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Fashion Student, Dominique Norman Speaks About The Inclusion of More Plus Size Designers

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Dominique Norman is a fashion student who is passionate about the inclusion of more plus size designers in the fashion industry. She believes in a more size-inclusive and racially inclusive future for the industry. Dominique was the first student to produce a plus-size collection during her undergrad years at Washington State University and currently getting her master’s at Parsons.

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Norman talks to Refinary29 about why there aren’t more fashion-design students focusing on the 67% project. Here’s an excerpt from the interview

What was the impetus for you to work on a plus-size collection?
“I realized that I did not see people who looked like me in my textbooks or in my curriculum, at all. I began asking my professors why we were only making clothes for one kind of woman, especially when most women do not look like the mannequins we were using. I was faced with the answer that anything larger than a fashion size 8 is not ‘industry standard.’ We were taught how to make all of our designs based off of a fashion size 8, which in the real world is about a size 2 to 4. I felt like my education was being limited to a single demographic.

“I am an advocate for equal representation, particularly in the fashion industry, so I decided that I was going to learn how to make clothes for all women, not just the fashion size 8s. It was difficult; I felt ostracized from my department, and I felt like I didn’t have support where it was necessary. But that is what it means to be an activist, to continue to fight for what is right regardless of the obstacles in your way. I knew that by creating the first plus-size collection and one of the only collections to feature all models of color [at WSU], I would not just be representing myself, but representing this demographic that is continuously ignored and misrepresented. I would be representing the 67%.”

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A piece from Dominique Normans collection

Just a handful of universities include plus-size design in their curriculums. Why do you think that’s the case?
“I think the fashion curriculum is a reflection of the industry. Unfortunately, the industry has always been very Eurocentric in who it represents, with models being predominantly white, over 5-foot-7, and a size 2. In Jean Kilbourne’s research, she states that only 5% of women in the United States have the body type that is represented in the industry. Both the fashion curriculum and the fashion industry need to diversify in terms of who is represented.”

Beyond your design work, you’ve written and performed poetry about the 67%. What inspired the spoken-word piece (featured below), and what were you hoping to get across?
“When I wrote this piece, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with only seeing one kind of woman in our [fashion] curriculum. There was no representation of non-Eurocentric, differently abled, non-cisgender, or non-heteronormative people. I kept asking, ‘Why do none of these people look like me?’ I felt like I was not included in this industry I was getting into, and that wasn’t fair to me or my education. We talk about how fashion is inspired by certain things, like cultures, subcultures, people, and places; however, most of the inspiration is appropriated and redesigned to fit this standard. If we are going to take inspiration from a diverse array of things, we need to see a diverse array of representation.”

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Norman has advocated for size inclusivity in mediums beyond fashion design. She’s also a poet, and last year, she performed a powerful spoken-word piece criticizing the fashion industry for its lack of diversity, both in terms of size and skin color. Watch her spoken word below.

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