She’s called out Zara, Chanel and Khloé Kardashian with her #MakeMySize and #WeightIsntNews social media hashtags, and gone all in with features like the “Roll Test Olympics,” putting dozens of pairs of underwear to the sit test on video for her 579,000 followers.
Now, fashion publicist-turned-influencer and Megababe entrepreneur Katie Sturino is hoping to give women the tools to move beyond defining themselves by their bodies in her new book “Body Talk,” debuting today from Random House.
Sturino got her start working in public relations, founding her own firm at age 25, and working with Dolce & Gabbana, among other brands.
From those days, she remembers enduring everyday slights over size that continue to be present in the industry, including not being able to fit into designer samples or gifts, and often feeling like the biggest person in the room.
But her perception began to shift after she asked to be featured on the Man Repeller style blog. The comments were so positive that Sturino realized the need for more discussion about size-inclusivity, and in 2015, she launched her own blog, The 12ish Style, and Instagram account, @KatieSturino.
“I felt traction right from the start from the desire for diversity in the fashion space,” said Sturino, who launched several regular content features, including #SuperSizeTheLook, which pairs her in an identical look to a celebrity, Us Weekly-style, and #MakeMySize, which has called out dozens of brands for not making extended sizes. (And she’s seen results, posting in March the #MakeMySize awards noting a number of brands that have made inclusivity a priority, including Anthropologie and Vince.)
Sturino has also become an influencer, racking up affiliate partnerships with J. Crew and Amazon Fashion, among others.
“It’s been a slow move to have brands want to work with me and a fast one. It’s been a slower move for some,” she said, noting that she has never had one luxury partnership. “I’m very open to it but it hasn’t happened,” said Sturino, who has posted about her love of expensive bags, and started a hashtag #NotGiftedByChanel “because you look all over the internet and people have the same bag gifted by Chanel, but I don’t know her.”
WWD chatted with Sturino about her book, brands that are doing it right, and what’s preventing size-inclusivity from truly taking hold in the fashion industry.
WWD: Your #SuperSizeTheLook feature has put you side-by-side with a number of celebs. Have you heard from any of them?
Katie Sturino: Shockingly, yes. Reese Witherspoon comments on my stuff. I’m still waiting for Chrissy Teigen to notice me, I don’t think Kate Middleton is going to comment, but I can’t believe when celebs or whoever is running their social media notice. I started that because women of all sizes like someone’s style but often think they can’t wear it themselves. I wanted to show women they can. We’ve done everything from bra tops to short minidresses, and shown women they can pull off anything they are inspired by — except for cap sleeves, they are a universal no. Retailers are always putting out a cap sleeve and I will never understand it.
WWD: The #MakeMySize feature has called out Club Monaco, Tory Burch, Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton and many more for not making larger sizes and representing larger sizes. Have you heard from them?
K.S.: No! But I will continue to give Chanel my money. One of my newer features is #FatBabesInLuxury and the point is to show luxury brands that women of all sizes can pull off the aesthetic they are looking for.…They always go for the same size people with their gifting; we wanted to show them you can be big and look good with their stuff.
WWD: You often take on the embarrassing topics women don’t want to talk about, including with products like Thigh Rescue in your beauty brand, Megababe. What gave you the strength to put it all out there?
K.S.: I don’t know who made the rules for women, certainly not women, that you basically suffer in silence, don’t connect or complain if you have thighs that rub together, and that it’s on you for not having a thigh gap. It’s why I started Megababe. I’ve had bad chafe my whole life and I’ve tried every product, none of them made for women, but made for athletes or men and not for thigh chafe. If you don’t talk about it, women end up feeling alone, thinking that no one else must have this problem so something must be wrong with me. The fact that it was me who had no beauty experience who just wanted to make a product and had to do this speaks to the fact those conversations aren’t happening at a corporate level.
WWD: Is Thigh Rescue your bestselling product?
K.S.: It is. They told me before we launched this wasn’t going to be a hit, that it was a niche problem. I knew I wasn’t the only person who was uncomfortable in a dress in the summer. Megababe continues to grow. We had a 15,000-person waiting list for our Rosy Pits deodorant launch.
WWD: Are you looking for new investors to be able to make more product and have more availability?
K.S.: It’s not a question of making more product. Fortunately for us, we have been profitable from the start. We are self-funded and very scrappy and we are approached constantly with investment opportunities, but we want to continue to run the company ourselves. I’ve been very open about this, I would love to get acquired. I just wait for an email someday.
WWD: You’ve spoken about the positive aspect of social media, bringing people together, but there are a lot of negatives — and your image was recently used for a weight loss ad without your knowledge. How do you deal with that psychologically?
K.S.: I don’t delete bad comments. A brand recently posted me in a swimsuit and 30 percent of the comments were negative. You have to have thick skin to be in any kind of public business, and maybe the me of six years ago would have reacted differently than now — what I did was to comment back and say thanks for the kind comment, good to see you’re spreading positivity on the internet. There’s nothing you can do, you can’t change people’s minds. When I go to negative commenters’ accounts, you often find it’s a woman who is on some kind of weight loss journey…so this is just reaction about themselves. I try not to take it super personally.
WWD: Let’s talk about the book — it’s really a self-help guide about getting over negativity from outside cultural forces, yes, but also that interior monologue.
K.S.: It’s an interactive guidebook for women to help them on their body journey. I didn’t think anyone needed my memoir, but I wanted to give women the tools to change how they feel about their bodies on their own. So I put together a format with homework, sometimes emotional homework, that is meant to have you examine how you talk to yourself and how outside forces impact how you feel about yourself. When I see women in their 70s and 80s still dieting and talking about losing the weight, it’s hard to hear. That means they’ve gone their entire lives without accepting their bodies and have wasted so much time focusing on something that just doesn’t really matter. What I want women to do is get off this body journey and dieting roller coaster and focus on more important things.
WWD: One of your chapters is all about how to stop body s–t-talking, because women can be their own worst enemies. Another urges women to get rid of their “failure dress” that is supposed to fit someday. But you are also candid about having bad days. Even after all this work you’ve done?
K.S.: Let me rephrase that to bad moments. Maybe I will have a moment when I say something negative to myself, or I want to change what I’m wearing because it’s not “flattering…”
WWD: You take on the word flattering…
K.S.: I do, because I think it just means smaller. But if you reach a certain point with yourself, you’re able to recover from those moments and it doesn’t mean it’s going to take you out and keep you from going to the party, or posting a photo. It has fewer consequences because you have worked through that stuff. I want book clubs to read this, which is important because sometimes we reinforce our negative feelings about ourselves as friends, we talk about going on cleanses, and how fat we got over the holidays or have to starve before vacation. Even the word fat, there are all these nuanced things. So I think it’s a great thing to read with friends, a great mother-daughter or mother-son activity.
WWD: Going from the interior monologue to the exterior forces, you have become a consultant for brands looking to extend their sizes. What are the common problems inside organizations?
K.S.: Quite often they put a size 14 on the site or in the line and think, we did it! Which is surprising because at this point, every brand should know that’s not something to throw a parade about. Consumers are looking for brands with values — toward the environment, toward inclusion. A lot of people make a dress; it’s more about what’s going on behind that dress. And I think brands are hopefully starting to get that.
WWD: Certainly there are a lot of d-to-c brands with size-inclusion as part of their DNA. But what is preventing more widespread movement — is it a financial issue, a gender issue, a generational issue?
K.S.: Girlfriend Collective showed up right out of the gate environmentally conscious and size-inclusive, and that is a small brand that’s grown. So brands don’t have the excuse of financial limitations. I think it’s the ’90s mentality of thin, thin, thin, the way fashion used to be and still is in many corners. You eat cigarettes and that’s it and if you are not a zero, you are a two. That mentality is still swirling around the industry.
WWD: What are some brands doing it right?
K.S.: Tanya Taylor, she’s very transparent in how she is able to offer all sizes and how it’s possible for all brands to do so. Athleta has gone all-in having all size mannequins, having all sizes in store, these are big steps for a big brand to take. Then, Madewell does a really good job and J. Crew is not giving up. I have tons of stuff this season from J. Crew and they are working to get it right. Good American is a brand that has done a phenomenal job being inclusive.
WWD: Even though Khloé Kardashian, its cofounder, was so horrified by an unedited photo of herself in a bikini that was posted to Instagram?
K.S.: I found that to be sad…and I did a side-by-side post of myself and Khloé jumping in the mirror. I felt bad for her that she needed to show that her real body doesn’t jiggle up and down. The whole thing was really hard.
WWD: Do you think there are consumers who are turned off by brands that are size-inclusive?
K.S.: I think there are brands turned off by big women wearing their clothes. LoveShackFancy did that great collaboration with Target, and now we’re a year out and there are no plans to launch extended sizing. I’d say that’s a specific brand where they don’t want a big girl in their dresses.
WWD: A lot of what drives fashion purchasing is desire — to look like someone else, patch over an insecurity, fill a hole. If we all learn to love ourselves and our bodies, can fashion adapt?
K.S.: Yes, because I think where fashion might have it wrong is that it’s been set up for exclusion. I think there’s a line very similar to that in “Emily in Paris.” What they are missing is fashion is about expression, and fun and what you want to say to the world, so if everyone is included, I can’t see how that’s a bad thing — for sales or the industry.