Fashion Rule Breakers

Fashion Rule Breakers: This Brand Is Paying Attention To A Category Most Others Are Ignoring — Plus-Size Men

Men have largely been left out of the body positivity movement.

Fashion Rule Breakers is an original A Plus Lifestyle series: Each month, we profile a fashion designer, model, organization, or icon who is a fashion rule breaker — someone who acts outside mainstream industry standards to make a positive difference.

Women labeled as plus-size have landed the coveted covers of magazines such as Vogue, Glamour, and even Sport Illustrated's swimsuit issue, and have become ambassadors for major campaigns. At this year's New York Fashion Week (NYFW), more plus-size female models walked the runway styled among straight-size models. But while models such as Ashley Graham and Iskra Lawrence have become household names, most would be hard-pressed to think of a single plus-size male model. 

That's because these men, also called "big and tall" or "brawn," have largely been left out of the conversation when it comes to body positivity. While more and more brands in the fashion industry are working to become inclusive for plus-size women, few have considered adding clothing for plus-size men to their collections. But the truth is that many of these men are fed up with the boxy, old fashioned clothes on the rack. They want to wear quality clothes that make them look and feel great. They want the option to purchase outfits that reflect their style and personality instead of just outdated basics. 

MVP Collections, a new brand that offers plus-size men trend-driven fashion, may just be the answer they've been looking for. 

By creating a place for plus-size men to shop for stylish clothing, MVP Collections co-founders Mo Vaughn and Diane Cutuli are being fashion rule breakers.

MVP Collections co-founder Mo Vaughn, a former baseball player who played for the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets, knew firsthand how difficult it was to find big and tall clothing that wasn't shapeless, frumpy, and boring. He found himself wearing the same type of jeans for nearly 10 years because he simply couldn't find better options. And, when it came to the rest of his clothes, he had to have them custom-made to fit right. 

"With me being the customer, I was looking for big and tall clothing and there were not many options over the years," Vaughn told A Plus. "Why can't the big and tall customer have style like everyone else?"

If no one else was going to offer on-trend styles for plus-size men, Vaughn figured, why not him? He teamed up with Diane Cutuli, a fashion industry executive, and launched MVP Collections. "We decided we wanted to offer clothes that were stylish, of quality, affordable and that fit," Vaughn said.  

"Mo approached me with the idea. Being a fashion industry veteran with experience in women's [clothing] including plus-size, I saw this as an opportunity," co-founder Cutuli told A Plus. "In February 2016, we started our sourcing process and developing our products concentrating on certain lifestyle looks. By August 2016, we went live!" 

The brand focuses on three categories of lifestyle looks: athleisure, weekend wear, and night out. They offer stylish pants in sizes 38 to 50 in a variety of fits and tops that range from size XL to 4XL. In addition, their velour sweatpants go up to size 6XL. And, all of their clothing is made in the United States. 

"We understand there are more traditional options being offered to this consumer, though we felt the the consumer was missing the on-trend fashion for everyday, to take you from day to night. We want to be the fashion leaders for style and fit," Cutuli said. 

In an effort to help men who may be interested in their clothes, but aren't sure how to style an outfit, MVP Collections offers a "How to Wear" section where Vaughn himself models the clothing. 

Of course, starting a new brand that targets an underserved demographic isn't without its obstacles. "We were faced with challenges of an unknown market that had very little analytics to plan from," Cutuli said.

To combat this, the MVP Collections team has gone straight to the consumer, asking for feedback and comments, and then executing changes based on those needs and requests. 

"This is a white space and you have to take constructive criticism to make your brand better. We need to be nimble and react quickly," Cutuli said. "We are listening and learning as we continue to evolve the collections." 

"We hope we will continue to change the conversation and the consumer will have the confidence to trust in MVP Collections for the styles he is looking for."

MVP Collections joins other brands in the fight for inclusivity for plus-size mens fashion. 

In the modeling industry, IMG Models made waves last year for signing Zach Miko, a sturdy 6-foot-6, 40-inch waist guy. He's modeled for brands like Levi's, Dockers, and Target. Although, admittedly, the agency hasn't signed another brawn model in the past year since Miko's membership was announced.

Fashion retailer ASOS recently expanded its male clothing range from XL to 4XL and hired plus-size male models to rock the new on-trend sizes in photos and videos on their site. ASOS is a direct competitor to brands like Urban Outfitters, TopShop and H&M, so its success expanding its size range could trigger these companies to do the same. 

Though American Eagle's intimate apparel sub-brand Aerie was criticized for describing their body positive #AerieMen video as a parody, the retailer has made a positive impact on the men's plus-size fashion market. Just like with its female models, the brand has pledged to forego retouching its male models. Both American Eagle and Aerie, who target teens and young adults, have expanded their clothing options to offer fashionable styles for men in sizes XXS to 3XL. 

The MVP Collections team has some simple advice when it comes to how people in the fashion industry can do better when it comes to catering to people of all sizes.

"Offer more options." 

Hopefully, they'll listen. 

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