Barbara Christmann, founder of Beautiful Curvy blog and calendar
When I came to Italy 4 months ago I did a little research on social sites to connect with fellow plus size bloggers and body diversity advocates. This is how I found the online curvy magazine, Beautiful Curvy and its founder&owner Barbara Christmann. She seemed such a sweet person and immediately at our first meeting she took me to my very first fashion event at the luxury plus size brand, Marina Rinaldi. What else of a proof you would need to believe that she is one of the most supportive and helpful person I ever met! I also understood very quickly that fashion is literally in her blood – been in the business for more than 20 years and wherever we went, everybody knew her and vice versa. I took the occasion to make a Beauty With Plus interview with this bubbly, charming and kind lady to reveal that PLUS which she certainly has within!
Susie: How did you get into fashion?
Barbara: Fashion was my dream since my childhood – I wanted to become a fashion designer. I grew u pin a bilingual family (my mother is Italian, my father is German) in Germany and though not all my family was happy with my choice to pursue my fashion dreams, after couple of years in language studies I moved to Milan to become a designer. I was 23 with big dreams so after finishing the famous Marangoni Institue of Fashion, I started to work for designers like Nanni Strada, Italian and then the American Scott Barry where I gained valuable experience. I took part in designing, choosing fabrics, following of every step in the clothes making. It became clear that my biggest passion is selecting fabrics, putting together concepts for photoshootings – I always loved styling!
Susie: And I must say it is obvious – you are always dressed nicely and in colours!
Barbara: That’s right – I love to express myself with the help of colours, they tell so much about a person!
Susie: And how did you get from designers to magazines?
Barbara: It happened after my job at Scott Barry that a representative from the Missoni group offered me a job to work for them as I not only designed but was a B2B seller and I was offered to work for German magazines like Burda International. I switched the scenario but still fashion – I became Milan correspondent for German magazines like Für Sie, I arranged photo shootings, I followed fashion trends all in the past 20 years.
Susie: Obviously you have a strong fashion background but how did curvy area came to the picture?
Barbara: After the economic crisis hit fashion industry as well, I got only a few cooperations and since I was a designer who is curvy, I fulfilled my dreams to create a collection for curvy woman in cooperation with the brand Giglio Rosso in 2011. I was happy to get this chance because I think plus size fashion lacks creativity. Many designers think that we like to cover ourself with big clothes and without colours – my designes are from 4 years ago but you could still wear them! Also, the companies are not brave enough – they do not want to invest in curvy fashion! They always play on the safe side and create classical, traditional pieces instead of fresh, young styles– my dream is still to return to designing one day and provide fashionable and trendy clothes for curvy woman because they need those! I also worked for a curvy fashion event Fattaperpiacere during Milan Fashion Week as the press of the event for 2 seasons.
Susie: You really touched all angles of fashion industry! How come the idea for Beautiful Curvy?
Barbara: I had this in my mind for 3 years – to do something for curvy women, to help them feel better about themselves and help them to find the right clothes. My fashion editor background helped a lot to understand there is a need for this type of magazine in Italy which caters for plus size women. Since my life is also not only about fashion, I include other lifestyle areas into the magazine: interior design, travel, food, beauty, psychology, body acceptance and so on. I wanted to show the reality to the women and prove that what they see in the media is not true: not all women must be skinny to feel good in their skin! Curvy can be sexy too – like I showed it in my calendar!
Susie: I love your calendar but maybe a few people do not know about the history and concept behind, please tell!
Barbara: 2 years ago I got the idea to prove the world that curvy women are also beautiful – just like any other size! My secondary purpose with the calendar was to show the fashion industry that dressing plus size girls in a fashionable and sexy way is possible – you just need to take the effort and understand that curves behave differently, it is not enough just to add 2 cm to the material! We need design which is made for us so we can embrace our curves! So I did an online casting – open for girls around the world but since I did the shooting in Milan, girls were selected from Italy but from every corner of the country and they travelled on their own costs just to be part of this project. Compared to the first calendar which was a funny pinup style, this year we made an old Hollywood style black and white calendar, as an homage for the old photographs. The first year I managed to find sponsors to have the calendar printed but this year it is only available to download online and I am so proud that 40 000 downloads we have in 4 months! It is worth all the hard work which proceeded the shooting – I worked for months to put together the concept and all the details. 2014 calendar is like a lifecycle of a woman –with angels, growing up, getting married and then becoming a widow, representing life itself. I also made interviews with each girl which I publish on the website in the relevant month when they are present in the calendar. This calendar also gave the first step for some of the girls who started their modeling carreer after my calendar – and I am so happy and proud of them! This year the press response was also huge – Vogue Italia Curvy, Elle, Marie Claire which was an incredible feeling to get so much appreciation!
Susie: But I heard that you are also like a model agency, not only at the calendar!
Barbara: Yes, it is true – I walk around Milan and I take picture of girls and get their contact details if they are interested in modelling. Some of them I even cast for Beautifull Plus Size Agency, Milan! I think it is just part of my life as fashion is happening all around! And since I am already thinking about next year’s calendars, in 1-2 months I will announce the casting so watch out!
Susie: And you are always the first – I know about Promod plus size range from your website!
Barbara: Yes, I think it is important to be up to date and share relevant information immediately since the online world is so interactive. Last time I travelled to Parma just to give authentic first hand experience about the Violeta by Mango plus size collection and it is only available in that store. So I travelled and got information which my readers really appreciate. I try to be practical and provide daily help – now the magazine is also available in German, too!
Susie: Which are your favourite plus size brands?
Barbara: I love Persona, Fiorella Rubino and Evans which latter always bring new ideas, their latest collection The Cut was love at first sight for me!
Susie: How do you see the plus size situation in Italy?
Barbara: I think there is still a long way to go as society still want you to be skinny and young in order to fit into their picture. In Germany women are proud to be called curvy and sexy as there is an event with the same name with bigger models who show confidence on the catwalk or like in London at the British Plus Size Fashion Weekend. So there is still room for improvement here! Thankfully there are curvy bloggers who try to make a difference and bring plus size fashion forward like Diva della Curve or Donne con le Curve.
Susie: Were you always a bigger child?
Barbara: Yes, a bit I was always bigger but I grew up in a wonderful family so I actually never noticed or experienced that I was different. I treated my body equally with others so bullying was never an issue in my life. I was curvy with feminine curves around my hips and proportionate and when I came to Italy everybody started telling me to lose weight. I was 170 cm and 70 kg and it was the first time for me to hear such a feedback but since I had a strong confidence, I never cared and I never tortured myself with crazy diets! Due to some health issues I had to stop doing sports and got some medicines so I gained even more but I found it totally acceptable and I was happy and I am happy at every of my size!
Susie: What advice would you give for others?
Barbara: I think loving yourself is crucial because without that you can’t build your confidence. It is a process and it is not easy but try also eliminating negative people and negative comments from your life. Ignore them and just be yourself! Stop pleasing others, be your own self and you will also find similar personalities to yours to gather around.
Susie: What is that plus which makes a woman beautiful?
Barbara: For me the eyes are the most important as they are really like mirror to the soul. You can see everything in a pair of eyes – what type of person you are facing, if she has a good heart, if she is kind because all is written there! Your heart, your soul, behaviour, intelligence are the true values and worth much more than outside beauty!
What a perfect sentence to close such an inspiring interview with a fellow body diversity activist, Barbara! Her eyes truly speak beauty because though people say blue eyes can be cold, I say the opposite as every time I meet Barbara and look into her eyes I see a warm heart. She is so determined and dedicated to bring a change in society and to help curvy women in Italy that I can only look up to her and respect her knowledge, experience and all the efforts she did. Barbara is like the sea to me – not only the waves of Calabrian seaside I see in the colour of her eyes but also I recognize some characteristic simily: she is calm, peaceful and kind but the fire is there too. She is passionate whenever the word „fashion” comes up in our conversation and she is also very well-informed. You would not believe how much she works and not for the money but for you! Because her passion is you and before you jump to the wrong conclusion, she does not earn the value of a Tuscan villa by working non stop on Beautiful Curvy – however I believe she agrees that money can not buy happiness to you. Her biggest joy is the joy of others – whether it comes from a practical fashion-find advice she shares on her webpage or from a confidence-boosting advice she replies to an email. She is happy to give and help! Beside her heart I discovered another PLUS in her: she is persistent. No matter what others said, no matter how hard it seemed but she did not give up her dream to become part of the fashion industry. She studied hard, invested in her dreams to make them reality and then she found herself designing her own collection – what is that if not a role model? No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid – said Lupita Nyong at the Oscar when receiving her best supporting actress statue and I can’t agree more! May Barbara be our excellent example to believe in our dreams and pursuit them, no matter what!
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