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Queen Latifah Throws VF a Curve

NEW YORK — The ultraconservative Exquisite Form bra brand at VF Corp.’s Bestform unit has a new secret weapon: rap performance artist Queen Latifah.<br><br>The Curvation collection, which will be available exclusively at Wal-Mart, is...

NEW YORK — The ultraconservative Exquisite Form bra brand at VF Corp.’s Bestform unit has a new secret weapon: rap performance artist Queen Latifah.

This story first appeared in the November 4, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Curvation collection, which will be available exclusively at Wal-Mart, is designed to attract a hip, fashion-conscious and full-busted consumer. It was unveiled last Tuesday at a breakfast and informal fashion show at the Vanity Fair Intimates showrooms and offices at 136 Madison Avenue. Accompanied by rap tunes by Queen Latifah, the event opened with a poetry recital by Georgia Me, a poet from Russell Simmons’ “Def Jam on Broadway” show, with such lyrics as “who gives a damn about fat girls’ blues,” and “I’ve been asked if I’ve been visited by the stork.”

Since bursting onto the music scene in 1989 with her debut album, “All Hail the Queen,” the rap diva has been a highly visible reminder that curvaceous women should celebrate their curves. Thus, when Queen Latifah was approached by VF executives about becoming the first spokeswoman and role model for a new line, she embraced the opportunity.

Ann Jardine, vice president and general manager for the Curvation brand at Vanity Fair Intimates, said, “Queen Latifah helps women feel sensual, confident and fashionable, and most of all, real. She brings a strong message of empowerment to women and girls through her song lyrics, her motivational speeches, and her inspirational books like “Ladies First: Revelations of a Strong Woman.”

Jardine added that approximately 64 percent of women in the U.S. wear dress sizes 12 or larger, noting that “curvaceous women want to feel sensual and good about themselves. They are extremely frustrated to be forced to shop in a store’s basement or at the back of a department. And they dislike the terms queen size and plus size. You have to use the right language — curvaceous.”

Chris Fuentes, vice president of marketing for Vanity Fair Intimates, noted, “We did a bunch of focus groups and research on celebrities including Anna Nicole Smith, but the overwhelming response was to Queen Latifah. Consumers from all walks of life said she was great. It wasn’t an ethnic thing, it was a size issue.”

Eric Wiseman, president of VF’s Vanity Fair Intimate Apparel Coalition, said: “Distribution will be aimed exclusively at 2,800 Wal-Mart doors that sell full-figure products. Why Wal-Mart? Because millions of consumers pass through their doors and a lot of them are curvaceous women. The full-figure bra business at retail in the U.S. is $350 million. If we got 10 percent of that market the first year, we would be happy.”

Wiseman further noted that Queen Latifah will make an appearance at Wal-Mart’s annual meeting of 15,000 associates in Kansas City in January, and there will be a media event in February. Details have yet to be completed.

Asked why she agreed to become a spokeswoman for Curvation intimates, Queen Latifah said her teen years had left an impression.

“I hung out with a lot of seniors when I was a [high school] freshman. I never had a training bra. In a couple of months I jumped three [bra] cup sizes. In 9th grade, I was very curvaceous, and jokes about big [breasts] made me feel very self-conscious. Guys can make you feel very uncomfortable about it. But I just decided to really love me and who I was. That lesson came from my mom. And people I started to date began to say ‘Hey, you are a beautiful woman.’”

The Curvation line comprises four bras — an uplift style, a minimizer, a side-shaper and a back smoother. Bra sizes will be 34C to 44DD. Panties will be in sizes 6 to 9. Suggested retail for the bras is $12.87; a tummy smoothing panty is $4.87.