I was so privileged to speak with the very first Miss Massachusetts Plus America, Denise Gaeta, AKA Dede, who also happens to be the designer and owner of one kick-ass curvy fashion, jewelry, and fragrance brand, Dede Allure. Below are her thoughts on Dede Allure and the curvy industry.
1. Question: What do you feel is Dede Allure’s biggest point of difference? Why?
Answer: We create classic, elegant, pieces for the curvy girl with classic colors that can be worn with anything else on the market. These pieces are timeless and, because they will never go out of style, you’ll have them forever. No other designer does this for curvy girls and there is such a huge need for it!
2. Question: What kind of challenges did you face when you were developing Dede Allure?
Answer: Manufacturing! I literally spent a whole year traveling the globe to find the right manufacturers because I’m very picky; my pieces must have both that high couture look and top-notch quality while still maintaining an affordable price point. When you’re making a classic piece that will last for 20 years, there can be no compromise on quality!
3. Question: Who were your biggest supporters when you were developing Dede Allure?
Answer: I’d have to say my close friends, especially some modeling friends out in California, my photographer, Troy Tackett, my brand strategist, Paul Schmidt of Evoke Branding, and my friend, Cher Rue, the writer and producer of Rock Your Curvy Style fashion production company. All of them took a huge leap of faith by taking me on as a client, and I will be forever grateful for them.
4. Question: Why did you choose to feature black diamond jewelry?
Answer: I was inspired by Sex and the City when Mr Big gave Carrie a black diamond. The black diamond is alluring, mystifying, and very unusual. If you look at a black diamond, it’s very deep and dark and can mesmerize you for hours. They are also classic stones that are timeless, just like my clothes, while being more affordable than traditional diamonds.
5. Question: Why did you choose to expand to Tunisia?
Answer: During my quest for manufacturers, I made some friends there and realized that there were hardly any options for plus size clothes. There were some online options, but the government, in order to keep Tunisia’s money within the country, prohibits people from ordering goods online from other countries. The only thing women can do is bring clothes back with them when they travel to other countries. I also had to open a Lufthansa drop freight (similar to DHL in the States) in order to get manufacturing done there.
Another reason I picked Tunisia is that I got such a warm welcome there, especially when I was doing work for Aleppo Shriners Children’s Transportation Fund, the charity I chose to support when I became Miss Massachusetts Plus America. The fund is a collaboration of 22 pediatric hospitals in the US, Canada, and Mexico that provides free care for patients suffering from conditions such as burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate .
While I was in Tunisia, I stayed with the Nouria family. The mother, Samira, and her daughter, Neyla, were especially wonderful and taught me the ropes of the local fashion industry, helping me find a manufacturing company and even introducing me to Azza, one of Tunisia’s most famous designers. They were all so wonderful and I am very thankful for their help and their friendship.
6. Question: What is the biggest difference in people’s attitudes toward plus sizes in the different cities you’ve visited?
Answer: Globally, curvy girls are definitely not as accepted as they are here in the US, which is saying a lot because we’re still not 100% accepted here either.
In the US, the west coast has embraced plus size women much more than the East coast, which is why I really want to see the rest of the New England states involved in programs like Miss Plus America.
7. Question: What did you like best and least about being part of Miss Plus America?
Answer: I love absolutely everything about it! It’s such a privilege to be a part of and I can’t wait to see it grow.
8. Question: What would you say to critics who claim that programs like that would encourage women to accept their bodies as they are and will add to the obesity epidemic?
Answer: I’d say they need to educate themselves. We are not supporting obesity. Programs like Miss Plus America are about support; supporting each other and learning to love yourself for who you are.
9. Question: Why do you think so many designers do not want to create plus size clothes?
Answer: They’re afraid of the plus size stigma, which is such a shame because they’re missing so many incredible opportunities. For example, Troy took a big risk when he approached me for a photo shoot; his Beverly Hills friends thought he was insane and that he was ruining his career. Because he didn’t listen to them, his marketability has increased tenfold. He’s gotten an unbelievable amount of leads through my photo shoot. resulting in 8 pictures in Vogue and a 22-page spread in Imerge magazine, just to name a couple.
10. Question: Do you plan to eventually create clothes for men, kids, and standard size women? Why or why not?
Answer: I’m actually working on a men’s line right now, which will hopefully be ready to launch at Boston’s Fashion Week this fall. If it’s not, it will debut in the Spring of 2015 at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York City.
After that, my teen collection will be ready and I’m excited about helping young curvy girls feel confident in their bodies.
As far as standard sizes go, I’m really not interested in competing in that over-saturated market. If a customer wants one of my pieces in a standard size, I’ll gladly make it for her, but I want to focus on the curves!
11. Question: How do you feel that your background in cosmetology has shaped Dede Allure?
Answer: It’s definitely come in handy at shows when something goes wrong, like when your hairdresser’s water breaks and I have to finish the models’ hair myself while she leaves to give birth!
12. Question: What are your hopes for Dede Allure and yourself over the next 5 years?
Answer: I definitely want to open at least one store in Tunisia, and I really want to focus on getting into other untapped markets where the plus size community is so in need, both here in the US and around the world.
I also want to keep doing more fashion shows, especially in New England where there’s such a need for them, and especially with Rocky Your Curves.