It’s so awesome to see the current focus on body positivity and anti body shaming. We love Refinery 29’s 67 Percent Project. But where, we wondered, are those amazing fashions to make you feel confident and have you looking like a million dollars at any size? When we met Yona Love, founder of Yona New York, we knew we had hit upon the answer. We love Yona’s positive outlook and amazing sense of style, and we just had to share this inspiring and talented designer with you.
What was your inspiration for founding Yona New York?
I have enjoyed designing clothing since I was a child. As I was growing up, it became increasingly difficult to find fashionable apparel in my size. I therefore started making it for myself. When people would ask me where I shop, I knew it was time to share my creations with other women like me.
What makes Yona stand out as a brand?
I am glad you asked that. While I support those who choose to bare their bodies in the name of self-love, not every woman feels comfortable enough to do that. My line allows larger women to feel classy, professional, and taken just as seriously as everyone else.
You knew you had a good idea. How did you get others to buy in?
My family has been very supportive throughout. The plus size community is also a very welcoming group. Once I began investing myself in realizing my dream, I found lots of support from all over.
What’s trending for fall?
Bold colors are splashing onto the scene, along with pinstripes. Cute little booties are an adorable trend. Hemlines are below the knee this fall. Dramatic statement sleeves are all the rage. I have tried to incorporate many of these themes into our fall line.
What’s your advice for a quick, pulled together interview look? I want to look appropriate but I still want to be comfortable?
My pinstripes are made from Super-120s Australian Merino wool. It is a lightweight fabric which looks very professional. You don’t have to stick to black. Feel free to experiment with blues and grays. Don’t choose anything too draped as that can distract eye contact. Definitely do not wear anything too tight or too low cut. You want people to pay attention to you and what you have to say rather than sneaking peeks at your body.
What makes you feel confident?
Dressing well, looking good in my clothing, knowing that I am rocking a look does wonders. It is also important to feel comfortable and relaxed.
Do you think social media is making women feel less body confident?
On the contrary, today’s explosion of social media and viral posts brings a refreshing sense of democracy to our society. No longer is the narrative dictated only by a limited few. Women of size can view other women just like them making a statement, looking wonderful, and feeling confident with their bodies just the way they are.
What’s your advice for promoting positivity?
Go out on a limb to compliment a stranger. Try to focus on what is right in your life rather than the challenges you face. Keep your attitude upbeat, and try to sympathize with the struggles of others. Body shaming is never ok regardless of who is targeted. People are beautiful in every shape and form. Lose the anger and the hate. We are all in this together.
What has the most challenging part been so far?
Getting more plus size women to feel worthy of investing in themselves is one of our greatest challenges as a community. For too long, larger women have been relegated to the back of the store to pick through whatever scraps most major brands deign to leave them. This is our time, and we all need to support each other to bring more fashionable options to the market. We have to believe in ourselves.
What’s your message for aspiring entrepreneurs? What do you wish you knew?
A) The top three answers to that question are, “Listen, listen, listen.” Do your market research. You may think you have the greatest ideas in the world, but you have got to know your customers. What people want to wear may have little or nothing to do with what you want to produce. Go out and listen to peoples experiences – take as much advice as you can find. Be open to suggestions. I have a survey on my website right now asking people to vote for their favorite designs. That will determine which ones we mass produce.
B) I wish I knew how much support I would get from this wonderful community. I probably would have started this venture much earlier.
Thoughts on leadership? What do you think makes you a great leader?
One can only be a leader if one has superb followers. I invest in finding the absolute best, brightest, and most creative people I can find. I lay out a desired plan of action using specific milestones, then I let my staff use their own initiative to accomplish my goals the way they best see fit. I just follow up to oversee the work. I do not dictate how things should be done. I am of course available to mentor them if they require help. Most people do their best work when left to their own devices.