Alexis Simone (Plus Size Activewear and Lingerie)
Interview with company owner Sumiyyah A. Rasheed
Alexis Simone is an emerging leader in plus size activewear and lingerie. From concept to finished product all work is performed locally in the Atlanta Metropolitan area. Before the design process begins, our staff listens to the complaints and wishes of curvy women. Armed with the data from the interviews and focus groups, the design team develops garments to solve the curvy woman’s pressing problems with fit, comfort, and style.
What inspired you to create your fitness (and lingerie) line? Tell me about how you got started.
In order to earn extra income, I began selling plus size lingerie via home parties in 1988. The parties proved so successful for me that I began to sell on a regular basis. As my clientele grew, I added more inventory to fulfill the demand.
- 1992: my mom and I formally started manufacturing women’s ready-to-wear and plus size lingerie.
- 2009: to add to our lingerie collection, we incorporated large cup bras into the product mix.
- 2013: we showed our curvy ready-to-wear during New York Fashion Week with the show produced by Nailah Lymus of Underwraps.
- 2017: we added an activewear collection to answer the need for atheleisure garments in larger sizes geared towards the curves.
How have your designs evolved over the years?
When I first started designing, the garments were hideous and ill-fitting. After several failures, I began to intensely study the “plus size body” and technical design. So over time the fit, the structure and the style of the garments evolved to give a superb fit for the curvy woman.
Why do you think it’s so important to cater your line to the plus size woman?
I believe it is important to cater to the plus size woman because this segment of the industry continues to suffer from shoddy craftsmanship and I feel it is important to give this underserved segment of the market the same high quality seen in smaller sizes. When women look good, they feel good and with the “feel good factor” their confidence level is improved whether it is an office setting, a date, or gym.
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs? Tell me a bit about your creative process?
I’m inspired by the glamour and luxury of the 1940’s and Hollywood’s golden years. I spend a lot of time watching old movies to critique the style and structure of the garments especially the gowns to incorporate into my lingerie collection.
What are your core values when designing your products and why?
My core value is to give the best to the customers and constant improvement. So when I sit down with my design team, we discuss the nuances of the potential garments for production and how best to construct the garments thus giving the customer the best fit and style, even down to the type of stitching used for construction. We consistently think about how to improve internal processes which inevitably lead to better customer service and I don’t mean just the run of the meal phone interaction, but also product presentation and the customer wow effect upon receipt of their packages.
What distinguishes you from other designers and brands?
What distinguishes my company from other designers and brands is the fact that all creative work and production are performed domestically (in the USA). Typically in the industry, the initial design work is performed in the USA, but the sample making and production are performed off-shore. When that happens, there is a loss of process control. With the loss of control over the process, inaccuracies and mistakes occur that can’t be readily resolved. We are so fortunate that we possess the technical skills to perform the most intricate of work without outsourcing to anyone. Thus we can give a better product and faster turn around to our commercial customers.
Not everyone can be successful in the designer world let alone the plus sized. What would you contribute to your success?
I contribute my success to my strong faith in God, tenacity and sound planning.
What are some of the challenges that you experience as a plus sized fashion designer?
Some of the challenges that we experienced as a plus size manufacturer were acceptance by buyers at trade shows. Many stores say they want to carry plus size lingerie but are reluctant to stock items because they don’t believe plus size women have love lives and thus don’t deserve elegant lingerie in large sizes.
Tell me about your own personal journey to loving your curves?
Do you have any suggestions for curvy women on how to dress their body and feel confident? My suggestions are to start at the bottom and work your way outward. Confidence comes from within. It’s feeling good about your own ability to achieve goals you’ve set for yourself whether work-related or personal. But the key is feeling good in your skin and what is next to your skin. It starts with a good foundation, properly fitting bra, panty, shapewear and quality fitting outerwear.
Tell us a little bit about your early days and starting your own business – what types of challenges did you face and tell us a little bit about how you overcame them.
Starting a business is a daunting task for sure. Most people start a business on a whim without conducting research and planning for the financial aspect of the business (i.e. salaries, sourcing fabric, insurance, etc.). We were no different and hit pitfalls like depending on unreliable contractors, running out of money, lost or stolen orders. Regarding the unreliable contractors and how we resolved the situation, we brought the work in-house and trained contractors on-site to perform the work. Running out of money is pretty scary when you have contractors and other staff depending on the business to pay their salaries. To resolve the “no money” situation, I took jobs to pay off debts and looking for and secured investors. With the investors, I set a deadline for repayment and met it so I maintained control of the company.
What tips do you have for other women who might be interested in designing and starting their own business or women entrepreneurs in general?
My tips for women or men interested in designing and starting their own business are:
- Define your market niche carefully
- Start small
- Do your research(can’t do enough of this)
- Be in it for the long haul
- Financial planning – understand and do it.
- Know your worth
- Have a support system of knowledgeable and spiritually-inclined people within your core circle
- Take time to exercise
- Remember to take quality time with your family
- Spend time to work on the business versus working in the business.
What kind of feedback have you received from your customers in terms of clothing style, fit and quality?
We received rave reviews for the activewear and lingerie from the consumer as well as boutique owners. What they like about the activewear are the vibrant colors and product assortment. For the lingerie, the women are ecstatic about lingerie with bras inserted for support, the sexy lace panties(S-5X) and dainty baby dolls.
Is there a particular designer or era that has inspired you?
The designers that have inspired me are Valentino, Charles James, and Erte. The era that inspires and intrigues me are the 1940’s.
What are your future plans for your brand, are there areas you’d like to expand?
My future plans are to expand the wholesale business for the activewear/lingerie and open distributions centers to process orders faster for a speedier turn around to the customer. The areas I’d like to expand into our men’s active/performance wear and undergarments.
FabUplus is the FIRST weight neutral, body positive health, fitness and lifestyle magazine specifically dedicated to women with curves. What are your thoughts on this new media platform for the plus sized community?
FabUplus is an excellent platform to address the psychological and apparel needs in one swoop. Women, especially curvy women have very little self-worth reinforcement through the media and throughout society. If a curvy woman is seen on TV, she’s the butt of jokes, the goofy one, or lackluster sidekick. What this does is to instill false stereotypes about curvy women’s self-worth and place in society. With FabUplus’ platform, women can see high achieving curvy women and know they too can achieve.