Stephanie Marsters from Isla-Maree and Playlist. Image supplied.
Stephanie Marsters is the designer and founder of plus size womenswear label Isla-Maree which she created after a career in fashion but not being able to find pieces that she loved that were just right. Isla-Maree has proven a hit with Kiwi women who love the label’s modern, accessible designs that are available in a great range of sizes. Recently, Stephanie launched a sister label to Isla-Maree called Playlist which is inspired by her love of music and is sassier in style.
We caught up with Stephanie to find out more about her brands, what inspires her and how plus size fashion has changed in New Zealand?
Can you tell us about your brand Isla-Maree and what the ethos is behind it?
When I created Isla-Maree it was almost a journey of self-discovery. I, like so many, had lost my individual style. I think as women we go through so many changes in our lives that we can sometimes lose ourselves in the roles we take on. My body had changed and I had no idea how to dress it anymore. I knew who I was, but the way I was dressing did not reflect my true self. Rachel Zoe said “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”, and I had begun to wonder who people saw when they looked at me.
So I went about finding my own style again and hoping I could help others do the same thing.
Isla-Maree celebrates curves with cuts that are both flattering and the epitome of comfort. I wanted to bring a beautiful and affordable plus size brand to the New Zealand market that reflected who we are as Kiwis with the casual bohemian vibes we all love.
What is your new label Playlist and how did it come about?
Playlist is the Yang to Isla-Maree’s Yin. Two halves that complete wholeness. Complementary opposites. We all have many facets of our personality, and Playlist is a way for me to express my inner Rock Goddess.
Music and fashion go hand in hand. Both can make you feel a certain way, trigger memories, or take you back to a certain time and place.
I wanted to create a label where I could celebrate my love of music and share it with my community. I have named each garment for a favorite song from my own personal Playlist. As the garment was designed the song that fitted would just come to me.
Playlist is Isla-Maree’s edgier, sassier, badass soul sister. I really want the wearer to feel strong and empowered when they wear these pieces.
Looks from Playlist’s latest range.
What made you become a designer?
I have worked in fashion for almost 30 years and never in that whole time found a garment where I thought to myself “this is perfect, I wouldn’t change a single thing”.
I was always tweaking things to make them drape better over my tummy, adjusting lengths to hit the most flattering point on my leg, or adjusting sleeves and necklines.
I wanted to take control of my knowledge dressing a curvy body and create garments that were right the first time, no tweaking needed.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration everywhere. Most of my drive and inspiration comes from the community of amazing women I have met through Isla-Maree. My customers who give me wonderful feedback and share their stories with me every day, the friendships I have made with other curvy babes through social media, and the gorgeous ladies I work with who encourage me to keep going and grow.
My biggest motivator is knowing that I am making a difference in the way women see and feel about themselves.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs?
I would describe my style as casual, monochrome, and uncomplicated. This is all represented in my design aesthetic, as well as the odd bright and quirky print for those who are more adventurous with colour than me.
How important is it for women to lift each other up and what does that mean to you?
‘Behind every successful woman there is a tribe of other successful women who have her back’. There are no truer words than these.
I was incredibly lucky to be supported by some amazing women whilst I built my business. Women are phenomenal collaborators, cheerleaders, and allies. I hope I can empower others to chase their dreams in the same way that I felt empowered and validated by my tribe.
Looks from Isla-Maree’s latest range.
Diversity is definitely a buzzword in fashion but actual change has been a bit slow, what are your thoughts on it and how do you see fashion changing to be more inclusive?
Diversity is definitely the ‘buzzword’ right now, but it is nothing new to our brand. A large part of the reason I created Isla-Maree was due to the lack of diversity and representation I was seeing for Kiwi women. Everyone wants to feel like they are included and that they belong to something.
I have seen a huge shift in the past five years in both more Plus Size brands entering the market, and also some of the mainstream brands extending their size ranges which is amazing. Curvy bodies are becoming far more accepted thanks to the normalisation of all our personal diversities. I absolutely love scrolling through my social channels and seeing strong beautiful women just enjoying life and not having to explain themselves.
Are there any misconceptions you’ve encountered about plus size fashion so far?
I think the two most common misconceptions I hear time and time again are… curve fashion is so expensive, and curve styles are not fashion-forward.
Plus size fashion has come a long way, there are more options than ever before, and with that comes variety and more competitive prices.
When I launched Isla-Maree there was a real gap in the NZ market for a mid-priced quality brand, I aimed to crack the code of amazing prices without compromising on quality or style.
Looking ahead, how far ahead do you plan and what makes you excited for the future?
I have never been a great planner, I’m more a fly by the seat of my pants type of girl. My creative and at times scattered brain doesn’t enjoy routine and rules.
However, the busier we become I have learned that planning is an essential part of a successful business. Something else I have learned is to surround myself with people that have the skills that I lack in. I have an amazing team behind me that keeps me in check and help turn all of my ideas into reality.
As for the future, I feel incredibly positive that we will continue to strengthen our brand in NZ and take on the international market early next year. I never dreamed my small market stall would become the roaring success it has, the sky really is the limit.