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Conversation With Deb Malkin, Owner of Re/Dress, 4/01/2009
deb malkin
by Maddy Figueroa-Jones

Re/Dress is the newest clothing store sensation for curves to hit NYC. After opening its doors and a fabulous Grand Opening event this past February, Re/Dress is becoming the place for curvy girls to shop, sell and enjoy the ambiance that Re/Dress is becoming known for. This month we get up close and personal with Deb Malkin, owner of Re/Dress. 

[Maddy] Tell me a little about yourself.

[Deb] I'm fat, a queer fat femme. I prefer the word fat over plus size when describing myself. I'm fairly politicized around my fatness and view it as an important part of my identity since I've been fat most of my life. And whether I like it or not, it's influenced every aspect of my life either by my own choice or by the actions of other people. It's taken me years to be at ease with my body and drop the habitual thinking that leads so many of us to blame all our difficulties on being fat. My heroes are the fat activists who have come before me, who live fearlessly in their bodies and inspire me daily to say yes to myself as opposed to accepting the diet industry's financially motivated bigotry. I live in Red Hook, Brooklyn with my partner of over 8 years. When I'm not working I like to travel, scuba dive and thrift, but I think that might count as working these days.

[Maddy] You have been a "name" in the NYC plus scene for a very long time. When did it all start for you?

[Deb] I started working in plus size fashion in 2000 at alight.com. I started as the office manager and ended up 7 years later as the VP, of e-commerce. Through alight.com I became familiar anyone who was selling or making plus size clothing I thought we could/should sell. Also I've always tried to support the industry through lending clothing for fashion shows and editorial spots that highlighted plus size clothing. Personally I love the passion that women like Catherine Schuller, Gwen DeVoe and you at Plus Model magazine have for the image of fuller figured fashion. There's so much hard work and dedication going on all around me, it's hard not to want to cheer everyone on and get involved when I can.

[Maddy] How do you feel about clothing retailers not embracing the plus size market?

[Deb] I think they're foolish and fat phobic. I think they're not doing their shareholders a favor either. Our market power is only just starting to be tapped. There's a lot of money to be made making and selling quality and trendy plus size clothing. To do it right, means that designers need to get close to plus size bodies, and I'm not just talking about plus size models. Fat bodies are different, and grading up from smaller sizes isn't going to address fit issues. When you go from a size 14 to a size 26 there is a variety of shape differences. Getting plus size clothing right requires passion, dedication and fearlessness. But it could be very profitable. As everyone says, we're the fastest growing market and we only capture a minuscule portion of the amount of product out there. But I do have to say it's 1000% times better than it was when I was growing up. I shouldn't complain, but I hate things that are unfair for no reason other then ignorance and bigotry.

[Maddy] Tell me about the Fat Girl Flea Market and how you were involved.

[Deb] My friends and I are involved with Nolose, a fat activist conference focused on the LGBT community.
It happens sometimes yearly, sometimes every other year. After September 11th 2001, the conference found that it was hard to raise the money to put the next one on, so my friends and I put our energies together to find a way to raise money. Simultaneously we were complaining about the sad lack of good "thrifting" in NYC if you're over a size 8. We put 2 and 2 together and decided to raid our own closets and sell our clothing at thrift store prices to raise money for Nolose. It was a big success and we're putting on the 7th one this year at the LGBT Center in Manhattan. It takes an army of volunteers and an army of shoppers to make the event a success. But we've raised over $30,000 for the Nolose conference and to help people who want to attend the conference attain financial assistance. It's a fun, cheap and body positive shopping event. Groups come from many other cities to share their clothing and shop. Anyone donating clothing can get a tax receipt letter as well, it's win/win/win! And you don't have to be gay or a fat activist to come and shop. You can just be someone who wants a cheap pair of jeans.
 
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