Margaret Eby
Updated September 15, 2014 1:42 pm

Gwen DeVoe loves clothes and clothing designers. But she had a realization at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in 2007 while watching a Tracy Reese show. “None of these are for me,” DeVoe told the The New Yorker. “And not because I wasn’t a buyer—because I had the money. But because they didn’t come in my size.”

Devoe, who is one of the subjects of this week’s New Yorker piece on the plus-size industry, has a unique backstory. A former plus-size model and current human resources specialist, she moonlights as the founder of Full Figured Fashion Week, an annual summer event that showcases designs for women who don’t fit into a size 4. (You can watch some of the runway shows from this year’s event, here.)

Now in its sixth year, FFFW has become an important platform for up-and-coming designers, and the media is starting to pay attention. Still, there’s work to be done.

“I definitely look forward to the day when fuller figures are represented in all fashion showcases,” DeVoe told Glamour in 2011. “I consider all exposure and press regarding full-figured models an opportunity to highlight this very under-served, yet highly-profitable industry. Plus-size consumers can’t get enough of seeing clothes worn on body types that they can relate to.”

And DeVoe says that things have already begun to improve for plus-size consumers. In her years operating Full Figured Fashion Week, she has scouted out several independent designers that make clothes for the curvy crowd. “They’re out there, they just need assistance in spreading the word to the consumers,” DeVoe added. “I want FFFWeek to continue to succeed in bridging the gap between plus-size consumers and retailers by providing a professional venue that showcases the latest fashion trends.”

And if the continued growth of FFFW is any indication, Devoe is doing just that.

In its infancy, FFFW featured only one runway show and three small events and was designed mainly to empower full-figured consumers, more than anything else. This past year, the week featured four runway shows and 20 events (including panel discussions), with bloggers, indie designers and executives congregating at the New York City venue for a significant networking conference.

“My motto has always been, if you don’t invite me to the party, I’ll have my own party,” Devoe told the New Yorker. And what a party it’s become.

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