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New L.A. label JilRo aims to conquer fashion's size barrier

August 24, 2012|By Booth Moore | Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic
  • Models in the JilRo garden dress. Credit: JilRo.
Models in the JilRo garden dress. Credit: JilRo. (JilRo )

We all know the statistics. The average American woman is a size 14. And yet most fashion brands refuse to respond, only cutting their clothes up to a size 10 or 12.

But two women from Los Angeles, Aly Jill Scott and Roberta “Ro” Cysne, are setting their sights on bringing true democracy to fashion with their new line JilRo, which offers stylish designs, such as silk ruffle-front cocktail dresses, high-waisted pencil skirts and skinny riding pants with leather details -- in sizes 0 to 24.

Scott and Cysne come from very different backgrounds.

Cysne is a veteran of the denim industry, having worked at Lucky Brand and Diesel.

And Scott is a personal shopper with high-end clients including the Saudi royal family.

“I used to sit in meetings and listen to designers saying they didn’t want to make clothing above a size 8,” Cysne says. “One of my employers even said he didn’t want bigger women working at the company. So he put in a gym instead of nursery at the corporate offices.”

“And I have clients in New York, San Francisco and L.A. who can’t find anything to wear even though they have money to spend,” says Scott, who owns a personal styling company called Style Chic, and has been working with private clients for six years. “I have a 16-year-old Saudi client who is a size 22. And there is nothing in L.A. over a size 8.”

The idea for JilRo was hatched at a cocktail party. “We got talking and we decided this was one of the biggest missed opportunities in the fashion industry,” Scott explains. “There are brands like Michael Kors and Elie Tahari that design for sizes 2, 4 and 6, then size up for bigger women. We are starting by designing for larger sizes. Our fit model is a size 14.”

The line, which is produced in L.A., is priced from $160 to $500. Many of the styles are quite body-conscious. “Women should realize, at any size, you don’t have to wear frumpy. You can show off your body,” Scott says.

The "Mad Men" black sheath dress has spiral seaming to flatter the figure, and the Garden Dress, in navy, fuchsia or a multicolored circle print, uses the matte side of the silk fabric on the outside, and has a cascading ruffle down the front. (The circle print Garden Dress was featured in the Neiman Marcus catalog.)

The Monroe high-waist pencil skirt accents the smallest part of the waist, and the Asymmetrical top, made from a drapey, bamboo jersey, has a diagonal zipper down the side for added edge.

Skinny riding pants, in a power mesh fabric, cinch the tummy like a pair of Spanx, and a flutter cardigan is fitted with a waist band in the the back to give shape to the drapey silhouette. There is even a pair of wide-leg ponte knit trousers, called the Warhol pants, which have the softness and ease of leggings.

Neiman Marcus was the first retailer to bite, after Scott and Cysne sent the buyer an email with photos of just three looks. “They bought 80% of the styles in our first collection,” Scott says. JilRo is available on NeimanMarcus.com, but not in stores, and only in sizes 14 to 24.

Local L.A. boutiques Des Kohan, Beckley and Satine have bought select pieces, mostly tank tops and tees, in smaller sizes.

The two designers hope to bring all the sizes together on the selling floor soon.

“We know we have to start in the plus size departments,” Scott says. “But once our sell-throughs are high, we will be ready to negotiate and start taking people on. We want to break the size barrier between regular and plus. They don’t have to be separate. We want all of our sizes to hang together. We want to show at fashion week, and not full-figure fashion week. We want our own stores.”

It should be said that neither Cysne nor Scott are plus-sized themselves, which will probably work to their advantage when it comes to getting noticed in the notoriously size-prejudiced fashion industry.

But they feel passionate about their mission, and enjoy wearing the clothes themselves, in smaller sizes.

“We hope women are happy about this,” Scott says, “whoever is bringing it to them.”

JilRo is available at NeimanMarcus.com. Information at www.Jil-Ro.com.

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Middle photo: JilRo designers Aly Jill Scott, left, and Roberta "Ro" Cysne.

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