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Ashley Graham hates the term "plus-size." And rightfully so, because really "plus-size" clothes and people are just clothes and people. In her ongoing battle against the unnecessary labels, the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover star has teamed up with Dressbarn for a collection of dresses that come in sizes 4-24 and are intended to look great on everyone — isn't that what all clothes should be aiming for anyway?
Graham is previewing the collection, called Beyond, at a lively dinner and cocktail party, finally home in New York City. She's only just returned from Paris two hours ago, where she walked in the H&M Studio show, and before that was jet-setting between Los Angeles and New York. Graham has appeared in magazines like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, and Latina; covered Elle Quebec and the aforementioned SI; and starred in campaigns for Levi's, Addition Elle, Lane Bryant, and NYDJ.
While this is Graham's first time designing apparel, she does have a lingerie collection with Addition Elle and she says that experience truly helped. "I understood that there were so many different components than just saying, 'make that,'" Graham tells Racked. "It's also not just about what I want, it's also about what the customer is desiring. Because I can come in and think I know everything and anything and they could say this is the fabric and the print that sells the best and I could say, 'really?!'... "You think you're coming in and you're gonna create Givenchy, but really it has to be a likeness of that."
And Riccardo Tisci was just one of the designers Graham was thinking about when she made this collection. "Narcisco Rodriguez, Givenchy, and my fall collection that's coming out is very Balmain-inspired," she says. The first collection is concise — four dresses that range from sleek and monochromatic to patterned and playful. Saying she didn't design anything she wouldn't wear, she gestures to the Beyond dress she has on.
"I told Dressbarn, 'If I wouldn't wear it, it's not going to sell,'" she says. "And I wanted to make things that were classic, sexy, sophisticated, and elegant, but were also affordable — obviously because it's at Dressbarn — that have lines that accentuate things on a woman my size and also look expensive on a girl that's a size 4."
And Graham says finding just the right balance was the most challenging part of this collection. "Yes, this will look good on me, but is it gonna look good on a girl that's a size 4?" Graham says. "That was the only challenge that came about: making sure it was flattering on every body type. Because, being a curvy woman even, not every girl that's a size 14 or 16, like me, is shaped like me, so we have to thing about the middle section, we have to think about the arms, we have to think about the length, and that's for every size."
Graham says that the collaboration with Dressbarn was a "natural progression," not only because she's modeled for the brand in the past, but because it allows her to bring her collection to stores a lot of women can access and afford. And this isn't it for Graham and Dressbarn. The model says they have a whole year's worth of collections coming out.
The first Ashley Graham x Dressbarn collection ranges in price from $48 to $66 and is available online now.