Straight out of the city that never sleeps, Yona Love has put years of time and effort into building her brand, Yona New York. Her upscale and sophisticated designs are marketed towards plus-sized women. Yona believes that every woman should be able to express their bold personalities and personal styles through what they wear – no matter what size. Here, she speaks with Semra Sevin, founder of REglam, about the goals of her brand and the message she hopes to get across.
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Semra: Yona is for the plus size woman “who wants to be able to express who she is through her clothing”. How do you think the voice of the plus size woman in today’s Western society is silenced and how does Yona help her to express herself?
It’s no secret that fat shaming is all around us; whether in the school yard or on the internet, plus size women are consistently singled out. It’s easy to end a debate or argument by resorting to making a derogatory comment about a woman’s weight or size to cut her down – an automatic silencer. A plus size woman simply cannot be taken seriously because of the way she looks. Her opinions simply do not matter. However, plus size women’s opinions do matter, and are as valid as everyone else’s. It’s incredibly encouraging to see body-positive campaigns and messages these days. As long as we are confident in and love our bodies, then we will no longer be silenced by such attacks.
Semra: As a full figured woman, you say you “understand how difficult it is to dress a woman of a certain size.” What did you experience when shopping in a regular stores and how do you want your client to feel after she wears Yona?
Every time one of our clients puts on a Yona piece, she knows that thought was put into the fit and the design. Not every body is equal, and plus size women come in a variety of shapes even if they’re the same size, so it’s more important to be mindful of designing garments that drape or fall a certain way to accommodate that. I personally hated how certain retailers simply enlarged their straight size patterns to plus size assuming it would look the same going from a woman who may be more angular to one who is shapely – designing for plus isn’t just about enlarging a pattern, but being mindful of the woman’s body.
Semra: Yona is for “the modern plus size woman looking for a sophisticated and upscale look”. What profile does your ideal client have, whatactivities does she pursue and where does she live?
The Yona woman is a woman with a robust lifestyle. She can be a full time mother who still maintains an active social life or a powerful businesswoman always traveling. She lives in a city, has a wide network of friends, and enjoys the theatre, fine dining and travel. She doesn’t believe in rules when it comes to fashion and finds ways to express her bold personality through her wardrobe.
Semra: Yona is for “professional women who want to be taken seriously.” What stereotypes did you face in the business world, being a plus size woman? If there were any, how did you break them?
In addition to running Yona, I am also the owner of a successful consulting company in an industry that is predominately male (construction). I’ve certainly experienced “eye-rolling” moments involving my gender, but my firm belief is that if you are confident, poised, and command the respect of your colleagues, clients or peers, then any negative pre-conceived notion can be overcome. I won’t say that it’s necessarily easy, but it’s the only way to push forward; giving in or succumbing to the anger will only hold you back.
Semra: You believe “that beauty is not about size, but about style and confidence”. How did this belief bring positive change to your dating life? How did men react to you, before you came to this belief?
When it comes to romance, you have to be genuine to who you are. If you’re unable to express who you are to the other person, then there can never be a genuine connection. Confidence and style is a state of mind. There’s no set standard for either, and I believe both come from being true to yourself and being comfortable with and accepting who you are as a person.
Semra: As an accomplished business woman, how did your social circle react to your transformation? Did you become a role model?
As a mother, I’m always conscious of how I’m influencing my children, whether consciously or indirectly through my actions. I was lucky to have a strong mother who I admired, and my gender never became something which I ever considered an obstacle in my life. I can only hope that my children view me as a role model, but I certainly try to do the best I can to teach them the lessons I’ve learned.
Semra: With all the talk about eliminating the word plus-size, what do you think of the word plus size?
I don’t really pay too much attention to it. I think the debate is certainly healthy to bring awareness to all the issues underlying it. It represents a feeling that a lot of plus size women have regarding being categorized into one limiting label, that ends up being following us wherever we go in life. But as we evolve as a society, our language will inevitably evolve as well, so time will tell how this will play out but the conversation itself is highlighting all the different ways plus size women are smart, unique and beautiful, which is a positive thing.
Interviewee: Yona Love
Interviewed by: Semra Sevin
Photos from: Yona Love
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