Silhouettes gets the right “FIT”

Plus-size buyers should not have to settle for anything less than cutting-edge fashions, according to specialty-size women’s apparel cataloger Silhouettes. The cataloger recently enlisted students of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) to give its clothing a fresh, new look.

Hanover, PA-based Silhouettes, part of the Hanover Direct stable of consumer catalogs, launched a yearlong design contest exclusively for FIT students. Apparel design submissions were judged on specific market criteria, such as freshness, ability to interpret fashion trends, and relevance to women who wear sizes 12-34. The contest winners – 11 up-and-coming designers – will have their creations featured in 12 pages of the 76-page Silhouettes fall book, which drops in mid-August. Winners also receive a $500 cash award and a plaque.

Silhouettes president Stephen Marks says he has always “envisioned an alliance with FIT. We view the Silhouettes project at FIT as a living laboratory and as a stage for the ideas and designs of students to come alive. The positive learning and interaction between our professionals and the students will continue.” The goal is to build a relationship between the cataloger and student designers, Marks says, as well as to generate excitement about the plus-size market.

The program enables the students to get acquainted with the world of commerce and see how their designs fare in the real world, while the Silhouettes customer is introduced to fresh ideas. Still, Silhouettes is not deviating too far from its established style; the cataloger assisted students with design and fabric choices. Winning designs were produced through vendors on a full-scale production cycle.

Satisfied with how the first contest has been integrated into the catalog, Marks is looking to continue the contest as a regular program, which will be streamlined into a six-month process that will allow designs to be featured in both the spring/summer and fall/winter books. As Marks says, “Rome was not built in a day, and we are not in this contest for the quick gain.”

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