BRIDGE Models - Mens 5 Year Anniversary - Q&A with Bennet Loveday
June 22, 2021 •
In continued celebration of the BRIDGE models Men's 5 Year Anniversary and the #REALBODYREVOLUTION campaign, CAVALIER's Adam Townsend caught up with designer Bennet Loveday, for his thoughts and experiences whilst creating his new Big & Tall collection!
What inspired you to create a plus size collection for Men?
Creating this collection has been something I’ve wanted to do for over 10 years now as my MA collection was originally designed with bigger bodies in mind. The idea of scouting a group of plus male models became a bit too intimidating for me though, and in the end I used straight sized models, as they are hired for graduate shows and it’s something I’ve been wanting to correct since.
The original inspiration though was a photoshoot I came across at the time I was researching that collection where they had used bigger men. They weren’t hired models but they’d been depicted as any model would be in photoshoot – including swim and underwear – and it made me wonder why that seemed so radical for a fashion magazine.
To go back further at one point in my late teens I was an XXL myself and the limitations at the time (this was only around 2002-2003) were so apparent that I made myself a size that fit the clothes. Interestingly in some circles of the industry - particularly I noticed when I was interning in the mid 00s - I was still deemed the ‘big one’ at a Medium. This was something that really stuck in my mind as I couldn’t keep that body shape up and it opened my eyes to how skewed things were when even the designers were meant to fit a mold!
What has surprised you the most in creating this collection?
I would say the thing that has surprised me the most is how little extra fabric is really needed for larger sizes! One of the common arguments for plus fashion costing more is the extra fabric needed but in reality its not as dramatic as is implied.
What has the feedback from plus size men to your collection been like?
This is really the start of my label so I haven’t had much chance for feedback yet but when I’ve spoken about what I’m doing it's been positive, as the idea behind my brand is to consider larger sizes first and not as an end point after designing for a medium sized frame which can sometimes be the case.
When it comes to creating clothes for bigger men, is it a case of simply grading up smaller sizes, or is there a different, more individualised approach?
Grading up smaller sizes was my original starting point but after first fittings with one of the models it became clear that this isn't the way to go. A lot of my own personal experience from having been bigger was that the fits of larger sizes can be unflattering - shoulders can end up extended too far or shapes become square and boxy or too long, which is a side effect of a simple grade up. This is also something I am fully intending to continue to develop and improve as my business ages – something I’ve always believed is that one size does not fit all (I find that concept in clothing can be harmful to someone’s view of their self – I've been there where it did not fit) and everyone should feel their shape is being flattered.
Do you think any changes need to be made in the education system to encourage more diverse designers?
Yes, I really do. There seems to still be a standard of working with a ‘traditional’ model in mind for graduate collections, particularly for women's designers. The ideal for a lot of students is still the 5’9-5’11 size 4-6 and then the 6’2 with 38” chest for the men's. However I do think there are students who are noticing this and moving on from it and I think that needs to be encouraged and celebrated.
Why do you think we are in 2021 and the fashion industry still rarely considers bigger, broader men for high-fashion campaigns?
I think it’s because we as designers are taught that a traditional clothes horse is slim - that way clothes will hang ‘correctly’. It’s a loaded question as it does involve almost looking at who’s most to blame within the industry but I think the education system encouraging more diversity would be a good start, as I don’t think there’s enough emphasis put on designers to actually understand a body shape outside that norm.
I also think there’s a massive fear of the unknown response that could come and it being bad for business. I’ve been around the industry since I started uni in 2004 and there’s an exclusivity attached to being smaller and thinner and this is what companies continue to use. At the same time there are signs this is finally changing, for example with Fenty using a plus man – and this is something that was noticed beyond the inner circles of the industry.
The #RealBodyRevolution campaign seeks to encourage greater representation of diverse body sizes and shapes in fashion and media. What impact do you think this could have on society?
I think it could have a great impact on it as for too long the assumption has been that skinny=good and big=bad. My hope is that the brands that are beginning to use more diverse body types continue to do so and this has a knock on effect to make designers sit up and notice that that’s a market that isn’t a trend or short lived.
What would be your message to other designers to encourage them to consider bigger, broader bodies?
Do it! The world is moving on and we can’t be stuck in the old ways of thinking that the smaller the sample size the better, people are moving on and we can’t be lazy about it anymore. It’s also a massive chance to learn and grow when you begin to work with new and diverse body types rather than shy away from them.