Combining different visions, passions, techniques, and personalities can be difficult for any brand. Throw in designing high-end pieces for the plus size woman and you’ll see why I’m obsessed with PLY apparel. PLY stands for Pamela, Lamarr, and You. In their words,
“We produce a timeless garment that we are proud enough to not only put our name on but yours as well”.
They are proud to design fashionable pieces for women and not just because the plus fashion industry is popping right now. As a plus size woman, I love all the attention the plus size community is receiving. From Ashley Graham on the cover of Sports Illustrated to the abundance of plus models on the runways of Fashion Week to curvy girls killing it on the red carpet of the Grammys, we are being noticed. I’m waving my big girl flag and singing “watch out for the big girl.” Let’s keep it real. There are so many bandwagon “Plus Positive” brands, causing me to be leery of who’s getting into the business for the right reasons. Getting to know the designers behind PLY has made it clear that with all the challenges they have faced producing “clothing with a strong emphasis on cut/lines and fit” they are definitely in it for the Love.
It’s Black History Month and Valentine’s Day just passed, so I can’t help but want to celebrate the black love that the designers Pamela and Lamarr Nanton of PLY apparel exude. Watching these two in the organized chaos that every designer experiences backstage of their own New York Fashion Week show is magical. The smell of hairspray and hot curling irons fill the room as Aubrey Loots and his Studio DNA Salon crew prep the models’ hair. In another corner, I find more models with Cristina Romeo and her Polaris Cosmetics team finishing up the flawless makeup with a bold lip. As I continue to poke around backstage I notice a man and woman whispering to each other as they watch pieces being fitted and accessorized by the lead stylist, the legendary Susan Moses. Immediately I know they are the designers and their body language clearly showcases their passion for clothing. Being pulled in many directions by several different people they still have a way of being soft and loving to each other even though the tension is high. It’s like watching a good romantic movie and you’re at the part where the couple you’ve been rooting for has a moment where you think, what’s going to happen next. Then the music starts, the first model appears, and you take a sigh of relief because it’s clear love will prevail and the fashion show begins.
Thinking back on when I first found out that PLY is owned and operated solely by a black married couple, I got so excited to learn more about their union and how it’s helped their brand reach great heights. Love is extremely powerful and it can push a talented individual to accomplish amazing things when shared with the right person. I mean it’s called a partner for a reason, and choosing your partner in life wisely can foster some great creations. I think some of our most accomplished Black actors, entrepreneurs, athletes, and even our President and the First Lady of the United States have used their love as a ‘Major Key’ to their success.
“It’s a long road when you face the world alone, no one reaches out a hand for you to hold.”~ Mariah Carey
At this point being the hopeless romantic that I am, I had to know how they met and if their love for each other came before their love of fashion. I found they both had years of experience in the industry. Lamarr has held titles like Senior Designer and Design Director and has worked with brands like Giorgio Armani, and Kenneth Cole. Then you have Pamela’s many years as a Patternmaker and Technical Designer making them the perfect yin to the other’s yang though they hadn’t even met. When their paths finally did cross, they were both working for the brand Fashion Bug. They often saw each other around the office and luckily Lamarr finally worked up the nerve to ask her out on a date. It didn’t take long for him to see something special in her because a short 9 months later he popped the question and they said “I Do!” 10 months after that. Two creative minds with a passion for fashion joined forces, in love and in business, to make their impact on the fashion industry. Reflecting on their relationship and how it is to work with your spouse Pamela said, “It is great overall. I can’t imagine being able to do this, this successfully with another business partner. Yes, there are difficult times because we are so different. Lamarr and I are sooooooooooooo different, and we have been taught differently, and we learn differently but the two of us together with all of that is what makes this work.”
Though the differences are prominent in this dynamic duo their ability to compromise is a key component in their creative process. As the lead makeup artist and I chatted she made it a point to mention how great they work together calling them a “unique harmonious team.” She elaborated, “They both give input on how the outcome is supposed to be.” Though they both give their input, Lamarr being the smart husband that he is, knows when to listen to his wife. He said, “there is a good amount of tension, creative tension is good for the creative process but when she puts her foot down….that’s it!” Pamela also explains, “He is a true designer, meaning he will grab some fabric and start draping and cutting and pinning and Voila! A dress. And he usually always wants a muslin too. But for me, I rely on my numbers, but we both bend to each other’s way to make the best product we possibly can.”
Surpassing the difficulties of the creative procedure to make better fashion options for plus woman comes with its own obstacles. Compared to straight size fashion plus size designers obviously face more challenges, “The fit is different, the pattern is different, the darts are placed more strategically because it needs to fit curves in different places, we have to think about the belly, the thighs being closer, the calves being larger.”
However, the price point is the bigger issue in the plus community. PLY isn’t looking to pipe out a cheap bodycon dress that will be too small after a few washes, but as a fellow frugal-nista, I know it has to be hard to change the consumer’s perspective. “The real obstacle is curvy and plus size women not having better options to buy better clothes. Those clothes do come with a price, so it has been challenging to show them that we can not produce quality and stylish clothing for $29.99. Some of our better fabrics cost anywhere up to $100.00 per yard.” Nevertheless, when it’s hot it will sell, and seeing those super dope pieces at PLY’s fashion week show all I thought was how am I going to save my coins to get them in my life.
At this point, you may be questioning why Pamela and Lamarr don’t just make it easier on themselves and design for straight size women. Pamela isn’t here for it, she says, “People often ask us, why plus? Because I’m curvy! I may be on the smaller side but my waist to hip ratio isn’t like the straight size woman”. However, if I had to answer that question, I would say it’s because they aren’t quitters. They have overcome bigger adversities in their life than changing the face of plus fashion.
Pamela is a Breast Cancer Survivor, she says, “It was hard, it was a struggle but I chose to have a lumpectomy on the left breast. I am left handed and more creative because of it”. Making a decision so bold and fearless has clearly served as a huge inspiration for PLY. The garments are anything but ordinary, going so far as to create beautiful designs that make the collection just as phenomenal as its creators, “As a 10 year Breast Cancer survivor it is so awesome to be able to create clothing where we can do a Pink piece to support the fight against Breast Cancer.” Surviving the “Big C” even with the amazing support of her family and faith was no easy task. The love, passion, and unyielding spirit Pamela and Lamarr infuse in all that they do is what will assure PLY stands the test of time and they will without a doubt conquer anything the fashion industry may throw at them.