This week is Oakland’s second annual Queer Fashion Week. QFW is bigger and better than its incredible inaugural year with an expanded variety of designers, sizes and identities gracing the runway this year. Running from September 28 to October 2, there is a bit of something for everyone, including incredible conferences running the gamut of fashion.
Cleveland’s Re/Dress will be showing their incredible plus-size designs Thursday, Sept. 28, at the “Unconventional: The Evening Runway” show. The business started in Brooklyn in 2008 with Bay Area resident and body-positive badass Deb Malkin. When Malkin decided to move away from fashion, Rachel Kacenjar took charge of the business.
Re/Dress’s Kacenjar is a long-time favorite of Wear Your Voice’s plus-size staffers. She tells us a bit about her brand, what to expect at the show and who has inspired her work.
Wear Your Voice: So, tell us about how you became the owner and designer behind Re/Dress.
Rachel Kacenjar: I actually bought Re/Dress from Deb Malkin, who started it in Brooklyn, NY, in 2008. I had been a plus-size vintage seller in NYC and in the Fatshion Livejournal community in my early 20s, and Deb and I ended up meeting at an event that is now called the Big Fat Flea when I lived there. Deb was integral in encouraging me to become a designer and she saw talent in me that I didn’t even see myself.
I ended up working for Re/Dress managing the online inventory, photoshoots and pack and ship operation from Cleveland, Ohio, when I moved back after college. When Deb wanted to sell the business to follow other body-positive dreams, I knew I had to try to make it work because it was so important to me and my community. I ended up running an Indiegogo campaign and raised $27,000 to start the new chapter of Re/Dress. That was in March of 2013. I re-designed and re-opened our website in May that year and then opened a storefront and distribution center in Cleveland in September of that year.
WYV: Give us a profile of your typical or target customer. Who are you thinking of when you create clothing for Re/Dress?
RK: Our customer is someone who’s looking for something totally different in a size XL or larger that is well-made and super unique. They’re also in search of really well-made plus size basics in a huge array of colors like our ever-expanding recycled jersey, microfiber leggings and Teggings lines. They’re a plus-size babe on the hunt for carefully curated vintage in larger sizes dating all the way back to the ’40s. Most importantly, they’re looking for a body-positive and affirming shopping experience for all stripes of folks.
WYV: What sets you apart from other plus size businesses out there?
RK: I think we stand out because we are fiercely independent. We’ve been very out about our progressive politics and queerness. I design and develop products that no one else has, and we try to keep those kinds of garments accessible, affordable and in as large of a size range as we can. We keep a close eye on inclusivity. I feel like we genuinely try to fight the good fashion fight.
WYV: Aside from clothing, when a plus size customer comes to you, what do you hope they walk away with?
RK: If someone is seeking a garment that they feel like is unavailable to plus-sized people, I hope to help them find their unicorn. If they are unable to tap into their sense of style, I hope I can help them find that. A lot of plus-size people are basically told that they can’t have a sense of style because they should be hiding their body, and I’m really into de-brainwashing folks out of that notion. If they’re not ready for that yet, I hope to just make them feel both comfortable and confident in the clothing I help them pick out. It’s all about meeting people where they’re at and empowering them from that place.
WYV: Who or what are your biggest style inspirations?
RK: I’m inspired by whatever’s weird. I’m inspired by the natural beauty all around us. I get really focused and distracted by lines and shapes intersecting, and that informs a lot of what I design. I like when people are comfortable and they wear their personality even more than their clothes. I could rattle off a couple big-wig designers that I have adored, but really, I’m inspired by amazing outfits that rad fat, weird or outcast people are wearing on the street, showing off on Instagram, taking up space in wherever they go … they always make my pulse race more than anything.