor of the Met Pavilion west to a three-day event in a multi-level building.
How many women attended this time?
We had over 1,000 ticketed guests. Once you add in press and brands we had about 1,300+ people in the building.
Do you plan to ever bring theCURVYcon to other cities?
Growth and expansion is always top of mind for us; we'll see what the future holds!
What's been the most rewarding part about doing theCURVYcon?
TheCURVYcon is a community-first event. We love creating a space where plus size street style is celebrated and important conversations about body positivity are had. The most rewarding thing is watching women arrive alone and leave with friends.
theCURVYcon powered by Dia & Co. Photographs by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
Gabourey Sidibe with theCURVYcon co-founders Cece Olisa and Chastity Garner Valentine