Chubstr Crush features profiles and conversations with women who inspire us. This week, we talk to Reah Norman, Executive Fashion Director for PLUS Model Magazine. If it’s fashion related, Reah probably knows all about it. We talk about a day in the life of a Fashion Director, why plus fashion is becoming more popular, and tips for guys who are trying to create their own unique style.
My interest in fashion has been a gradual thing, something I’ve really started to get into over time. Have you always been interested in fashion?
My passion for fashion began with photography. When I was young, I used to “play photo shoot” by creating a homemade photo studio in my bedroom, fully equipped with a white sheet tacked to the wall, a Fischer Price camera, and my dolls and stuffed animals as models. I took my “Cabbage Patch” doll and pony into my front yard to go “on location” with them to take pictures. This all came straight from my imagination.
I started reading fashion magazines like ‘Sassy’, ‘YM’, and ‘Seventeen’ when I was 12 years old. The fashion features and the editorial content that filled their pages mesmerized me. I continued to study photography throughout high school and college. My personal fashion journey, on the other hand, has been a long road!
When it comes to style and fashion, you’ve got it covered. Photo stylist, Fashion Editor, Wardrobe Consultant, Fashion Show Coordinator – you do it all! How did you get into the industry?
My freshman year in junior college, I worked full-time as the merchandising assistant at Old Navy and I loved it! At the time, my major was Psychology and thought I wanted to be a social worker, but I was also taking photography classes as my electives. I fell in love with my photography classes and spent all my time shooting, developing & printing in the darkroom. My school offered fashion merchandising classes, so that next semester I signed up for all of them! I received my A.A. degree there, and went on to receive my B.S. in Merchandising and Photography from Northern AZ University. After graduation I moved to LA to attend a post-grad Visual Communications program at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), and upon graduation I immediately started working full-time as a stylist.
You’re Executive Fashion Director for PLUS Model Magazine – What does that entail?
PLUS Model Magazine is the premiere virtual magazine, celebrating the plus size fashion, beauty, and plus size modeling industries. As the Executive Fashion Director, not only do I style for the magazine and contribute a monthly style feature, I also work side by side with Editor, Madeline Figueroa Jones, and the team overseeing the fashion and beauty content and voice of the magazine monthly.
I work with Maddy to create our yearly editorial calendar, brainstorm shoot concepts, create with mood boards, select models, and oversee the fashion and beauty content of all the editorial shoots. I travel to NYC just about every other month to style on set and meet with our clients on the east coast.
It seems as though plus size fashion has taken steps into the mainstream in recent years. Why do you think that is?
I think that society’s eyes are much more open to the “size” issue now than we ever have been. Curvy women are being embraced now, more than ever, as the plus size fashion and modeling industry continues to grow, and as we see more celebrities embracing their curves with confidence. We are seeing a trend in TV sitcoms and reality shows featuring plus size actors and personalities, and as the anti-bullying and healthy body image movements continue to gain momentum, so will the plus fashion industry. The most recent trend in the industry is that it is cool to have curves, as long as they are “healthy curves”.
Let’s talk big men’s fashion! What current looks or styles are you seeing out there right now that you really like?
It’s all about how you put together the pieces of your personal style. I think it’s easy for men to get stuck in a t-shirt and jeans rut. Personal style is really about putting it together in a polished way. I love to see the mixing & matching of prints and textures, layering pieces, and putting garments together that are a bit unexpected. Wear your favorite band t-shirt, but take it up a notch by layering with a collared shirt underneath and topping it off with a tweed blazer. There is nothing more attractive than a man who takes time to look good and put himself together.
Do you have any tips for guys who are trying to create their own looks with limited resources in extended sizes?
My tips for plus size women are the same for big & tall men…
- Be Creative- “Think Outside the Fashion Box” and put things together that are fresh and unexpected. It doesn’t have to “match”; it has to “go together”.
- Try it on- Cuts, styles and manufacturer sizing are different with every designer or brand, so try on a few different sizes to see what works best.
- Shop online- Often times retailers will offer extended sizing on their websites that they do not offer in-store. Sign up for emails on the sites you shop the most and wait for a sale or free shipping promotion, then stock up!
- Ask For It- If there is a brand or designer that you absolutely love and they do not offer your size, shoot them an email or tweet and ask for it! Their social media teams are listening and our voices are more powerful than we think!
- Accessorize- it’s all about the shoes, the hat, the glasses, and the watch. Don’t neglect these details. They can make or break an outfit!
You’re in the Los Angeles area – where would you recommend local gents looking for stylish clothing shop?
I love shopping with my boyfriend who is big & tall! We shop at the Westfield Culver City mall Macy’s, which has a great big & tall section, and there is also a Five Four (www.fivefourclub.com) store there which is a go-to for him. Sportie LA on Melrose (www.sportiela.com) for sneakers, and also Nordstrom Rack. They have a great selection of men’s shoes in bigger sizes! Believe it or not, we also shop for him at Men’s Warehouse. They have classic pieces that you can combine with the trendier items in your closet.
Where do you find style inspiration?
I gain inspiration and build my aesthetic from everything around me- environment, art, interior design, and lifestyle. Also, I find that being part of the plus size fashion community inspires me daily. I love seeing beautiful photographs of plus size women expressing their personal style, whether they are bloggers, models, or just women embracing their size and “thinking outside the fashion box” as I always say!
When you’re not working, what do you do for fun?
It seems that I am ALWAYS doing something work related, but when I do force myself to stop working, I love to see a movie, meet friends for happy hour, go on road trips, go to museums, lay in the sand at the beach, and explore LA!
What’s next for you?
So many amazing projects in the works, most of which I am sworn to secrecy until they launch, but I have recently re-introduced my personal blog, “Reah Norman- Living Outside the Fashion Box” which will be a huge concentration for me, moving into 2013. I get tons of emails from plus size women who are on the “bigger side of plus” often ask me where I shop and how I put my looks together in my everyday life, so I have decided to share my personal outfit posts with them on my blog, as well as share style tips, behind the scenes tid-bits, sneak peeks, plus fashion round-ups, and just offer my styling expertise to plus size women, and showcase the larger side of plus by highlighting my personal style as a size 22/24. Beyond that, the sky is the limit!