Oh, I know -- it's January, and for many of us in the Northern hemisphere, thinking about swimwear in January is just a torturous reminder of the many weeks of frigid temperatures we still have to contend with before spring.
SORRY Y'ALL, but that's exactly what needs to happen if you want to get in on the 2016 GabiFresh and swimsuitsforall plus size swimwear collaboration, which drops today and pretty invariably sells out. Gabi's collections get better every year, and this year is no different, once again emphasizing bikinis nearly impossible to find anywhere else in plus sizes, but also with a few ace one-pieces as well. (You can find additional info and fit notes on Gabi's blog, if you're still unsure.)
I first "met" Gabi awhile back when she joined the Fatshionista LiveJournal community I helped moderate in the mid and late 00's (hands up, who remembers Fats in its heyday?) although it was some years later that we met in person. I thought it would be cool to take this opportunity to ask her a few questions about how she feels about being the Fatkini Queen today, and her thoughts on the evolution of plus size fashion overall.
So this is your third swimwear collection with swimsuitsforall. You hear from scores of women every year that your line convinced them that they were "allowed" to wear a two-piece swimsuit in public for the first time. Do you have a favorite story? (Also, bonus question: favorite troll comment?)
That's the most common feedback I get! Women are constantly telling me that they never considered wearing a two piece suit until they saw me rock it. Part of it is just finally having fashion forward options which weren't available before. I don't know if I have a favorite story... I do remember one woman said she hadn't gone to a pool or beach in ten years, and after seeing me she got the courage. That really stuck with me. I love designing, and seeing girls wear my creations is always super exciting, but getting women to overcome their fears and rock a bathing suit is the best part, whether they wear my collection or not.
I don't know if I have a favorite troll comment. They fade into background noise after a while because they're usually all so similar, but once in a while someone will say something that makes me laugh. Sometimes I'll delete really horrible comments but that's because I don't want my followers to see them and feel bad about themselves. My mom called my sister last year hysterically freaking out over the mean instagram comments after my bikini pictures came out and we just cracked up, like, "Mom, it's okay. This is just part of being on the internet."
It's super weird to me that this continues to be the case, but "fatkini" is still a loaded or even offensive term to some women -- I know that in the past, even swimsuitsforall was not real fond of this terminology, although they seem to dig it now. How do you feel about "fatkini" today, and about the fact that it is a word so inextricably associated with your name?
I'm totally fine with the term! I can't take credit for it, it was already circulating in the fat community. The first person I saw use it was Jessica Luxery, but I helped popularize it and I'm definitely associated with it now.
In the beginning I didn't realize how viral it was going to go, and I freaked out a little because I was like "Wow, am I just the fatkini girl now?!" I felt like I had been blogging for so long and suddenly everything I'd done was irrelevant and the world just knew me for one thing. Even now, when fashion websites do round ups of bloggers, they often choose pictures of me in swimwear, and describe me as the fatkini blogger. It used to bother me, but then I realized that's just the nature of media and headlines and also if that's what resonates most with people, I'm happy to be the one at the forefront of a really cool space.
That said, it's been a few years now and so many plus size girls are using the hashtag and wearing bikinis and have no idea who I am, which I think is really cool. It shows how this is all so much bigger than one person, but I'm happy I could play a part in changing things.
There's a lot of emphasis right now on how plus size fashion is making leaps and bounds forward, to the extent that huge corporate megachains like Lane Bryant are jumping on the bandwagon with their #PlusisEqual campaign. While many fat women are thrilled to have better options for clothes, there's also some frustration that an activist movement is being co-opted for profit by companies who don't really "get" it. What's your take on that?
I'm somewhere in between. I think it's cool that body positivity is finally being recognized by the media and companies, but it's clear they still have a lot to learn. I don't know, I remember someone said something along the lines of, "I'm fine with Lane Bryant using only size 14/16 models, but then don't pretend to be inclusive and use activist language!" and that's kind of where I stand. I don't think we can expect these huge companies to really get it and be super political, but unlike some people, I actually do think LB and others have good intentions.
Are they ultimately a huge corporation with an end goal of making money? Yeah, of course. But they're also made up of individual people, and I think a lot of those people do care about making stylish options for plus size women and were probably trying to send a positive message without realizing how problematic certain things were. I assume they're targeting a more mainstream audience who isn't familiar with fat positivity, and with that group I'm sure their ads seem super progressive and revolutionary.
That's not to say they're above criticism—I think the conversations that stemmed from everything have been important and hopefully companies are paying attention and trying to improve.
Finally, paint me a picture of your vision for an idealized utopian fat fashion future. You're God, and you get to recreate everything in your image. What are the most important changes you'd make?
I mean, I think my answer is actually kind of obvious and depressing: everything would be available in all sizes! I think every fat girl's dream is just to walk into any store and pick out an outfit. It's not even something that sounds crazy, but as things stand we're still so far from that reality.
The GabiFresh for Swim Sexy collection is available now.