Kristine Thompson knows retailers aren’t stupid.
The aerospace marketer turned influencer and fashion designer told Stylish Curves if you’ve had to elbow your way to the corner of a department store to find the one pair of size twenty jeans from a designer collaboration recently someone designed it that way.
“The store layout is not by happenstance,” she said. “Everything is strategic. And so the fact that they do not cater to plus size women in store is not by accident. It’s not because they ran out of retail space.”
Who Is Kristine Thompson
Thompson has been advocating for luxury fashion experiences for plus-size women since starting her blog TrendyCurvy in Fall 2013. She was motivated to start her site by the plus-size women sharing their looks on social media. “Instagram kind of opened you up to people that lived in like different states, different cities, even different countries.
And so I was starting to follow this movement that I identified with,” she said. “I just was amazed by how like bold and vibrant and unapologetic these women were being about their size and their style. And I just knew that I wanted to be a part of it. And so I eventually started my own blog and became a part of the community.”
As a fashionable woman who was encouraged by her mother to show off her “big pretty legs,” she wanted to share resources with others who might be having difficulty finding clothes that weren’t dowdy. She attributes her confidence to the support and acceptance of her family.
“I never really looked at it as a negative thing because I was surrounded by people who didn’t cast out my body for being the size that it was,” she said. She didn’t know her efforts to spread that confidence would soon be replacing her job in the aerospace sector.
“I didn’t have the foresight at that time to really see that this could become like much more,” she added. “I think the very first time that I realized that this was even something that could resemble a business was the first time a company asked me how much I charged for our posts.
And I was like, ‘What? I don’t know. How much do I charge?’ It had never even crossed my mind that companies were looking to pay what we now call influencers for their posts, to feature their products.”
Thompson refined her negation strategy through trial and error. “It was definitely, a case by case basis, something that I really had to learn on the fly and, you know, I’m sure I didn’t make, always make the best decisions, because I just didn’t have the knowledge at that point.”
With each project she was hired for she tweaked her approach and acquired skills that would help her when it was her turn to cut checks for others. “I think because I started so early, I really got to see how things did evolve and things were becoming much more streamlined as a process between brand and influencer to where I could then start to develop how I would construct like my business.”
From Fashionista To Founder
Today, after turning her site into a profitable enterprise, she is working to provide more options through Kin by Kristine. The fashion brand is designed to elevate consumers virtual and traditional retail experiences. It also provides modeling and ambassadorship opportunities. Thompson hires some of the women she once admired online, including Chantelle Tyler and Alexa Rosa, to represent her company.
Promoting the business has given her another platform to speak out from. “There’s so much that I want to do to really shine a light on what I feel like is a marginalized community and a community that just doesn’t get the shine that they deserve,” declared Thompson. “I am definitely more vocal in a public forum about what I feel like is missing.
I just think it’s important for brands to realize that you can’t just do a one size fits all. Like you can’t just play it safe all the time. Like of course, yeah, we need a basic black dress. Everybody needs a great basic black dress, but we don’t need 14 of them from 14 different brands. Like we want something different.”
For Kin by Kristine “different,” is slinky skirts, vibrant patterns, and bold colors. “I started thinking about Kin by Kristine about two and a half, three years before it actually launched. And it was really because I still felt like there was such a lack of trendy options in the plus size community,” Thompson continued. She acknowledged that the market had grown significantly but criticized the rate of industry-wide expansion.
“We’ve definitely come a long way. There’s been a lot of brands that have come into the fold that are like trendier and more modern clothing. But we still are very far behind. And so I think I just got frustrated with the fact that I was seeing kind of the behind the scenes of these brands and they weren’t being run by plus size women.
They weren’t being run by plus-sized people at all,” she continued. “And it’s really unfortunate because we all, we all know the stats. We all know that the majority of America is plus-size. Like let’s just be real. And so for that experience to still be lacking in 2020, going into 2021, it just needs to change.”
“It’s just a gross, ridiculous scenario.”
Thompson noted that straight-size lines often have more resources poured into them than their plus-size counterparts. The lack of transparency surrounding the distribution of resources in corporations can leave the faces of campaigns in the dark about the company’s true level of commitment.
“Maybe if you invested in the marketing and you actually put it on your social media accounts, and you actually did an email blast that was specific to your plus-size offerings, and you actually invested in plus-size models and plus-size ads, then maybe you would sell more,” she said.“It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They say it doesn’t work, but they also didn’t put any effort into making it work.”
As a content creator, Thompson is permitted to have more of a voice than the average consumer. Unfortunately without any equity her opinions, and those of her peers, are toothless in the boardroom.“We are saying that we need this, we need that and we would love that, and it’s not being met because the people that are in charge of our clothes aren’t us.”
Thompson’s choice to found her own company is reflective of a trend of influencers expanding their entrepreneurial efforts. Gabi Fresh, Kelly Augustine, and Nicolette Mason have each stepped up to turn their influence into real action.
“I just felt like it was necessary for me at some point, I didn’t know how it was going to do it, but I just felt like it was so necessary for me to say, okay, this is not only a brand that I feel like addresses the severe lack of options that we have in the plus-size community, but it’s by a plus-size woman,” said Thompson.
“I know our pain points,” she added. “I know how clothes fit us. I don’t have to hire anybody to tell me this.”
The onset of the retailpocalypse has not deterred Thompson from focusing on creating unique offline options that center larger bodies. She is actively developing partnerships and planning activations for 2021 that deliver the experiences she wants.
“I want her to feel like this store was made for her, that there are options available to her that she’s welcomed in that space, that she has options available to her not only in size but in variety, that she’s not relegated to a corner of the store, that she feels like she belongs when she walks in.”
Photo Credits: Trendycurvy.com and Kin by Kristine.com