Designer Jill Alexander on Plus Size Fashion


A shirt from Jill Alexander Designs, Fall 2013.

Jill Alexander.

Santa Cruz is quickly becoming known as a fashion designer destination. Numerous designers in our midst are gaining national acclaim and among them is the notable Jill Alexander of Jill Alexander Designs, a plus size label whose clients have included Lonni Love of "Chelsea Lately," actress Melissa McCarthy, and Olympic weightlifter Sarah Robles, among others. 

Alexander has been officially designing for three years after having studied fashion design and manufacturing at the promising program at West Valley College in Saratoga, Calif. In those three years, her label, which focuses on providing quality clothing for curvy women, has exploded, with the label being carried in more than 60 boutiques and in eight countries.

Lucky for Santa Cruzans, it looks like Jill Alexander Designs will be opening a store locally here in January.

"There are no plus size stores in Santa Cruz, but most of the population is size 12 and over," says Alexander. "Plus size women deserve the same experience that missy women get. That is to say that plus size clothing needs to be merchandised correctly, on plus size mannequins and plus size models so that the customer can see the shape of the garment. Lighting is another issue. There is no reason to keep them in the dark, it’s just depressing. We want the same lighting, the same warm environment, the same personal attention available at many high-end boutiques. That’s what we intend to create."

The Penny Rose recently caught up with the esteemed designer to learn more about her.

How would you describe the aesthetic of your brand and the demographic of your typical customer?
Contemporary plus, with a nod to the 1970s. My customer traditionally wears many hats: she's a professional, a mother, a wife, a philanthropist.

What do you think especially makes your line stand out? 
Bright colors and non-boxy shapes. People have said that we’re the "plus size line that the missy crowd wants to wear." I often get asked to recreate so many of our pieces in straight sizes.

What are your thoughts on dressing plus size women? 
The best part of this job is getting to work with women that think there are strict guidelines to the way they should dress if they are plus size, i.e. only dark colors, no knits, no horizontal stripes, no bright colors, etc. They have trouble buying anything because there are so many rules to plus size dressing. Watching that woman try on something that she never thought she could wear is transformational. I get to see women fall back in love with themselves, it’s really the greatest gift! Then to see them take that confidence out into the world and become the woman they were meant to be, to walk with purpose and pride is life changing! 

How would you describe your personal style? 
Conservative bohemian.

What’s your favorite brand of denim? 

What other fashion designer (or beauty brand) are you eyeing right now? 
I love everything DVF. I really think she has a pulse for what a woman wants.

What’s your favorite skin care item? 
I currently use Rodan + Fields.

What fashion tip would you give to someone for the upcoming season? 
Own at least one tunic. It should hit past midthigh so that it can be worn over leggings, with skirts, tights and boots.

If money were no object, what spa or beauty treatment/service would you be addicted to?
I would have a facial daily.

On occasions where you need to get ready in a rush, what is your quick ‘n’ easy beauty routine? 
Hair up in a bun saves 15 minutes. I have my makeup routine down to five minutes and throwing on a dress saves another five minutes.

What is the most unusual or surprising beauty product in your arsenal? 
Mayonnaise worn at night on your feet with socks makes your feet so soft in the morning.

What beauty products would we find in your purse? 
MAC Plush glass lip gloss and L’Occitane hand cream.

You’re traveling, and can only bring one bag: what favorite beauty/fashion items stay home, and what must go with? 
I travel a lot and I never leave without my own 5 Way Wrap Jacket. It has become indespensible for me. It can look formal or casual; it doubles as a bathing suit cover up, it doesn’t wrinkle and can fit in my purse if I need it to. It’s also great on the plane because if I get too cold from the air conditioning, I can use it like a blanket.

Mani or pedi? 

Lip gloss or lip balm? 

Heels or flats? 
Heels in public, flats to work.