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Yuliya Raquel (was Zeltser) – founder of IGIGI
Pasazz.net interviews Yuliya, founder of IGIGI, an exclusive and classy plus size clothing store.
This month we continue discovering and meeting the people that are ‘behind the scenes’ in the plus size clothing industry. If you are not new to Pasazz.net, then I am quite confident that you are also familiar with one of the most elegant and classy plus size clothing store around today, IGIGI. This month we had the pleasure of meeting up with the founder of IGIGI, Yuyila, an inspiring fashion designer with a great passion for her work.
IGIGI offers plus size women with clothing that is truly one of a kind; a breathe of fresh air in the full figured clothing industry, these designs are very chic, classy and yet very sexy.
In this interview, Yuliya recounts how her mother, a voluptuous woman, is her main inspiration; seeing her mother struggle to find fashionable clothing to feel comfortable motivated Yuliya to start designing clothes for full figured women. Moreover, Yuliya draws inspiration from her travels, literature, architecture and art. Read on to get to know more about Yuliya, and her inspirations.
Pasazz: To start off with… tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from and where did you grow up?
Yuliya: I was born and raised in Ukraine; however, for the past fifteen years I have been living in San Francisco, California.
Pasazz: What is your background in the industry? Since you are not a plus size lady, what made you choose to start creating plus size clothing? (By the way, we think it’s great that designers of all shapes and sizes are catering to the curvy women’s needs!)
Yuliya: Designing and making clothes has been my passion since I was five years old. However, the awakening moment came in 1997 when I went shopping with my mother, a beautiful and voluptuous woman, to the well-known plus-size chain store. My mom asked me to come with her and help her shopping. Needless to say, after seeing the selection available in the store, we were extremely disappointed. I began asking myself whether any woman could feel beautiful wearing the clothes that were available in the plus size stores. Would I personally enjoy dressing in this clothing, and how would it make me feel?
I realized that no matter what size a woman wears, she wants to look feminine, stylish and very attractive. The clothes that were available on the market at that time did not do justice to women who wore them. At that moment my personal and professional mission was formed.
Pasazz: When was IGIGI founded, and how did the concept of the company come about?
Yuliya: I started IGIGI in 1998; and the online store (http://www.igigi.com) began in February of 2000 after taking two years to learn the specifics of the Internet retail as well as understanding the needs and requirements of the plus size women’s market. My main goal was to help every woman to feel sensual, feminine, confident and beautiful.
Pasazz: IGIGI… I always liked the name! It’s short, sweet and sexy… but what does it really mean?
Yuliya: IGIGI is pronounced in French manner – “ee-zhee-zhee” and has a funny history behind it. Originally a friend helped me create “sexy” name by taking a French name Gigi and making it ‘symmetrical’ by placing an ‘I’ at the beginning of the word. When I heard ‘igigi’, it instantly ‘felt’ right to me and I absolutely loved the way it sounded. However, later on I did a research online and found out that Igigi was the name of the ancient civilization’s gods; and the main goddess of the group was Ishtar – an ancient Phoenician goddess of love and fertility. And to make it even more serendipitous there was a poem translated from the ancient language; part of it I would like to recite. It still gives me goose bumps when I read it:
“Praise the goddess, the most awesome of the goddesses.
Let one revere the mistress of the peoples, the greatest of the Igigi.
Praise Ishtar, the most awesome of the goddesses.
Let us revere the queen of women, the greatest of the Igigi.
She is clothed in pleasure and love.
She is laden with vitality, charm, and voluptuousness.”
Pasazz: Your designs are one of a kind and a true breathe of fresh air for all plus size ladies as they are different and sexy, yet classy and chic. Where do you get your inspiration from?
Yuliya: I follow my heart when designing for IGIGI. Sometimes I get inspiration from my travels to Europe and around US, as I expressed in the ‘Global Fusion’ and ‘Flamenco Fever’ collection for the Spring/Summer 2006, as well as the past ‘Thousand and One Night’ collection for Fall/Winter 2005-06. There are times when I choose different historical period as my inspiration, as in the recent ‘La Belle Époque’ collection for the Spring/Summer 2006. Yet another time, I will reflect on the architecture, literature or artistic movement. I draw inspiration from everything that moves me and then mold my feelings into designs that will flatter voluptuous figures. I am excited to be able to follow several ideas for the same season, as IGIGI provides women with variety of clothing that will dress them from casual day looks to glamorous evening wear.
Pasazz: Who is the design team of clothing found at IGIGI; are the designs solely yours or is it the creation of teamwork?
Yuliya: I begin by conceptualizing the designs by myself. I then chose color palette and fabrics that will work for the particular collection. I sketch out the designs and present them to the team of the merchandisers that consists of three people: a customer service manager who is very knowledgeable in what customers want; a wholesale sales representative, who is also a former plus size model, as well as the owner of the plus size boutique. She consults me on the needs that women have. She also acts as our “in-house” fit model. I am the third person on the merchandising team.
We then discuss these design ideas, possible challenges and solutions. They help me finalize the colors, fabrics and silhouettes. Our merchandizing team finally decides what will make into a collection and what will not.
Additionally, we have recently hired a design assistant, who helps me with the artistic side of the design process such as creating exclusive trimmings, graphics and embellishment ideas.
As the fit is one of the most important aspects of the plus size design, we also have a very knowledgeable pattern maker that turns my designs into reality, and makes them fit exceptionally well.
Pasazz: In your opinion, what makes IGIGI stand out from competition?
Yuliya: Of course, it is a combination of our clothing design, quality, fit and customer service what makes us stand out from our competition. But besides that, I believe it is our passion to help women feel like the most beautiful beings: unique, exceptional and magnificent creatures. That is what drives everything in our company. Our goal is to inspire all women to love, respect and treasure themselves by accepting their physical appearance. We make it our priority to teach our customers how to look and feel their absolute best with their physical gifts. We know that not all plus-size women are the same shape even if they wear the same numerical size. We create clothing that flatters many specific figure shapes and educate women how to optimize their appearance. We believe that a woman truly feels beautiful when she recognizes that she is exquisite the way she already is: a wonderful, unique, and exceptional individual.
Pasazz: What’s your take on the lack of full figured women within magazines and TV ads?
Yuliya: I could probably talk for hours about this issue, as I feel that today’s media and fashion industry still discriminate against women that do not fit into the prevailing perception of women as abnormally tall and skinny fashion models. Our mission is to influence these industries to begin celebrating women’s unique physical qualities and start featuring beautiful full figured models as alternatives to the current super-slim standard.
Pasazz: What tips would you give budding fashion designers, as well as plus size models?
Yuliya: Probably the most important advice is to never-ever give up. It doesn’t matter if you have no money or experience. The most important thing is to have a burning passion for what you do. After that you have to learn, try, fall, get up, adapt, change your way, listen to the market and really believe in your self. Even if it takes you ten years, it is worth it. Believe me, as I have started this business with all the odds against me.
Pasazz: What does the future hold for IGIGI? Any exciting news?
Yuliya: IGIGI’s main goal is to become a household name plus size fashion brand comparable to Victoria’s Secret and Bebe in the straight size market. However, at this moment the most exciting news is a release of a printed catalogue.
Pasazz: And finally… what would you pick from the following: chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins and chocolate brownies!
Yuliya: Now that is the most difficult question of all. You see by picking just one of them, I will limit myself from experiencing the others. I believe that as a woman should experiment with different styles that will fit her different moods, so do I pick sweets to indulge different feelings. I will choose chocolate chip cookies when I will feel like laughing; a blueberry muffin when I will feel like singing; and chocolate brownies when I feel in love.
Heartfelt thanks go out to the whole team at IGIGI for their co-operation, and to Yuliya for being kind enough to take a break out of her busy schedule to hold this interview with us. If you haven’t yet done so, visit IGIGI today!