Chubstr Crush: The Ladies of Fat Fancy

Chubstr Crush features profiles and conversations with women who inspire us. This week we speak with Annie Maribona and Carlee Smith, owners of Portland, Oregon plus size clothing boutique Fat Fancy. 

How long have you been in business?

Annie: Since December of 2007 – I cleaned out everything in my apartment and brought in clothes for the first sale and advertised on the internet and a lot of people came and bought clothing. From there we moved to my friend’s basement where Carlee and I started a store. We had monthly sales to raise money to get a real store. We never paid ourselves anything and we put it toward creating a store that offers clothing that’s affordable and unique for bigger women. We got the real store in December of 2009. We still work our day jobs and we work really hard, but we’re really happy to be here and we feel like what we’re doing is important and necessary.

You’re really creating something important that turns into a community for people who need it. 

Carlee: We’re really fortunate to be in a city like Portland with such a strong fat activist community. We feel really supported and encouraged by the community. It’s the perfect place to have like a radical plus size clothing store. There are people here who really appreciate it and are out, visible fat people that are proud to be who they are. There are also strong, community-minded fat people who are all about supporting local businesses, so this city is kind of a perfect place for it. I think that more cities could be, they just have to be introduced to the idea – a lot of places aren’t that fat friendly.

As you’ve built the store and grown, have you run into any kind of roadblocks that you didn’t expect when getting started?

Annie: I think for me the number one barrier is just being working class and finding the time, money, and energy to balance everything.

You’ve got your online presence through your website and social media – how much has being online and being able to connect with people in that way helped you grow your business?
Annie: Huge! We started online – that’s how Carlee and I met – definitely social media has helped us reach out and grow.

Carlee: The internet has been instrumental in helping us grow. We’ve had international press and TV exposure but because the reverberations of that are online, it made what we’ve done a worldwide thing. People have found us through those things, and it’s really helped us a lot.

Aside from sales and the day to day running of the store, I hear that Fat Fancy holds events. Is it something that you do regularly?
Annie: We’ve done workshops on fat liberation and health at every size, and dear diary events.
Carlee: We did a show a few months ago in the store, and we found out that the acoustics in there are amazing – it sounded great.
Annie: We had a band called Cat Fancy playing at Fat Fancy (laughs) and an appearance by Leslie Hall. She came in and just hung around with everyone, which was really cool.
Are events like that something you want to expand upon?
Carlee: In the beginning when we were in the basement, every sale was kind of an event for the fat community so we want to keep that feeling and keep that kind of thing going with an event every month. Even if it’s just a rummage sale, or coffee and cake  – just something that lets people come and share space and visit. We love doing that. You don’t really see stores having social events – we want to be more than just a store by doing those things.
Where do you get the clothes that you carry and what sizes can someone expect to find? 
Annie: Our sizes start at 12 or large, and they go up to as big as we can get them. We have a unique sizing guide, and we do size ranges – it takes the value off the number and clothing sizes aren’t uniform, so this helps people find something that fits.

Carlee: We don’t buy directly from manufacturers, so almost everything you find here is second hand. We have one or two people who design clothes and we carry their clothing, but it’s not like we’re buying from a distributor or company. We do a little bit of wholesale and a little bit of consignment. We’re planning to do buy/sell/trade in the future. There’s more to that, but we want to do it.

Annie from Fat Fancy

What kind of men’s clothing do you offer in the store?
Carlee: We have vintage and modern clothing, so we have a bit of clothing from the 50’s and 60’s, and a little more clothing from the 70’s, and we have a lot of stuff from the 80’s. We carry shirts, tops, slacks, dresses for both men and women – blazers, ties, accessories – basically you name it and we’ve got it. We try to carry an equal number of accessories for men as we do for women. Of course, most of the stuff we have is female gendered. We have a lot of really cute stuff for men – lots of button down, western style shirts for men. Lots of shoes, some cowboy hats kicking around. We try to get as big as possible. If we find a cute shirt for a guy and it’s 6XL or 5XL, we’ll want it in the store and we’ll put it out there. We really try to go as big as we can go.

You had me at western shirts.

Carlee: (Laughs) We’ve also got some boaty, yachty, 80’s shirts in the store. We’ve got some yachty shit up in our store!
Annie: We have a mix of classic styles and crazy amazing styles too, so we try to have a little bit of everything in here. We also try to be a safe place for people of whatever gender to wear whatever gender clothing they like. It’s another really important aspect of our store.

Carlee:I think that really ties in with us being a safe place for people. We want it to be a place for all people to come and shop, no matter what they’re looking for. We welcome everyone who comes to the store and wants to shop here. It’s hard for someone who might be male gendered to go into a mainstream store and try on female gendered clothing. It can be scary and traumatic. We don’t want to be that kind of place that pushes people away, and it’s not who we are anyway.

Carlee from Fat Fancy

A lot of our readers are learning how to put together a look and love to get help creating their style. Is this something you help people with?
Annie: We love that! If they’re open to that, we’ll definitely help them. It’s the best part of the whole thing – it’s like playing dress up.
Carlee: We know how difficult it can be for people of size to get service in mainstream stores. They’re usually thin and don’t know how to dress a person of size, and that’s what we specialize in.

You’re working on a new site and you plan to sell clothing online soon. Where are things at with that?

Annie: We’ve got a project up on Indie Go Go to help institute online sales, begin an in-store buy/sell/trade policy and create a part time job to manage it all. People can donate to the project on Indie Go Go right here.

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