I recently had the immense pleasure of speaking with Theary Sim, former plus size model turned curvy clothing designer and owner of Youtheary Khmer, and her story completely changed my definition of “perfection”. Read on and you’ll see what I mean!
1. Question: What do you feel is Youtheary Khmer’s biggest point of difference?
Answer: I always try to make it the most relatable brand on the market. For example, I constantly ask my clients and followers what they feel is missing in the plus size market and then I try to fill that gap.
2. Question: What is your favorite piece in the current collection and why?
Answer: Even though I love every piece for different reasons, my favorite is the “YK Cross Drape Dress”, which is like a wrap dress without the wrap. I love it because it combines a modest neckline and sleeves with a sexy, thigh-high slit!
Note: See link below to view this fabulous dress!
3. Question: Why did you create Youtheary Khmer and what challenges did you face?
Answer: When I was a wardrobe stylist for the record label Def Jam Island Group, singers often wanted clothes that didn’t exist, so I started sewing and creating pieces just for them. When I realized how much I enjoyed it, I decided to try to sell my creations, only to discover that no one in the standard size market was interested in buying them.
Another stepping stone to Youtheary Khmer came in 2011 when I decided that I didn’t want to model anymore. I absolutely hated the clothes I had to wear; plus size clothes at the time always looked so old and frumpy! I finally got sick of it and decided to create my own clothes, which were so much more youthful and fashionable.
Once I started wearing them, curvy women noticed immediately and wanted to know where I had bought them. I realized then that It made no sense for me to design for standard sizes because the plus size community was the one in need.
In June 2012, I launched the very first collection of Youtheary Khmer and was astounded when every piece sold out almost immediately!
4. Question: Who were your biggest supporters when you launched Youtheary Khmer?
Answer: Definitely my friends, who are actually mostly standard sizes; they encouraged me to start off by designing for their plus size relatives and friends. Unfortunately, my family never took my goal of having my own clothing line seriously; they’re Asian and very traditional and even today simply view it as a hobby that I enjoy, not a real career.
5. Question: Isn’t it disappointing and discouraging to not have your family’s support?
Answer: Yes, but I’ve been dealing with that most of my life because I’m so much bigger and curvier than most of my petite relatives. They think it’s because of my size that I’m not married, and they believe that marriage is the yardstick for measuring a woman’s success.
Thankfully, I’ve come to peace with the fact that they’ll never accept my physical appearance or my career. The real turning point for me was when one of my friends asked me, “What are you living for?” I realized then that I had been trying so hard to be “perfect” in my family’s eyes because nothing less than perfection was acceptable to them. I was living for them for so long and now I’m finally living for me! That’s why I put so much passion and love into Youtheary Khmer; it’s what I want, not anyone else!
6. Question: Why do you think so many designers refuse to create plus size clothes?
Answer: Several different reasons. Number one, they’re just not familiar with a real woman’s body; they don’t even learn about it in design school. When I design a piece, I use a real woman, not a mannequin, which allows me to see how it will look on a real body instead of a piece of plastic.
Number two, designers don’t usually have the time to invest in learning the differences between a plus size pattern and a straight size one, especially when they’re first starting out and have to wear so many hats to keep their business afloat. They often feel that it’s not worth taking that time because, unless they plan to specialize in them, the plus size clothes only make up a small percentage of their business.
Number three, many of them are under the misconception that curvy girls don’t care as much about fashion as straight size girls. Sadly, they think we just want to cover up to hide ourselves and don’t care how we do it. Big mistake!
7. Question: What is “Pretty Perfect” and why did you establish it?
Answer: Parents of young curvy girls would ask me and my models to spend time with their daughters to boost their self esteem and teach them to accept themselves. Since I was obese as a teenager, I knew how hard it can be to love your body, especially if you’re bigger than your peers, and my heart went out to them.
I reached out to celebrity publicist Connie Cruz and together we came up with the nonprofit organization, “Pretty Perfect”. Every summer, we host camps for curvy teens, where they can meet with hair and makeup stylists, get a makeover if they choose, learn how to properly apply makeup, understand nutrition, participate in fun activities like dance classes, and, most importantly, learn how to embrace their natural beauty!
8. Question: What would you say to critics who claim that encouraging women to accept their bodies as they are will only add to the obesity epidemic?
Answer: I dealt with this firsthand when we were trying to get funding for our first “Pretty Perfect” camp; we simply could not get any corporate sponsors because they felt that we were encouraging the girls to stay overweight! That couldn’t be any further from the truth; helping the girls to accept how they look, regardless of their size, would help them to shrug off any bullying from their peers and would make them want to embrace a healthier lifestyle because it makes them feel beautiful and powerful. Our philosophy is to let the body change happen organically and in a healthy way by living a proactive life, no matter what size you are.
9. Question: Do you eventually plan to design for men, kids, and standard size women? Why or why not?
Answer: I want to be an expert at what I do and I know that I need to understand tailoring better before even thinking about designing for them. Once I gain those skills, I’ll consider it. Even if a designer has a super creative idea for an outfit, it will not work if it doesn’t fit properly. Fit before creativity, always!
10. Question: What are your hopes for Youtheary Khmer, “Pretty Perfect”, and yourself over the next 5 years?
Answer: I now live a free-spirited and organic life, so I don’t make long-term plans; I let things happen the way they’re supposed to happen. If I tell myself I’ll be in 50 retailers and have 3 freestanding stores in 5 years, I might stop myself from making it happen in 3!
Overall, I just want to create a positive change, either through my fashion, “Pretty Perfect”, or my personal life. If even one curvy girl feels better going into high school on that nerve-racking first day, then I’ve done my job.
Check out Theary’s latest collection and follow her amazing journey via the links below.