Crystal Renn and the plus-sized revolution

Crystal RennCrystal Renn, one of the most successful plus-sized models working today, once carved away 42 percent of her body weight in an attempt to achieve the silhouette of normal models.

Then again, normal models -- not so normal.

That's what Renn had to realize before she stopped starving -- and before she transformed herself once again, this time into a supermodel who pulls down an estimated six-figure annual salary stomping runways and posing for department store catalogs and fashion magazines.

And Renn stands to get even more work -- if companies were listening when experts, last year, pronounced the plus-size niche as the retail sector with the biggest profit potential. Forever21 jumped on the tip immediately, unveiling their plus-size line Faith21. But there's still plenty of room on the bandwagon for other brands.

What's still needed? Many American chains have made great strides towards adding fashions in extended sizes, but the landscape could really use a new plus-size-specific store right now. Lane Bryant can skew a little old -- Torrid can skew a little young.

The U.S. needs a chain that brings plus-size customers the exact same fashions they see in the pages of Lucky and Marie Claire. (Speaking of Marie Claire, maybe such a chain would want to tap their fabulous 'Big Girl in a Skinny World' columnist Ashley Falcon as a creative consultant.) Interested parties can use the UK's Simply Be as a blueprint -- case in point, this ridiculously cheap, Rodarte-inspired LBD.

Of course, not all the work can be left to retail start-ups. The lament has been the same for years: the media needs to portray women more realistically. But 'the media' extends beyond movies and magazines. Fashion-oriented television needs to incorporate more attention to plus-sized fashion.

Shows like 'Project Runway' and 'Launch My Line' reach audiences in Manhattan and middle America. If they teach viewers that plus-size design is an integral part of fashion, it will become one. Plus-size should be just another key notch on the rotation of design challenges, the way couture and sportswear are.

And don't forget "America's Next Top Model", which has already had one non-stick-thin winner in Whitney Thompson. Last year's cycle was all under-5'7" models: how about an all over-120 lbs. season? Someone's got to give Renn a run for her money.
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