Fashion as a whole, is anything but frivolous, especially when you remember that there are people behind the labels, behind the latest trends. But, truthfully, that can easily be lost in this fast-fashion era that we currently live in. Fashion is deeply personal, but incredibly public at the very same time. Especially when it comes to plus size fashion. Fashion holds a very special place in the plus size community because, depending on how old you are, you grew up having minimal options. And depending on what size you are, you may still not have many options to choose from (which is where fat activists like Saucye West and her Fight For Inclusivity campaign come in).
With online shopping and way more access than ever before, you might ask, what’s the harm in shopping fast fashion? Don’t we deserve access to affordable clothing in our preferred styles? Especially when you consider that because of anti-fat bias and weight stigma, fat people are paid less than our straight size colleagues, and often, when we do find clothing in our size, it often is accompanied by a “fat tax” markup.
So how do we change our shopping habits and the way we look at clothes, (especially those of us in larger bodies) and become more sustainable consumers? I had so many questions about sustainability in plus size fashion, and Kat Eves was the first person to come to mind to help me answer them.
When I think of celebrity stylist Kat Eves, the outspoken, fat positive, and ethical fashion advocate, I think of her incredible willingness to educate others, and how she amplifies indie designers dedicated to ethical fashion practices and inclusive sizing. She is a wealth of knowledge and, as you will see shortly in our interview–genuinely inspiring.
Meet The Plus Size Celebrity Stylist Using Fashion As A Force For Good: Kat Eves
Where did your love of fashion come from?
Kat Eves: “The moment I knew I really loved I like I was bitten by the fashion bug was when I saw my first Delia’s catalog. My next-door neighbor was a couple of years older than me and she always had really cool fashion sense.
I remember seeing her Delia’s catalog for the first time and thinking that everything from the models to the creative direction within that catalog to all of the options were just so much cooler than anything I’d seen at like the local department stores or mall and it was the first time I really saw fashion that felt like me. And I was a fat kid then too. I could like barely fit into a size 13 At that point, and I was lucky that I could, but I was also you know 11 years old and a size 13. It was when the Delia’s catalog came to be that I really saw my style represented.”
That’s so interesting! Yeah, I distinctly remember Delia’s and all that stuff and like, Oh, it’s so cool, but I never saw myself in them because I couldn’t fit in them. Plus, they’re kind of expensive, and like I didn’t have a Delia’s near me.
Kat Eves: “I didn’t have a Delia’s store near me, it was the catalog only when I was a kid and I remember like, it was like one of those things where it was like expensive, but it was also really exciting to see a style that didn’t look like JC Penney. It just felt so different and fresh. And I think also the other thing about it was just that it felt like, I don’t think I knew what my style was until I saw it represented there.”
Yeah, yes, that’s true. As you know, growing up fat, you just kind of take what you can. So yeah, it took me a while, and like, I still find myself developing my fashion sense and style to this day.
Kat Eves:“I think that’s normal because as a plus size person. It’s so hard. It’s hard enough finding clothes, let alone creating an aesthetic or representing what really feels like you in fashion. And then you’re taught and then you know, I’ve got this like, added thing that I created for myself in my own values of really wanting to care about sustainability and ethics. And more, most importantly than that is the ethical side of things. So yeah, it’s a really hard thing to find your own style that fits your values anyway, and then you add into it the scarcity of options within plus size and it’s, it’s a journey.”
Absolutely. Now that you’re speaking of sustainability, when did you learn and become passionate about it?
Kat Eves:“I think that deep down, all of us know and have known for a long time that a lot of our clothing is probably not made that ethically, I think that it wouldn’t be shocking to anybody to walk into virtually any store and learn that the clothing on those racks are not necessarily made as ethically as possible or sustainably as possible. But I think that there’s this thing that we do where because fashion is something that everybody participates in one way or the other, even if it’s anti-fashion. There’s a little bit of this need to put it out of sight out of mind.”
“So I operated under that for a long time as somebody who was plus size and interested in fashion and watching things grow in plus size fashion. Watching fashion influencers like Nicolette Mason and Gabi Fresh rise to the top on Instagram really quickly and feeling like that was a world where I had never realized I could be seen.”
“I didn’t have a lot of money to invest in a whole wardrobe of designer clothing or any of that. So I became a bit of a shopaholic at discount stores like Ross or Marshalls and I would you know, scour the sale racks at Anthropologie and places like that. I really was intoxicated by the idea of being seen. Being able to participate in the fashion world where (traditionally) my body was not wanted, was really exciting to me. The problem was that I couldn’t afford to keep up with it.”
“It wasn’t financially sustainable for me. So I was dealing with the reality of having racking credit card debt that I really couldn’t pay off. Then a book called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost Of Cheap Fashion came into my sphere. It’s by Elizabeth L. Cline and it’s a book about the issues of both ethics and sustainability. That came onto my radar and I remember hearing an interview with the author on the radio and being like, “Oh shit. She’s about to tell me all the things I already know to be true”.
“In the first chapter, I recognized that there was no going back. The thing about fashion is that it is depending on what you read, it’s one of the top-five polluters on the planet. Like people can’t believe that when they hear it. And in some reports, I’ve even read that it’s number two.”
“But needless to say, fashion is a massive polluter on the planet. And I think pollution is one of those things that can be kind of an abstract concept, but when you think about the fact that you know, toxic dyeing practices are clogging up rivers in places where they dye fabric. People are having health issues who make our clothes because of how factories are sprayed with pesticides. There are just so many things where it came down to it…like I realized once I read that book, and once I had that information, I couldn’t just go back to living my normal life.”
“I wasn’t happy having, you know, more clothes, especially more cheap clothes. There were those five minutes of feeling good about getting something for, you know, a crazy discount at Ross. But it was fleeting, and I oftentimes ended up feeling like those clothes could go on the discard pile very, very quickly. And so I also felt like there was this clutter building up around me as a result too.”
‘It just was one of those things where I realized that I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t doing anything really very positive for the people or the planet around me. So something had to give. I had all this knowledge now that I was armed with. I needed to do something with it. So that’s how it started.”
It’s incredible to hear your journey! I’m sure lots of people can relate to that fleeting feeling, but once you know better, you definitely do better. That being said, there is a lot of criticism for sustainable fashion for being inaccessible. Especially for plus sized people in plus size fashion. So what are the ways that we can shop sustainably if we have a limited budget?
Kat Eves:“Yeah, I understand where that criticism comes from because it isn’t accessible pricing-wise, it’s not even necessarily accessible pricing-wise for me to buy you know, brand new, sustainable, or ethically made clothing. That’s why you don’t see a lot of new clothes in my feed. Most of the clothing that I buy, I buy used even if it is a sustainable or ethical brand. And you know, the nice thing is when you get into that world, most sustainable brands will tell you that that’s the best thing too. So there are a few different things.”
“One thing is that there are a lot of brands that are beginning to offer a used option on their site where customers who have pre-loved items can actually send them in, get a little money for them, and then the company will resell them on their site. I know that the brand Nooworks has started doing that, for example (Nooworks Full Circle), and Nooworks goes up to 5X I believe, in some of their items now.”
“We are seeing these resale options that are making things more accessible. Of course, used is always going to be the most sustainable option and so your local thrift store or the incredible selection of plus specific resale shops that are all over the country and are also now selling online are creating more accessibility in terms of pricing and options for plus size folks as well. But used is always going to be the more sustainable option.”
“Suppose we stopped making clothing today. We would not need new clothes for years because there’s such a backlog of clothing already. So there’s not really like necessarily other than wanting to be engaged in trends, which happen very quickly these days. There’s not actually technically a huge need for people to create new clothes except; that for plus sized folks, especially larger fats and infinifats, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done and that has to be acknowledged.
Do you think there is a world where fast fashion can ever become or be sustainable?
Kat Eves:“No. No, because fast fashion is by design, an unsustainable business model. There’s no way to do fast fashion sustainably. Partly because the technology’s not there. If you could truly make fast fashion from like fully recyclable items that didn’t have some of the issues of like, microplastics, and synthetic materials, if there was a way to do that technology-wise, where we could recycle all polyester and all synthetic materials, then there is some possibility of that. Still, it doesn’t change the fact that the people who make our clothing are being so underpaid and undervalued that they themselves have to make really difficult choices that are not necessarily going to be more sustainable either.”
“So if you have if you create a system in which the people who make your clothes aren’t able to participate in your values of sustainability because they can’t afford it, then you’ve created something that’s never going to be truly sustainable.”
“The other thing too, when we talk about what sustainability, usually people think about it from the planet aspect. I look at it really more from the people aspect. So if the people who make our clothes are in unsafe work environments, they continue to be underpaid, and they continue to be exploited. It doesn’t matter to me how quote-unquote green your company is. The human cost is unsustainable as well.”
“There is no model, though, within fast fashion because the prices are so low by design. There’s no model in which you get garment workers who are treated fairly and paid fairly. It just doesn’t work. The money doesn’t flow that way. So something’s got to give.”
Thank you for that incredible insight! Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about your work as a stylist! What is it like to be responsible for dressing your clients, in some of the most critical moments in their lives and careers? What’s that like?
Kat Eves: “Um, nerve-racking. *Laughs* Getting to be a stylist and working with people in these moments where their star is rising is a huge honor. I never take for granted that the people I work with trust me with some very vulnerable moments. It’s an exciting job and it’s also not one that I take lightly.”
“I care a lot about my clients, and I care a lot about making sure that they feel seen, especially with my plus size clients, where so often–even if they are seen, it’s not always in the way that one should be seen. You want them to be able to walk onto a red carpet or into an interview or onto a stage, feeling confident and feeling like themselves and feeling like they can be in control of their own narrative. And my work plays a role in that.”
What has been your favorite moment as a stylist this past year?
Kat Eves: “Oh, hands down my favorite set I worked on was styling Dulcé Sloan for Ru Paul’s Drag Race!“
“I got to work with a designer who I’ve been friends with for a long time but haven’t had the right opportunity to work with named Howie B. he is a designer who has created custom looks for everyone from Lizzo to Nicole Byer to Megan Thee Stallion. Getting to finally create a custom dress for Dulce for Drag Race was definitely a bucket list item for me. But it also was the most fun set I’ve ever been on. Everybody on that set was happy to be there. And the entire vibe was just really lovely in ways that I can’t even fully express.”
In addition to being a stylist, you also are a podcaster! So for those who aren’t familiar, how would you describe your podcast Gaudy Positive?
Kat Eves: “Gaudy Positive is a chat podcast where I come together with my first client when I moved to LA, Jenny Zigrino, a plus size comedian, who’s now my best friend! We bring in various guests from all different walks of life. We have a lot of comedians on, we also have designers, drag queens, etc. People who essentially have figured out how to live their lives on their own terms.”
“The theme of Gaudy Positive is where being what makes you weird, makes you wonderful. And the whole idea with this is that we should all be able to live our most authentic lives. The things that make us unique really are our superpowers and so we honor that on Gaudy Positive.”
What is your greatest wish for the future of plus size sustainable fashion?
Kat Eves: “I want to see ethical and sustainable fashion surpass fast fashion for the plus size market because we deserve it. I think at the end of the day, we have been treated for so long, like fast fashion is all we deserve. We deserve sustainable options. The large majority of the US population is being left out of the opportunity to make more systematic sustainable choices regularly. (Most) Brands don’t see sustainability as an accessible value either. And we need to see a big shift in that.”
“At the end of the day, I don’t want to live in a world where plus size people are treated as though we don’t deserve to participate in sustainability as a value or in choosing ethical fashion as a value. I think most of us if the price was right, if we could pay for it, and we were given the option between fast fashion and ethical fashion, I think most of us would probably choose to do the right thing. If the esthetic was right. The fit was right. And so on.”
What would you like for your legacy to be?
Kat Eves: “I like this question so much. I literally never thought about it. I’m really excited about how I see Gen Z folks caring more about ethical and sustainable fashion. And I guess I would love for my legacy to be that I help open doors for future stylists, designers, and other people who are just even interested in fashion. To have more options.
I work with a lot of designers and have consulted with multiple designers on expanding their size ranges and also for reaching they’re reaching plus size customers and I’d love to see that continue. At the end of the day, what I really want is for more people to recognize that there is not only nothing wrong with shopping used, but that it’s actually the better option.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
April Cover Details
Photographer Chelsea Mudlo @cmudlophotography
Dress/coat: By Vinnik | @byvinnik Made ethically in small batches in LA from remnant fabric.
Earrings: Idyl | @Idyl Sustainable lab-grown diamonds & 100% traceable solid gold.
Necklaces (top 2): Idyl
Necklace (bottom): Astor & Orion | @astor_orion Ethically made from recycled metals.