“I am a walking reminder that we deserve and that we will show up and show out, every time.”
In 2009, 19-year-old Sashagai Ruddock (Sasha) would run home after a day of classes at the University of Guelph Humber, where she studied criminal justice, to share her latest fashion finds on deliciouslyfat.blogspot.com, the plus-size style destination she had created. Cut to 2021 and this Brampton-born influencer stitched her way into a US$100,000 prize courtesy of SHEIN. Streamed on the brand’s app and social platforms, the SHEIN x 100K Challenge saw designers around the world compete in multiple challenges across four episodes. In the end, celebrity judges Khloe Kardashian, Christian Siriano, Jenna Lyons, Law Roach and Laurel Pantin crowned Ruddock the winner.
During the SHEIN x 100K Challenge, Kardashian had said of Ruddock: “I don’t think she’s going to let anyone else win this competition but her” — and though she did take home the prize, her win is a win for us all. Ruddock’s size-inclusive brand Flaws of Couture is built on the ethos that people of all shapes and sizes deserve to look and feel their best. Having won the competition just a few months after launching an exclusive collection in collaboration with SHEIN, we just had to learn more about Ruddock’s journey to becoming a fashion designer, her experience as a plus-size Black woman, and how she’s working to make the future of fashion more inclusive.
Congratulations on the win! How are you feeling?
It feels really good to know that I won. I feel accomplished and fired up. Being a server for ten years, dropping collections funded by server wages and tips is all I knew. And now I have $100,000 to invest into my brand. I still feel like my usual self, though. I’m still Sasha, from Brampton, in my childhood home. Now I just have some funding for my company which I’m so grateful to God for.
What drew you to becoming a fashion designer?
I didn’t choose fashion design; I really believe that fashion design chose me…Not finding clothes that align with who you are can leave you feeling almost vulnerable as a plus-size person. It’s that feeling of, do I settle for what’s available, or do I create this for myself and those around me who need it too? It’s a huge deal. I’m 31, it’s 2021, and I’ve never experienced a “shop ‘til you drop” moment. And when I ask myself why, I think it’s because people don’t find size inclusivity necessary even though the average person falls outside of a size 12 and this enables and maintains fatphobia.
You went into the SHEIN x 100K Challenge as a streetwear designer weeks after you launched a size-inclusive streetwear collection with SHEIN. How was that experience?
You know, I was trying to do hot girl summer, but God had another plan [laughs]. There are definitely levels to how hard or challenging a competition can be, and this was a competition. And I was going to give it my all because it’s ours. When I found out Khloe was going to be my mentor, I was shook. This was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life; it was life-changing. Everything I learned, all the people I met, the heat of the competition, making things even when you feel like you can’t — all of this challenged me and showed me what I was capable of. Sometimes you have to leave home to see what you’re packing.
SHEIN has been caught up in a few online controversies. How has your experience been working with them?
Yes, SHEIN has been the subject of controversy in the past, but from what I’ve personally seen with what the team is doing, they really are making changes and bettering themselves. I love a company that is looking to grow and contribute to changing narratives. I always feel heard. I genuinely do believe in their team because they’re willing to be accountable and grow.
On social media, you encourage your followers to love themselves no matter where they are in their journey to acceptance. So tell me, why name your brand Flaws of Couture?
I’ve always felt flawed. People will always feel like they have the right to tell you about yourself and what’s wrong with you, as a child and even now as an adult plus-size person. I heard someone in the industry say that people don’t want to see fat women on the runway — they want to see what they want to be. So, you don’t think I’m couture? But that was a lightbulb moment for me. I was like, “I’m going to prove that [plus size women] are [high fashion].” Maybe we are the “flaws of couture” to you, but we are perfect the way we are. I am a walking reminder that we deserve and that we will show up and show out, every time.
So, what do fashion and style mean to you?
Fashion, for me personally and [for] so many Black people, it’s culture. It’s really being able to step into a piece or garment that rises up to meet who you are on the inside, at your core…Fashion, to me, is who I am on the inside and a vehicle to express that.
I love that you draw inspiration from the community you seek to serve. Tell me more about what else is inspiring you these days.
Outside of plus-size people, and recently the ‘90s, I always come back to Black and brown people. They — we — are on so many mood boards and style inspiration boards, and not many will give us the credit we deserve. Though I can be inspired by anything at any moment, just being around my people and seeing how they put things together always inspires me. I also love to travel to draw inspiration. I just really want to be around Black and brown people everywhere. You don’t know what it’s like until you’re there, but I just bring my camera with me and click away.
Any final words?
Get with the program. Size inclusivity should be mandatory. I’m not the only one pushing for this, but there’s not enough. I sincerely believe that it’s irresponsible to leave out the average woman. We need above 4X. We need to get our feet wet and stop being so afraid of pushing boundaries…Every single woman is high fashion, and we deserve to feel that way.