By Patty Fantasia
Photo credit: Patty Fantasia
Lane Bryant Fashion Show at Planet Hollywood Sizzles with Plus Size Models

Lane Bryant turned up the heat on the catwalk during a hot and classy fashion show held on Sunday night February 20th at the Planet Hollywood Hotel.  Hosted by B. Scott and Angela Adderly, among the plus size models strutting their stuff were showstoppers Ashley Graham and Lizzy Miller.  Ashley is perhaps best known as for wearing the plunging red bra that started a media frenzy and turned her into an overnight YouTube sensation less than a year ago in a Cacique lingerie ad that some deemed to hot for television.  Miller shot to fame when she showed off her “wobbly bits” during a photo shot.  Also in the lineup was Las Vegas native Sydni Sales, who was the winner of the “Be a Lane Bryant Runway Model” contest.  This was the Lane Bryant brand’s first major fashion show in years and they debuted dozens of ensembles ranging from revealing and romantic lingerie to stylish ready-to-wear outfits and dazzling evening attire.  Setting the stage for the fashions was a stage decked out with colorful lights and several enjoyable fantasy scenes ranging from a French boudoir to a walk on the wild side in the West.  Then there were the poodles…three of them in black, white and pink for the animal lovers in the audience.  The intriguing stage design was created by Jeff Grinstein, who handled production with Michael Libonati, and received strong support from many in Lane Bryant's upper management including: VP Heather McGarry, Senior Director of Marketing Kathy Quickert and the Vice President of Marketing Jay Dunn.  Jay happily explained how his company came to be involved in the event.

“The curvy revolution was putting their convention here and was reaching out for sponsors and we were contacted and asked to be the premiere sponsor and they were delighted to have us,” he commented. The timing worked out perfectly because the fashion retailer was simultaneously having their national company conference in Las Vegas, so they spent three days doing that and then shifted gears for the following three days to begin working on the fashion show. Lots of media was present at the show including US Weekly and Entertainment Tonight after the craziness of rehearsals, fittings and transporting models. Jay jokingly said they had everything “from poodles to paparazzi”.

The excitement generated by the show was contagious. “It’s been a number of years since we’ve done one. We probably haven’t done a big city fashion show in probably six, seven years. We’re really excited to do this one and specifically in Las Vegas,” Dunn commented. “You may know about the television commercial we did last year and all of the controversy that came up out of that. That energy has continued through the brand,” he added.

Of course, the ad he’s referring to featured Ashley Graham and became an internet sensation overnight with the help of a number of social media sites.  “I have to say that what we experienced was fueled by the passion of the women in this country through blogs and twitter and facebook,” Jay said.  The commercial ran on American Idol seven times and for two weeks in a row was the most watched ad on the internet in April and then again in May.  “It turned into the top story for an entire month.  Everyone in the country was talking about it.”  Jay said before adding, “It received two million hits overnight. It was just extraordinary.”  As a marketing guy, he believes it’s foolish to think you can build a viral campaign.  “You’re not in charge of the viral component.  All you can do is put something out there with the intention that it might go viral,” he asserted.  “You have to be poised for the potential that it could take off.  That’s what we did.  We shifted from an ad campaign mentality to a media campaign mentality.”

Ashley was featured in this fashion show and is also the star of the new advertising campaign breaking on February 28th.  Jay thinks that in part the publicity and advertising they did last year played a big role in their success along with the fact that the idea of plus fashion and the double standard in the media is changing.  “We don’t intend to turn down the volume at all.  With the ads that we intend to do this year we actually intend to be turning it up,” he shared.

The fashion retailer dresses a number of celebrities and the women on Drop Dead Diva wear their clothing, but it is the plus sized ladies who are consumers from all over the country that are sparking the demand. “They have so few choices for trend in fashion. You can buy larger sized clothing in many places, but they’re not built for plus size women.  They’re just sizes,” Jay said.  He believes it’s the way Lane Bryant makes their ensembles that separates them explaining that they are created with the plus size woman in mind, which is what the company has been doing for many years.  “I don’t think they can find that level of expertise from competitors,” he claimed.  “We’re very cutting edge.  We get ahead of trends.  We don’t wait for them.  We don’t need our woman to wait a year to be validated.  She wants the same fashion and the same trends as her friends and relatives, who are smaller than her and there’s no reason for her to wait.  We give it to her freshly and as fast as we can,” he stated.

Coming up in the spring collection will be tie dye, chambray and proprietary floral print pattern dresses that have been designed in house.  “We’re coming closer to a fashion house mentality than we are a retailer in your local mall.  So, when you come to us, we are a specialty retailer.  We are moderately priced, but you’re going to get product you can’t find anywhere else,” he finished.

Although Lane Bryant controlled the runway during the second half of the show, there were several plus size clothing designers featured beforehand. Showing off their collections were: Sonsi & Rafiella, Jill Alexander, II Fierce Diva, About Curves, Sassi Rebel, Caters to All, Bettie Page, Always For Me and Madame Couture.  One of the models who had the chance to wear some of these outfits was Las Vegas resident Inbal Simhayoff., who came to the event accompanied by her mother Sherri Simhayoff.  Inbal, who turns 19 in March, just started modeling in August 2010.  A student at UNLV, she is studying for a degree in Meeting and Events, which is part of the hospitality program.  “There are a limited number of schools offering this program and the best one is in Las Vegas,” she explained.  Preparing for her first major fashion show was stressful, but all the doubts melted away on stage.  Inbal always wanted to be a model and claims she loves “everything” about it although she particularly enjoyed wearing the Bettie Page ensemble she modeled because it was different than anything she would normally put on.

Lane Bryant's Creative Director Robert Vega summed up the event, which was five months in the making by saying, “I’m so excited to do a show like this and get plus size girls on the catwalk.  These are beautiful women out there, who don’t get enough exposure.”  So, at the end of the night Lane Bryant and the other fashion designers managed to entertain and excite on the runway with beautiful clothes, gorgeous models and even a poodle or two.