A little over a month ago, New York-based (and -born) influencer Kelly Augustine launched what she called a “love letter to my community.” Its name is August Raye.
In an industry that only very recently saw improved body diversity on the runways of New York Fashion Week (although The Fashion Spot reports that this past February’s shows declined in progress), Augustine’s new site aims to be a central destination for independent plus-size designers currently doing exciting things.
“I honestly just love that there are so many more plus options than when I started out in this industry,” the blogger and creative with nearly 10 years of experience tells COOLS. “That is exciting in itself!” However, while retailers and brands like 11 Honoré, Premme, and Universal Standard offer exciting fashion to a broad, engaged audience, she points out that the industry still has so much more to grow. Ideally, August Raye can help with that by shining the spotlight on indie designers.
Having launched in February, August Raye may still be in early stages, but it’s already selling goods from brands like Zellie for She, a dreamy, bohemian brand from Los Angeles, and Brooklyn-based accessories brand EDAS. Augustine says there’s much more to come on the site and the pieces will specifically speak to her own outlook on style—something her 70K+ Instagram followers will be excited to hear. Until then, we spoke with the entrepreneur about what August Raye means to her, as well as to the plus-fashion space as a whole.
Tell us about the idea for August Raye. What does it provide that’s new to the current plus retail space?
“For plus customers in particular, there are a number of very cool, innovative independent designers within the space, but no one place to shop them together. There are a bunch of online boutiques for plus, but they’re either wholesale or bigger designer names. I wanted to do something that gave a platform to the many designers I shop and love that don’t get the spotlight I think they deserve.”
What does the name mean?
“August Raye is a name I’d reserved for my first child. I felt like the idea for this shop was born out of my love for my community, so giving it the name felt appropriate.”
Since August Raye is focused on curating independent designers, who are some you feel strongest about right now?
“Some of the shops I am loving right now are Zelie for She, Nakimuli, and Dopeciety. I respect them because they’re black-owned, but also produced in the USA. Edas and The Pretty Bull jewelers also get honorable mentions. I love the work they do.”
People who’ve followed your blog and Instagram already look to you for style advice and inspiration. How will we see you reflected within the products on August Raye?
“Everything offered on August Raye is something I’d personally wear. I’m handpicking pieces that are comfortable and wearable, yet stylish. That’s how I like to approach my wardrobe, and that’s definitely how I’m approaching buying for August Raye. I don’t want anyone to ever have to fidget around in their clothes.”
There seems to be a wider assortment of retailers that cater to consumers size 12 and above (like 11 Honore, Premme, even expanded sizes at J.Crew or Loft). What do you make of the industry’s current evolution?
“It’s interesting because there’s more options, but it feels more like some brands are capitalizing on this ‘moment’ instead of actually caring about the customer. For a large number of brands, they’ll have cute, exciting pieces for their regular selection, but the plus section will be boring and basic, or the plus pieces will only be a small percentage of the styles offered in smaller sizes. I think in the past couple of years alone the space has definitely evolved exponentially, but there are still some challenges.”
How do you define this “moment” in fashion?
“The ‘moment’ right now is diversity, and touching specifically on the body positive moment. There are many brands that say they’re size-inclusive but stop at a size 16, 18, or XL. They cast a model from an agency’s Curve board, but the reality is that most of these models are between sizes 10 and 14. So outwardly, yes, they appear to be size-inclusive, but they are not.”
What’s are some exciting things August Raye has planned?
“Spring selections! I’m not hyper-focused on trends. I’m trying to go for timeless pieces with some edge. So instead of buying everything neon, I’m looking for crisp white button-up shirts with interesting details. I’m not looking for spring florals as much as I’m looking for dresses in breathable materials you can wear anywhere. I also plan to do events soon as well. I’m just looking forward to watching August Raye expand and grow at a steady pace!”