MN: Where did the motivation for Curvato Clothing come from?
NG: I believe the world needs to know about both the horrible and wonderful things that happen to artists. After the death of Whitney Houston, I just went full throttle.
It was super important that I was a part of telling that story, which was how the TV One R&B Divas show started. People have always inquired about my story. They always want to know the thing that I struggle with. For me, it’s always been my weight. That’s the one thing that I’ve been self-conscious about, it’s the one thing that’s made me feel that I wasn’t good enough. After I got married, I started to really look at my talents and abilities and appreciate who I was as a person.
The clothing line was motivated by the fact that I couldn’t fit clothes off the rack; after being humiliated and embarrassed over and over again and told that I wasn’t good enough.
MN: How were you humiliated?
NG: I was humiliated by the stylists and by the label. And it wasn’t the stylists’ fault per se. They looked at me and thought they could dress me, but at the time I was in a group with two other girls that were considerably smaller. It wasn’t about the music, it wasn’t about the songs, it was about the fact that I was just overweight and they could not find clothes for me. I had to find a way to turn that hurt around. Even though it didn’t come around for years, after a lot of trial-and-error, this fashion thing just took off. I’d start to design outfits for myself and people would just compliment me.
MN: How did you come up with the concept to launch a new line?
NG: Because of those horrible experiences of not being able to fit anything, [stylists] would get things custom made for me. I started to see what looked good and what didn’t, what fabric felt good and what fabric didn’t work. I’m not entering the fashion world because I think I’m this incredibly fashionable person. I’m entering the fashion world because I understand what it is to be a big girl in the industry or just in general, when you need something nice to wear and they send you to the fourth floor and all that’s available in your size is a mother-of-the-bride dress. It’s really about having an eye for what works for big women and something that will empower us and make us feel beautiful, confident and strong. [And] not showing up at an event with the same dress that five or six other big girls got off the rack at Lane Bryant.
MN: What does it take to start a clothing line? So many times on reality shows, you see a team of people sitting at a table but not what really goes into creating and marketing a line.
NG: You’re going to see the whole thing come to life on the show, but I sit down in my little space with a sketchbook. I don’t draw very well but thank God my seamstress understands my language. I go to the fabric store and become familiar with fabrics. I have two seamstresses that are just amazing and both designers in their own rights. Because I really needed to educate myself, I’d go and spend hours in the fabric store with them. Which ones drape better on big women, which ones breath better, which prints look better.
I also spend a lot of time looking at what other designers are doing and not doing. I pride myself on figuring out what’s missing in any business. Lane Bryant, Ashley Stewart and Torrid obviously have a certain type of customer and are doing great at what they do, but what customer are they missing?
MN: How can the common woman access your line?
NG: This is the cool part. Since debuting in the Full Figure Fashion Week, the response has been overwhelming. I never would’ve thought in a million years that Marie Claire magazine would refer to my first fashion line as a “stunning collection of hot and sophisticated things,” or that Essence would feature me along with Calvin Klein.
I’ve gotten some great feedback and influential people are open to having a meeting with me, so I’m scaling back. My focus is opening Curvato custom makeover boutiques because I believe every woman should have a custom piece in their closet. Right now people can visit us online.