AfterShark: Gayla Bentley's plus-size fashion empire starts here

Gayla Bentley made quite an impression Tuesday on ABC's Shark Tank. She's a big lady with a big vision: to create the first globally successful luxury fashion line for women of size 12 or larger. In fact, now that she's got the investment she needs, you may be hearing from her again.

WalletPop's Jason Cochran talked to Bentley about her success in obtaining the capital she needs to bring her garments to a wider market, and we got the video interview on tape as part of our popular AfterShark series.

Here's what happened on the show last night: The designer said 60% of women in America wear size 12 or above, and she wanted a piece of that market.

Speaking slowly and clearly, the way you might address a group of kindergartners before nap time, she asked first for the Sharks' wisdom and experience. "What about the money?" O'Leary piped in. Oh, yes, she also wanted $250,000 for 20% of her company, which aimed to make clothes for large women cool and easily accessible. She wanted to open her own store, starting in Houston.

Kevin O'Leary wasted no time in stepping in a big pile of poo, by asking if larger women really cared about fashion, implying that if they let themselves go to the point of getting big, they really weren't going to go for nice clothes.

Bentley, brimming with high spirits, said it's because there hasn't been a pioneer in the luxury space yet. Luxury clothes manufacturers didn't make larger than a size 12, she said, a fact that Daymond John (a clothing manufacturer himself) ruefully confirmed. "Luxury is not plus sizes!" she said. "We need someone to be a pioneer." She even tossed in a few winks to the Sharks, and made jokes about eating lots of carbs.

Barbara Corcoran praised the clothing and its attention to detail. Kevin Harrington was in the process of going out when she halted him, saying she's seen similar stuff sell thousands on QVC, and that's when Bentley belatedly dropped her biggest piece of bait yet: "I have, right now, a home shopping network pursuing me. I did not want to sign any contracts until I came to see you all cause I need someone with your wisdom and experience to make sure I make the right deal."

Robert Herjavec said opening stores was the wrong way to go, and he left the negotiations. O'Leary followed because he was once again too afraid of entering a crowded market (this time, clothing retail). Harrington finally seized his opportunity to go out for sure.

Corcoran tried to make him regret it, saying he'd have been sure sure to rake in the bucks on TV, and she said she'd go in 50-50 with John if Bentley could convince him to put up the other $125,000.

Bentley reminded John that since he already has a huge clothing empire (FUBU and others), he already has many larger-sized women who already buy his clothes, and that this deal would be a natural fit. John looked uneasy, standing up and hitting the oriental rug to say she couldn't blow this if she got the money.

Then he almost looked like he was going to cut Corcoran out of the deal entirely, before admitting he needed her female expertise. They joined forces and offered to partner in Bentley's company, keeping half the company (and not the 20% originally pitched), contingent on them being able to work a deal with his women's garment partners.

Bentley said she wanted to keep creative control, and that she would rather keep 55%.

"Keep in mind that normally I ask for 51%," John warned, fluttering his eyelids in what could have been annoyance, saying his offer for 50% was so she could retain creative control. Bentley was talked into it. She grabbed the deal, and a few of the women in her entourage started crying. "Let's go eat!" she exclaimed, and she left the Tank blowing kisses to the camera.

This week, Jason Cochran also talked to Dan Mackey of Chill Soda, whose big pitch nearly went flat (click here for our video interview). For more video interviews with the people who've been on Shark Tank, visit our AfterShark series at
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