Why plus-size bikini designer GabiFresh turns body shaming on its head
Plus-size fashion blogger Gabi Gregg helped to popularize the so-called “fatkini” in the earlier 2011 when she posted an Instagram photo of herself wearing a black-and-white striped bikini with that hashtag in the caption, an idea she borrowed from Tumblr.
With one photo, Gregg reclaimed the term “fat,” which mainstream media has long used as synonymous with unhealthy, and gave an emblematic middle finger to body shamers everywhere.
Gregg is now in her fourth year designing swimwear for her collaborative line GabiFresh for Swimsuits for All. The swimwear line is trendy, vacation-ready, and features everything from high-waisted bikinis with edgy cutouts to low-waisted bikinis with animal prints to one-pieces with zip-down fronts to fun swimsuit coverups. “I wanted to bring the same trends and the same cool options that everyone else had in straight sizes to the plus-size market,” Gregg told Fusion in a phone interview.
What’s your relationship with the term “plus-size?”
I’m a fan of it. The girls in my community, most of us are fine with the label. It’s a way for us to come together. I understand why models who are a size 8 don’t want to be called plus-size, because they’re not. But for those of us who are, we find value in it. There’s a movement called “Drop the Plus,” and it’s like, okay, well, you’re not thinking of the women who are plus-size who might actually embrace that term. I don’t think that’s fair. For all of us who use the label in order to find clothing that fits us, I think it’s important. It’d be great to go into a mall or a store and know a place will carry my size, but as of right now, that’s not the case. So, I think it’s valuable and necessary in order to know who has plus-size clothing and who doesn’t.
Did you always love your body and promote body positivity?
I didn’t. It was definitely something I learned about as I got older. I was taught, like everyone else, that you should be thin and you should be on a diet if you are overweight. It was coming at me from all angles, both externally and internally. It wasn’t until I discovered body positivity on the internet in college that I really started to change my views of my body and bodies in general. That didn’t happen until I was 19. Then, there was no real social media, but I [joined] fashion forums and I became a part of a community on LiveJournal called “Fatshionista.” That’s where it started.
You’re not just a fashion blogger, but you are a huge voice in the plus-size women community. Do you feel a lot of pressure, given all that responsibility?
I think being in the spotlight is always tough for certain people, including me. For a long time, I’ve put that pressure on myself. It made me feel uncomfortable that I was supposed to be a representative for so many people because I felt like I had to be the right way in so many different ways. It wasn’t until probably the last year or two that I let that go and realized that I just have to be myself and people can either like me or not. It’s way too much to take on the pressure of representing an entire community when all I can really do is just be myself. No matter what my opinions are, someone is always going to disagree with me. The quicker you realize that, the better.