“Being fat is a key part of my identity,” says Deb Malkin, the owner of Re/Dress NYC, a vintage and resale boutique in Brooklyn for women size 12 and up. “It’s taken me years to be comfortable with my body and live fearlessly in it.” As the catwalks in Bryant Park and around the city fill with stick-thin models for Fall Fashion Week, which begins Thursday, Deb talked to Tablet Magazine about her alternative vision of fashion and style.
“Plus-size women are the fastest-growing segment of the fashion market,” Malkin points out. “But Fashion Week has basically nothing to do with us.” That’s part of why she started her store, selling items ranging from $5 tank tops to $400 evening gowns from the 1940s.
Since it opened last year, Re/Dress NYC has become a community hub. It hosts parties, self-esteem and wellness workshops, readings from fat-positive books, indie-designer trunk shows, yoga classes for plus-size women who aren’t comfortable in traditional classes, and a size-18-and-up model search.
In the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam, Malkin, who also founded the Fat Girl Flea Market, an annual event that has raised more than $30,000 for the fat-bias-fighting non-profit NOLOSE, donates regularly to Coalition for the Homeless and the NYC Clothing Bank. She’s hired quirky salesfolk with backgrounds in activism, performance art, and writing: Burlesque artist Bevin, for example, looks like a super-curvy, super-femme ‘40s pinup girl, while Glenn, winner of the Mr. Coney Island 2009 contest, has a style The New York Times described as “drag-hippie-trucker-on-the-road-to-Burning-Man.”
The daughter of a super-skinny Long Island fashionista, Malkin has embraced a different path. “I love my amazing, fierce, fat community,” she says. “They’re not to be ignored.”