Congratulations, Chrissie Swan.

You know her from Big Brother, The Circle, and MixFM, and now Chrissie Swan is about to add fashion designer to her already full dance card.

Tired of flicking through clothing racks that wouldn’t look out of place on a Florida retiree, Chrissie Swan set about designing her own clothing range, ‘The Chrissie Swan Avella’ collection, exclusively for Big W.

Nicky spoke with the radio host/television host/columnist/author and mum-of-three (inhale) to chat about how she made it her mission to help women find clothes that fit well and that are fashionable, without the huge price tag.

Firstly, congratulations on the range. How did it come about? Did Big W approach you?

Like many plus sized women I have found it so frustrating trying to find clothes that make me feel good. I mean, it’s really tough. You might be lucky to find one or two pieces you like if you have the patience of Jobe to trawl through a hundred racks filled with clothes which make you look like you’re moving to a retirement estate in Miami, Florida. The best I could expect after a shopping expedition was a feeling of ‘I suppose that’ll do,’ but I wanted a feeling of ‘Wahoooo!’

So I begged Big W to help me with it and thankfully they agreed. The first collection is small and it’s going to get better and bigger every season.

How involved were you in the design process?

Right from the start Big W said they wanted me to be involved in all aspects of design. My fingerprints are all over it. The whole creative process has been a dream. They wanted me to have control over it and they mean it. I can honestly say that I wear everything that is in the range myself. That was my filter. If I don’t love it, it doesn’t make the cut. I would never agree to putting my name on something that I wouldn’t wear myself.

Obviously, I’m working with some really talented fashionistas who have their eye on international style trends and fabrics and we bring the whole thing together as a team.

Was clothing design something you previously considered or imagined you’d ever do?

I’ve always been interested in fabrics and design and I know a lot about fashion as in my 20s I worked in a fashion agency, and I managed a plus size fashion store. My best friend is a fashion designer and we had a small label together, so I know my viscose from my cotton and and my pattern from my quick unpick.

But I never imagined it was possible to turn out something as good as this for such a great price. That’s the Big W expertise. What we have is something that has never been offered to Australian women before: great style and great quality – designs our smaller sisters take for granted and all at amazingly low prices.


What can we expect from the range?

The team is evolving and developing the range every single week. There is so much passion for this range. We will have new and exciting pieces in store every 6-8 weeks.

What is the price range? The cheapest item? Most expensive?

This is the most exciting part! It starts at $19 and the most you’ll pay for anything is $59. I love that the prices are so reasonable because for $34 you can risk a new look. You can be brave. Dresses changed my life and a lot of plus size women are nervous to give them a crack but at that price, you can have a go and realise that you’ve been missing out on. This really makes my heart sing.

What type of woman embodies Chrissie Swan for Big W?

The Big W customer is me. I love a quality product but honestly I’m not mad on paying huge amounts of money for them. If I can get 3 pieces of clothing for under $100 and they’re good quality and they make me feel fabulous then that’s a massive win. They have to wash and wear well. There’s not a ‘dry clean only’ label in sight. I want an easy, fun look, for not much money that makes me look like I’ve made an effort with not much effort. I think I’m not alone there! There isn’t a woman alive who hasn’t had some kind of changing room disaster – what are some of the challenges you experience when shopping for clothes? Shopping in general hasn’t been fabulous! I was desperate for a nightie once and the only one I could find had a picture of Garfield the cartoon cat drooling on the front and a thought bubble that said ‘MIDNIGHT IS A GREAT TIME FOR LASAGNE’.

What do you think of the current plus-size fashion industry?

I think they’ve tried to do the right thing but I’m not sure they understand who their customer is and what they need. That’s why I’m all over this from woah to go.

Future plans? Collins St? Rodeo Drive?

Hell no. What can you buy for under $60 there? A hanky? We’ve got Big W’s support with this label for the next three years and some really exciting ideas that we’re busting to show everyone.

And finally, we’ve all had a few fashion shockers. What are your biggest fashion fails?

Tapestry trousers, bottle green tapered leg jeans, stirrup pants, an Oakley t-shirt, Hypercolour t-shirts and vinyl platform shoes are all in my dark fashion history hall of shame.

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