October 20, 2017

I didn’t know.

I didn’t know about the impossible struggle of finding contemporary clothing in Plus sizes.

I didn’t know that up until about five years ago there were nearly zero stores that carried extended sizes, aside from Lane Bryant and your grandmother’s old standbys.

I didn’t know that Plus sizes were often hidden away in some back corner of department stores, next to maternity, down the aisle from the kitchenware.

I didn’t know the fashion nightmare facing more than half of women.

Now I know.

I can proudly call myself a Plus size designer. The path here was far from linear. A former musician, I taught myself to sew two years ago entirely on a whim. Fast-forward a year after that, I somehow started a custom leather jacket business. My work was entirely bespoke and made-to-measure for each client. I made custom pieces for 20 year olds, 60 year olds, men, women, rappers, the cast of Orange is the New Black, and generally people of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities, sexualities, and ideals. My custom work taught me important lessons about inclusion and representation that are frequently absent in mainstream fashion.

I quickly found that when I was fitting women who wore larger sizes, the feedback was, "Wow, this is amazing, I've never had access to something of this quality and style that looks and feels like this!" I honestly didn't think too much about it at first. I didn’t know! How would I? I didn’t grow up with an interest in fashion, or dreaming of being a designer. I was not keyed-in to contemporary fashion trends. I’m not a Plus size woman.

But as I received that same feedback more and more, I decided, "Ok, let me take a look at why people are telling me this. What is the state of Plus size fashion?" I was shocked at the lack of quality pieces and the complete absence of contemporary luxury brands. Where are the Rag and Bone’s and Acne’s and All Saints’ of Plus? Nowhere to be found. That was my eureka moment— I felt truly needed.

I hate to admit it, but if you’re a size 4 or 6, you’ll be just fine without me. There are limitless options for you. Nearly every major fashion brand makes a pretty good/great/amazing jacket that will fit your body and budget. You have options from affordable fast fashion brands up to $5,000+. For people over a size 12? Not so much…

Once I decided to specialize in Plus leather jackets, my first step was to survey the competition. I went out and bought every moto-style jacket I could find. I hit all of the major brands and retailers in the US and UK markets. The jackets were almost all faux leather (as if women who wear larger sizes don’t deserve the real thing). I found them floppy and stretchy; The materials screamed low quality, pockets were fake and unusable, and the stitching was weak.

I couldn’t wrap my head around that idea at first. How could such a ubiquitous wardrobe staple be absent from an entire market? I thought I was missing something obvious. Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right places. Fortunately for me (but unfortunate for the Plus community) there were exactly zero high-end real leather jacket options in larger sizes.

It’s time for a change. I am that change. I want to be the catalyst for more inclusivity in the contemporary luxury market for Plus. Not just for leather jackets, but for all things designer. Everyone deserves to dress their personality— to be who they are without compromise, and to buy clothes that will last more than a couple seasons. We all deserve better.

It’s 2017. We have the Internet. We have unfettered access to all of the information in the world, ever. It’s time to shed the outdated misconceptions about Plus bodies.

Bigger women ARE unwilling to invest in themselves.

Plus bodies are NOT all inherently transitional. You are who you are and should feel deserving of investment pieces.

You DO deserve to wear luxury, and rock the same styles as your straight size friends.

You are NOT invisible anymore when it comes to fashion.

When I set out to design the best plus size leather jacket, I basically started from scratch. I couldn’t just take a size 6 and simply grade it up. We built the jacket around a size 18 fit model. I polled countless women in the Community to learn the pain points of fit and design. I wanted to excel where other brands were failing.

I learned:

- Biceps are always tight

- Range of motion is limited

- Jackets often can’t be zipped up comfortably, or they overcompensate with a looser fit in order to allow zipping

Those issues became my starting point. If I could solve those three main problems, I knew I would have a better fitting product than 99% of what’s out there. Couple that with the incumbent poor design and material quality, and I found myself with a clear path forward.

My jackets have plenty of room in the upper arms, but simultaneously don’t look floppy if you have smaller biceps. I added a subtle arch at the lower back that allows the jacket to be zipped up around bigger hips and high butts. We dropped the armhole and accommodated more range of motion across the shoulders and upper-back. All of this took time, great expense, and countless revisions. But the result is worth it.

I’m not here to selfishly push a product on an untapped niche market. It’s about being where customers want me to be. It’s about listening to instead of speaking at. The Jeff Cafone brand will continue forward with that in mind. I’m here for the community. I’m here to make a difference. I’m here For Life.

Jeff Cafone, #JacketsForLife