Izzy Lopes thinks just because you’re thick doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable with her strictly thickly fashion site The Thicky Chicky. She started the business just over a year ago after leaving a successful career in social work. Her eye for design (yes, some of the clothing featured on the site are her own creations) and the passion for empowering women puts her among the budding entrepreneurs we spotlight.
I sat down with Izzy at one of my favorite spots Boston Common Coffee in Downtown Crossing to talk about what makes her business stand out from other plus-sized (sizes 12 – 22) clothing websites.
Boston Fab: What made you want to do Thicky Chicky?
Izzy Lopes: So basically it is a dream that I have nurtured for several, several years. For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in fashion or very heavily into fashion I should say; cutting sleeves off of shirts when I was younger, you know re-purposing pants, going through my mother’s wardrobe to try and figure out how to make it better and cooler; much to my parents chagrin because I was always with a pair of scissors…So, it’s always been in me.
I think that in the process of mulling it and trying to determine when the right time would be and talking to people in my life who cared about me who would say, ‘You know, it’s not the right time, you have a mortgage, you have kids, you’re working…’ I just one day was like, ‘Well why not? When is it ever going to be the right time?’ Whenever I have to step out of my comfort zone, I dare myself just to do one thing; like one little thing to go towards that go. I literally like dared myself to apply for a business license. Then from there it was like ‘Well, let me call a graphic designer, I have a friend who is a graphic designer, and maybe she can make a logo and see where it goes,’ and I just kept on taking baby steps and then finally it was like ‘Oh, this is not bad, this is actually doable.’
BF: So are you designing the clothes are are you finding the clothes?
IL: So my store consists of three components. It’s vintage clothing for curvy women. I also purchase clothes from plus-sized manufacturers. And then the last component is, I design and produce clothing.
BF: You’ve had fashion as a hobby for a long time, but what made you go specifically into plus-sized fashion?
IL: Another reason for me launching my business is I’m also a Big Sister with Big Brother’s Big Sisters. I’ve had my little sister for over two years now. It’s changed my life, just being a mentor and being able to cultivate a young girl and helping her to reach her goals, it’s been really phenomenal. She’s twelve and so when we go out she has ideas that ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I’m not pretty enough’. She’ll see clothing and be like , “Should I be wearing this?” [Clothing] that’s very provocative even at her age. So that was another incentive for me in starting the store was to say that you’re beautiful in your own skin. And I go through these things myself. I mean my weight has probably fluctuated worse than Oprah and Jenny Craig combined.
There’s a difference in being healthy and being comfortable in your body. I think some people think being comfortable in you body you forego the health piece of it…as long as you’re happy it’s okay, and that’s not something I espouse, not at all. It’s definitely about health, but at the same time, I want women to know that if you’ve been big your whole life, why not embrace your curves?
BF: Now, you also do some styling?
IL: Yes, I also do styling. Styling is really fun. I always feel like I have my living doll in front of me. It’s something that I’m good at; I have a knack for. It’s not something I really advertise; although, I’ve been told that I should.
BF: What distinguishes you from other plus-sized, curvy sites?
IL: I have a philanthropic component to the site where because I’m a partner with Big Brother Big Sister, I’m actually launching a lip gloss where 50% of the proceeds are going to go to [that organization]. I also have the three tiers where they have the vintage side, boutique side, and then my own designs. And also I just don’t want to have clothing that – I mean – just because it’s in a 4x doesn’t mean you should wear it.
BF: I also noticed on your site you have a lot of color and I love that!
IL: I love color. I think for plus-sized women it’s not uncommon for us to be relegated to a certain color palate because that’s just what exists. I mean for too long it’s just been Lane Bryant and like “tarp” clothing. I mean just cut a neck-line and that’s essentially what it is. I want women to feel beautiful because I believe every woman is.
BF: And what about your professional background. Is that in fashion as well?
IL:I actually have my degree in social work and public health. I have a dual masters from Boston University. I did my undergrad at University of Connecticut, and so I had been working in the healthcare field for several years.
BF: And you’re a wife mother as well?
IL: Yes, I have three kids, and a husband. My husband is in law enforcement. [My kids are] seven, six and two and a half. I joke around, and say I should technically be a size two with all the running around that I do!
BF: Wow that’s incredible.
IL: It’s a lot of work, but it’s a joy. And it’s not like I have an assistant or even an intern. I literally do everything from photography; I set up the photo shoots; I do the photo editing; I do the shipping…like it’s everything you know? I think that’s kinda how it goes when you’re doing a start up. I’m hoping that that’s not going to be forever, but right now it’s manageable.
BF: How do you find balance?
IL: It’s very difficult. My kids know what The Thicky Chicky is, but I have to be mindful when they’re tugging on me and are saying, ‘Mommy, you promised to take us to the park.’ And with my husband, he said to me, ‘I thought after the launch that was it. How long are you going be dong this for?’ So we had to have a sit down conversation about how this is my passion. But at the same time, I have to respect him and to understand that I have to be present. Not only just physically there in the house, but present in the marriage as well. So it’s a balance…It’s been a test. It’s been a test on my marriage, it’s been a test on my ability to maintain my household and the order.
BF: For women who have a job, a mortgage, a husband, kids…What is your advice to them?
IL: I would say having a support system. And I say that, but it’s not a prerequisite. I think it’s very helpful to have someone who supports you, someone who is your cheerleader in your corner to say, ‘Okay go ahead and do this…’ Have your cheerleaders overcrowd your naysayers. It’s also just daring yourself; taking baby steps to achieve your goal. What’s one small thing that you can do to make your dream a reality? Just to make it manageable. There’s always that vulnerability, that ‘What if I fail?” Well, what if you don’t?
You can support The Thicky Chicky by purchasing from their website. Most items are under 50 dollars! And for you non-thicky chicky’s there are still things for you like the lip gloss that supports Big Brother Big Sister, and of course a woman can never have too many accessories!