When the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the 2020 Spring semester with a lockdown and a campus closure, it gave Rebecca Alexis ’23 an unexpected opportunity to pursue her first love — fashion.
“I always wanted to be involved in fashion, but I got away from it as I concentrated on my studies,” she said.
The Africana Studies major, who has plans of attending law school after graduating, found herself thinking more about fashion, particularly for people like herself.
“I noticed that a lot of Black businesses had the light shone on them around that time,” she said. “When I looked at the clothes I liked, I saw that they had products for people who were small, medium, large and sometimes extra-large, but they never had anything in my size. I wanted to support these Black-owned businesses, but I couldn’t because they didn’t have anything for me or people like me.”
Growing up on Long Island, Alexis was forced to buy her plus-sized garments at clothing chains — something she hated.
“I remember the clothes that I used to have to wear as a kid didn’t even fit right,” she said. “I need to have clothes that I want to wear, and I realized I was wearing church clothes to school and there was no reason for it. That’s how this started.”
Alexis drew further inspiration from an unlikely source — a sitcom aimed at teenagers.
“I used to watch the TV show That’s So Raven when I was younger,” she said. “Even though it was just a TV show, she made clothes and that really opened my eyes to what I could do.”
So instead of continuing to put up with clothes she felt didn’t represent her style and taste, the daughter of Haitian immigrants got back to her fashion roots and launched SIZED in 2020 as an outlet for people wanting stylish apparel in a broader range of sizes. Her store offers sizes ranging from XS to 5X.
Though she said that “I had no idea what I was doing,” she began coming up with designs and getting them illustrated.
“I just started off with T-shirts,” she said. “The Internet made it pretty easy to get started. There are several services you can sign up with, and it’s easy and affordable.”
Alexis’ older sister, who has her own line of hair products, helped her navigate the technology, and a graphic artist helped execute her designs. Alexis was surprised by the initial response.
“I’ve always been into fashion, but now people are like, ‘Okay, I believe what you’re saying, and I’ll try out what you’re doing,’ ” she said. “Right now there aren’t many options for young people beyond fast fashion brands.”
Sales of the T-shirts were encouraging enough that she started to explore different products. Alexis said she makes design sketches and checks with friends and customers for feedback.
“I still do T-shirts, but I really love to do dresses,” she said. “People love the dresses, and I was really surprised. When I got the first one, I hated it. But then it started to get a lot of likes.”
Alexis said she tries to bring in new designs as old ones sell out, and she has been reaching more and more people as time goes on.
“I have about 12,000 followers on Instagram right now,” she said. “Just a few months ago I had 7,000 followers. So as time goes by, I’m getting more and more people liking it, and I also have other people recommending me to others.”
Alexis estimates she’s had about 200 orders during the summer. After she graduates, she plans to attend law school, though she intends to stay attached to the fashion world. To that end, she said, the next step will be focusing more on dresses.
“I’d like to do an affordable version of some of the high-end products, and hopefully I can get into small boutique stores,” she said.
Alexis also makes a point of highlighting populations she feels have been ignored.
“I try to center the designs around Black woman, which is a marginalized group that doesn’t get enough recognition, in my opinion,” she said. “I have one design that has queer women on it, which is something that I don’t see a lot in clothing designs. So I’ve really tried to focus on people who have been marginalized and show them they are represented. Considering the amount of people that are plus size in America, I hope that size inclusivity is not a trend.”
— Robert Emproto