Monif Clarke is the god-mother of the plus size fashion industry. Not only is she a trailblazer in the plus community, but her brand Monif C. has helped change the way that plus size women view plus size fashion. Because of this New Jersey resident, women wearing a size 12 and up can envision themselves wearing fashion-forward clothing in colors other than your basic black.
Monif Clarke is a subject matter expert that has the respect of several news outlets. Clarke has appeared in numerous local and national media outlets including The Associated Press, CBS News, The Washington Post, TODAY, and Fox News, and now she appears on the digital cover of DailyVenusDiva.com!
For our November feature, we caught up with the plus size fashion expert in the midst of celebrating her 10th year in the plus size fashion business. Clarke shared with us lessons that she’s learned during the last decade, who or what inspires her designs and she gives some treasured advice to aspiring designers.
DailyVenusDiva.com: How does it feel to be celebrating your ten year anniversary?
Monif Clarke: It feels surreal. What started as a passion project has grown into a seven-figure, international business. We have a new Manhattan showroom, an amazing team, and the most loyal customers.
Ten years in business took a lot of hard work- and it has surely paid off. I am grateful for the opportunity to wake up each day and help further the message of body confidence within the plus-size community.
DVD: Are you surprised that you’re still going strong after all of these years?
MC: After a decade in the industry, nothing surprises me anymore. I am, however, blessed to still be in business – as I have seen many small businesses within the industry close their doors over the years.
DVD: When you started designing, who were you designing for and how has your focus evolved?
MC: I started designing for myself! I am a plus-size woman and just wanted stylish clothes that fit me and looked great. My thought process was if I ‘m frustrated, there are women just like me who are also. I just hoped that if I loved the garment, the customer would also. I wear every single garment that Monif C. releases. If a dress is going to go to customers, I want to be sure it is flattering and stylish.
DVD: What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your years in business?
MC: My mother, who taught me the importance of being happy regardless of what you see in your physical manifestation, always used to say “happy begets happy” -and it’s true! The happier and more grateful you are for the blessings you experience in life, the more you see abundance and success in business and beyond.
DVD: Where do draw inspiration from and what inspired your 10th-anniversary collection?
MC: Monif C. customers! We brought back some of the most iconic Monif C. dresses in custom colors (ivory, gold, and maroon) for our first Collection preview. All year long we are asking women to submit their favorite Monif C. styles to be re-launched in the limited edition Anniversary colors using #MonifCTurns10. We will continue to launch new limited-edition styles through 2016.
DVD: What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
MC: I am reminded of my accomplishments on a daily basis when customers e-mail in. Just the other day a customer e-mailed to tell me that she finds her confidence and fashion inspiration by visiting the Monif C. website every morning.
When I started Monif C. I could have never fathomed the impact, the brand would have on the plus-size industry. The gratitude customers share via email never ceases to stop me in my tracks, and continues to keep me grounded. It is a constant reminder of why I started this business, and why I never want to stop.
DVD: How has plus size fashion changed in the last decade?
MC: Mass retailers, who once turned their noses up at the thought of marketing to plus-size women, are now entering the market. It is a great time to be a plus-size woman, as now more than ever we have options. I remember going out in college and having only long black or gray dresses to choose from. My friends were all wearing bold colors and sexy cuts, and I longed to have dresses like theirs.
Now I can have that fashion-forward dress, crop top, or bikini. I’m particularly proud to know that Monif C. has a had a big part in being the first to introduce these styles to the plus size woman.
DVD: Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
MC: My best advice would be to follow your heart. When I first started Monif C. I had no design experience and knew nothing about how the fashion industry works. When I brought my design ideas to the major retailers, they all turned me away. They told me my designs were ‘too flashy’ and ‘too sexy’ and that if it were in straight sizes it would be a hit- but because it was plus-size, no plus size woman would buy it. I knew that could not be true and instead of giving in to the thought that my designs were not sellable, I followed my heart and decided to create, market and sell my own collection. A decade later the same retailers that once turned me away have come back for collaborations. That proves what I knew all along that plus-size women deserve to be celebrated, and deserve quality, fashion-forward clothing.
DVD: Which item would you recommend for the woman who’s making her first Monif C. purchase?
MC: The Marilyn Convertible is a Monif C. staple! In fact, it has been recently re-launched in gold for the Anniversary Collection. There are literally 40+ ways the dress can be worn, making it the perfect Monif C. starter piece.
DVD: Every time you launch a new collection, your supporters fall in love with the brand all over again. What do you think the secret to your success is?
MC: I listen to my customers. I genuinely appreciate their feedback and excitement over each and every piece we release. Our customers are at the core of Monif C., and we design every collection with them in mind. Customers message me on IG at @monifclarke, and I read every comment! Keep them coming!
In closing, I’m so grateful that Monif Clarke agreed to this interview. I’ve admired her business acumen for several years. Her attention to detail and the beautiful clothing that she designs is definitely the bonus.
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