Ashley Nell Tipton, winner of season 14 of the Lifetime competition series, Project Runway, launched a new plus-size clothing line on the first day of New York Fashion Week. Tipton, who partnered with JCPenney shortly after winning Project Runway, will be selling her line through the Boutique+ branch of JCPenney stores. She showed the line, which is composed of 19 items, during an all-day event at Greeley Square Park in Midtown.
Titpon, who was the first plus-size winner of Project Runway, designed this collection exclusively for full-figured women.
When asked how she felt the event was received, Tipton said, “I feel like the show went beyond my expectations. I think that it had the most positive vibe and reinforcement and I think we definitely got our message across that plus-size woman can wear trendy and fashionable clothing.”
The line, which starts at size 14 and extends to 5X, will be sold in over 500 JCPenney stores and online, according to Abril Gruber, Tipton’s sister and staff manager. The Manhattan Mall in Midtown is the only store that will carry all 19 items. Other JCPenney stores will carry a select number of items based on that store’s overall size and available retail floor space for Boutique+.
John Tighe, chief merchant for JCPenney, said the company decided to partner with Tipton because plus-size fashion is one of the fastest-growing segments of retail clothing today, so it was important for JCPenney to offer that to their customers. As chief merchant, Tighe is responsible for selecting and buying all the merchandise that JCPenney sells.
“Partnering with Ashley to create this special fall collection adds another level of design credibility to our Boutique+ brand because she is a designer, as well as a personal advocate for body positivity,” said Tighe. “Introducing Ashley Nell Tipton for Boutique+ further reinforces our commitment to becoming a destination for this underserved market.”
Tipton worked with a design team in Soho to create her fall collection and said that during the design process she tried on every piece of clothing herself to make sure she liked the way it fit and felt. “Everyone knows that JCPenney is an affordable retail store but I also wanted to make sure that people were getting their money’s worth,” she said.
Plus-size fashion is not without controversy, though, including criticism of the name itself. Some plus-size models, such as Ashley Graham and Jordyn Woods, have said the term should be abandoned, arguing that it is offensive and an unnecessary way of branding women.
But Tipton chooses not to participate in the debate and said she does not care what other people think of the term.
“Plus-size is a word that I use because that is what this clothing is called in the fashion industry. And I really don’t think people should have a problem with it,” she said.
Another criticism of plus-size fashion is that it supports and encourages an unhealthy lifestyle, as there are numerous health concerns related to being overweight or obese, including type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.
According to data in 2010 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control, 64 percent of women in the United States were either overweight or obese. The difference between being overweight and obese is based on a person’s Body Mass Index, according to the CDC, and obese individuals tend to have a BMI higher than 30 and an excess amount of body fat.
In 2015, the CDC reported that obesity among adults increased from 1999 to 2014 and that 38.3 percent of women are obese, four percentage points higher than men.
In 2012, a report was published by the CDC stating that the average weight of an American woman is 166.2 pounds with a waist circumference of 37.5 inches. That would translate to a size 14 or 16, according to a JCPenney dress size chart.
Gruber says that Tipton has received everything from hate mail to online comments regarding this issue, but Tipton said she doesn’t feel she is promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.
“I am trying to promote women that have curves to love themselves,” said Tipton. “I still have insecurities about myself and I am still growing as a person but if I could wake up in the morning and not have to worry about my clothing and how I am going to look for the rest of the day that is a stress reliever.”