How Hilary MacMillan Made a Statement By Extending To Plus Sizes

Instagram/@hilarymacmillan

Back in July, my inbox lit up with an email from the team behind Canadian fashion designer Hilary MacMillan. She was planning to launch her spring/summer 2020 collection and was expanding the size range of select pieces to plus sizes up to a size 4X, or a size 28.

In the press release, MacMillan explained that it had always been her goal to offer extended sizing but “the timing had to be right and the consumer demand had to be there.”

Well here we were, and to be honest, I couldn’t be more thrilled. 

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Instagram/@hilarymacmillan

Only five months prior to the announcement via press release of her extended line, I had interviewed MacMillan about the state of the plus-size industry, specifically at Toronto Fashion Week, and she said there was a place for more size diversity. At the time, I had no idea what MacMillan and her team had in store.

This year at Toronto Fashion Week, MacMillan debuted her extended collection on the runway with plus-sized models Brittnee Blair and Makela Saint Fort taking centre stage.

For the first time ever, I sat front row and saw bodies like mine wearing clothes that could fit on my body.

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Instagram/@hilarymacmillan

It was a moment of representation, but it was also a moment to experience beautiful and fashion-forward runway-ready clothes for plus-size bodies. Honestly, my heart was so goddamn full.

Post-show, MacMillan sent me a message on Instagram and invited me to her studio anytime. Of course, I took her up on the offer to sit down and talk about all things clothes. 

On this seasonably warm September day in MacMillan’s studio in Cabbagetown, I sit down across from her and we chat like old friends. Her warmth and personality is so inviting, and I ask her frankly: “Did you know about the line when I interviewed you for NOW back in February?”  She cautiously smiles at me, “It’s always been something on my mind, ever since we extended the sizing for our Feminist bomber jackets.” She continues to explain “each year, as more requests came in, and we became more stable, we just decided it was time.” 

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The entire spring/summer 2020 collection, including the extended line, took nearly 10 months to develop, including designing, manufacturing, and then getting out to consumers.

Although MacMillan is a formally trained designer, she shares that in design school they were never trained on pattern making for extended sizes.

“It wasn’t even offered, and I think it was a big misstep,” she admits sharing that while she was in school, she didn’t even think about it.

“It was probably because I was only a size 10, and didn’t need to think about it.” Since then, she’s spent a lot of time researching the market, reading books about plus-size fashion, talking to people in the industry, and comparative shopping to get a sense of the market. “It’s important to get a sense of the different brands, see how their fits are, and what they are doing and how they are changing certain things up.” 

While this first spring/summer extended collection was developed quickly (MacMillan’s words), she is hoping that now that it is out there to take things and start a dialogue with people.

“We’ve already been tweaking things, and I definitely would like to hear from as many people as possible. That’s kind of the end goal and this is to kind of get the most knowledge that’s available. Be it positive or negative. It’s always like a learning process.”

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Instagram/@brittneecblair

MacMillan is quick to recognize that there is a shift happening in the industry with the plus-size market, and wants to actually pay attention to her plus-size customer rather than shut them out.

It’s a welcomed change, but she believes that half of what working in fashion is about is listening to people.

“Sometimes, things don’t work and you can cry and get upset about it. But sometimes things just don’t work out and it was a misstep, and you just move on and try to make something better the next season.”

The pricing of the collection ranges from $150-300 and it is currently in pre-order.