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2015-12-15: Hi! You're probably here because you did a Google search for 'plus sized horseback riders' or you saw my content quoted elsewhere. There are a couple of things I'd like you to know.

I am still here! But I am living away from my horses and not riding often. I could tell you a lie and say that I am, but I have always endeavored to give you the truth here. As a result, I'm not feeling terribly motivated to write blog posts and I feel out of touch with the community.

I'd love for you to stay a while and look back through the archives. Visit the links listed below. We still have an active forum community and I post on the Facebook page from time to time.

I have tentative plans to try to get more involved in the horse world in 2016, and I will absolutely share whatever that adventure becomes with you, so keep checking back!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guest Blog: Fuller Fillies

We’re just back from the ‘good old US of A’ having had a month long tour taking in business and pleasure and the thing that always strikes me when I’m there is the difference between the English Trade and the American/Canadian Trade; the Consumers are pretty much the same the world over- yes their tastes differ but largely (no pun) they are happy if they can buy flattering, comfortable clothing at a good price- but the Trade is a whole different ball game!

I have recently been recalling our rise to fame in the UK to see if I can apply any of the learning from it to develop the US/Canadian Trade...

Many of you know the story; 39 years old coming back to riding with ‘extra padding’ led to a rather ‘tiddly’ (it was Christmas 2005) me deciding to dust down the Fashion Degree and design my own collection. Having worked in Sales, Marketing, Advertising & Business Consultancy I thought that I had all the bases covered – Hubby was a Financial Consultant which was, and remains, just as well because all I care about is how much I have to spend!

‘The bases’ were far from covered however, because neither of us had any in-depth knowledge of Manufacture which is pretty key to getting a Collection made really. But I knew a man who knew more than me and that was a good start. He arranged a meeting with a team of other men which should have set the alarm bells ringing right away... “Now then Ms (pronounced Mzzz) Wild, you are wanting to produce a range for big girls, of course this will have to be done at a premium because bigger clothing is a different ball game because it means more stitching and we have to pay someone to do that stitching!” I considered this for a moment... “Exactly how many more stitches are we talking here?” “Oh probably 100 or so...” “...which takes approximately 1 second to do on a machine...?” I continued; anyway, needless to say that I decided they had just spotted a chance to make a quick buck and with no intention of bringing out a premium-cost Brand I showed them the door.

Following much research the launch collection went into production the following year and we stood at the UK Trade show, BETA. I was amazed at how many people told me how ‘risqué’ they thought the idea was – let’s be clear here – not ‘risky’...‘risqué’. Apparently, talking about big bottoms and boobs amounts to something close to Swedish porn which clearly should be kept in brown paper bags (you understand I have no personal knowledge of what I’m talking about here...) Anyway, I have what we call a ‘warped sense of humour’ and had this thought ‘I’ll show them risqué!”

The next month I launched the ‘nude filly’ advertising campaign. A whole raft of ads with my size 20 model wearing nothing but her hat and boots and the caption ‘2 million riders had nothing to wear – until now’ – all done very tastefully you understand!

The response from the rest of the Industry (our ‘competitors’) was nearing hysteria. The best was when I got a call from an Irish magazine, “Suzanne, if I offered you a full page ad. For £30 would you be interested?” Of course the answer was yes and I had to ask why; “Well a certain Brand has just pulled their advert because they don’t want to be seen next to your ad – apparently he knows fat girls exist but doesn’t want to see them with no clothes on”. What the owner of this very high-profile brand didn’t know was that the Editor was a size 22 and took his remarks VERY personally! It transpired there were many plus-sized Editors working in the industry so we got a fair amount of publicity with that nude plastered in every magazine the length and breadth of the country. It was most certainly different – but hell it worked!

There is one difference between British and US/Canadian consumers and it surrounds the horses you ride; over here if you weigh more than 11 stone you are expected to ride a Draught Horse – riding a pony or thoroughbred could get you lynched! My ‘Fluffy Lillies’ got very excited over a letter in the BHS magazine one month, a lady had written in saying she would love to ride her Fell pony but, at a size 22 couldn’t find clothing to fit her – why were her needs different to her skinny friends? The response had been deafening; how dare this fat b***h ride a pony – didn’t she care about its welfare? Big women were a burden to the tax payer because if they fell off their horses they would need an air ambulance to take them to hospital – I could go on!

The Editor who, it has to be said, has a fondness for well-padded ladies, offered me the right to reply on behalf of XLovely ladies everywhere – and I did. Three pages. Suddenly, big women had a voice and the mail bag was over-spilling for the next 6 months. You can’t buy publicity like that. The magazine had seen nothing like it , which is pretty much the definition of different...
Fuller Fillies became recognised as the authority on the subject of plus-sized clothing in the UK and I have always been the first to defend the needs of my Fluffy Lillies – and I expected it all to start over when we accidentally launched in the USA. What a difference!

Yes, its true, the USA was accidental. OK, it was in the plan for sometime in 2011 however, in January 2008 I got a call from an American lady buyer asking if we were standing at BETA the following month; we weren’t but arranged to meet to discuss the Collection, at the venue. When she arrived with her CEO she brought the proofs of their next catalogue which had half a page of our product already in there – the easiest sale I ever made!

The lady was from SmartPak, by the next catalogue we had two pages and by the next they had become our Wholesale Distributor; a whole different project for them. This is what brought us to America, and to AETA...

I bolstered myself and waited for the tirade of abuse from Retailers aghast that we were encouraging ‘fat girls to ride poor horses’. It didn’t happen – in fact far from it. “You only go up to a size 24 – what’s that in American a size 22? You need to go bigger!” And then there’s my favourite from this last AETA show when I was approached by a lady from Texas, “You got any low-rise britches?” Taken aback by the request I explained that as a plus-sized brand this would not be a good thing as it would dissect the tummy and nobody wants two tummies! “You need to make low-rise britches – they all want them.” An hour later I had established that she had not been asked for low-rise britches by anyone over a size 8 however she thought it would be a good idea – she now seems to be having all of her friends email me on a daily basis asking if we do a low-rise style. Presumably they will wear them with Riding Thongs – something else that we are never likely to produce! Some differences need to be preserved.

Bringing Fuller Fillies to market was always going to provide us with a challenge; what we didn’t realise is how different the challenges would be depending where you are in the world – and they don’t come from Consumers, rather the people who have set themselves up to service the consumer and like to think they know what they’re doing; you can rely on us Ladies but your local tack store might need some education...

Sometimes differences can be perceived that don’t exist and this brings me full circle. Since our launch we have been plagued with requests for us to do a long boot that will accommodate big calves; after 5 years of toil and an office full of ‘comedy boots’ we perfected our Dress Boot in time for AETA in January. We displayed it with pride and were told repeatedly that it wouldn’t sell over there because everyone wanted Field Boots. We hurriedly had 1000 pairs made with elastic laces and what do you know – the Dress boot is outselling the Field Boot 2:1!

At the end of the day we embrace difference; our consumers aren’t just scaled up versions of their size zero sisters – they are different; our clothing isn’t just copies of what is out there already for standard sizes, we design what our Consumers want – that’s very different. And our Consumers are the BEST whether they are in the UK, the USA, Canada or Croatia (and before you ask, yes we do sell to Croatia...) – and why? Because they are big, beautiful and oh so very different!

Viva la difference!

Written for ‘A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse’ by Suzanne Wild, Designer & Managing Director Fuller Fillies Limited. – another fat girl.
www.fuller-fillies.com

21 comments:

  1. Love your story Suzanne, and your the grit and determination you had to overcome the naysayers!!

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  2. Hip Hip (pun intended) hooray! My draft cross is not nearly so embarrassed by my weight as by my total lack of riding appropriate clothing. Thanks for seeing the need and responding.

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  3. Such an awesome product!!!! I am a size 14 with a 17 1/2 inch calves.. with size 11*(US) feet. We are all not cookie cutter women come in all shapes and sizes!!! Few companies make a size 11 boot and if they do they do not offer x-wide Calf. Thank you a million times over!!!! I cant wait to get a pair for Christmas!!! maybe one each dress -for hunting and field for showing!

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  4. I remember when i first started seeing your adverts here in the uk, it certainly gave me hope that big girls do ride, i now have a whole wardrobe full of your clothes and i've got my eye on the new "SHERIFFE Jacket".
    For me its not just the fact that you cater for larger sizes but the quality of everything i bought is soo good it really does just wash and wash. THANKS for giving us a brand to be proud of.

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  5. What a great and inspiring story.

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  6. Amen! I was so pleased when I saw you were moving into boots and chaps and the like as well as breeches. A couple years ago I needed half chaps and of course, I couldn't find any that fit my calf (I'm also exceedingly short, so even the XS size would have been too long for me.) I ended up going through a delightful leather worker who specialized in motorcycle gear for women, and it was a great experience, but it would have been so empowering to be able to buy something "off the rack" if you will.

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  7. What a great story...and thank goodness for SmartPak, recognizing the potential and need for a line like this! I've always had ridiculously huge calves, even for my size (which is not small), so I can't WAIT to order a pair of the half chaps (just haven't decided which ones I want) and tall boots from Fuller Fillies:)

    BTW, I ride a thoroughbred...GASP!!!! He was really suffering after our ride today, munching on his beet pulp and being rubbed down with a soft towel. Abuse, I say!

    Morons:)

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  8. I used to be a size 22 and am now a size 8, so I can totally sympathize! But I just had to laugh about the low rise and thong being nixed in the larger sizes! As a previous fat girl who used to run from that stuff, and can finally wear it, I totally agree. Some things ARE NOT made for the fuller gal.... Just the way it is. NOT comfortable, and I would never make someone look at me in low rise, or GOD FORBID a thong, before I lost my weight...:)But that is just one opinion, no offense intended...

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  9. My grandfather was a tailor for western movies in the '30s and '40s. He didn't make it as an actor but made the big money on his "authentic" cowboy and cowgirl attire. My grandfather did rodeo, circus, and was a California State judge and ended riding when he was 85+. My dad did the same, but went through college on a rodeo scholarship. I grew-up working the shop at his western wear store and every single day came home and rode the horses. We had a big team roping arena on our property with big lights. The arena is now my backyard, minus the old lights. I have three beautiful horses and one, I think, is perfect for me and my size. I'm 5'6" and 290. I have been doing water aerobics for a year and have really messed-up knees from falling around on the ranch. All of my knee accidents happened while I was young and weighed less than 130 pounds. I've endured the pain because I thought if I could lose weight and that would equal less pain. I want to ride so bad, I ache inside and that hurts more than my knees. I will be turning 60 in a couple days and I'm so afraid that riding is over for me. My husband is buying me a new bridle for our mare as well as the Troxel helmet you had featured. It's rated 5 stars, you know, and the horse stuff is for my birthday. Thank you so much for your blog made me smile. Cross your fingers, I'm doing this.

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  10. Thanks for a wonderful guest blog, Suzanne. I love your web site and especially the photo album of fuller fillies riding their horses. It is great inspiration.

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  11. Thank you Fuller Fillies! I have one of your quilted riding vests and I LOVE it! I just wish I had money so I could buy more of your product! Thank you for telling us your story!

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  12. I am so stoked! I can identify with Kim Chee--if I found boots I liked; they never fit the calf. I finally gave up and wear ropers because they only go over the ankle. Now, I am going to Google and see what Suzanne has to offer! Thank you.

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  13. I love your line. And I must say, yes! I want low rise breeches, lol. I am only 5ft 2 and nearly all breeches come up to sit right beneath my bra.......so the low rise variety sit where they should. Keep up the good work!

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  14. Great story.

    *But* I do find the anti-low rise comments misguided. Some of us are built such that typical high-rise breeches are tremendously unflattering (I also find them quite uncomfortable) and for us, low(er) rise are far preferable.

    While I've personally never understood the appeal of thongs, there are plenty of women of *all* sizes who swear by them and prefer them for riding. I think that sentiments such as those expressed in the article and a couple of the comments smack of "fat-shaming", which certainly doesn't fit with the rest of the message of the piece *or* the brand.

    Trust women to know what we want and what works for our bodies! It's one thing to say you won't make product X because you don't think you'd sell enough of them to make it worth your while and quite another to say you won't make product X because of some arbitrary notion of what's somehow not acceptable for women above a certain size to wear. *That* is insulting, and no different from the folks who thought the concept of plus size clothing for riders was "risqué in the first place.

    And no, I'm not from Texas. ;)

    FWIW, I'm 5'9"-ish, wear a 16-18 in jeans, carry most of my weight in my butt and thighs and have a distinctly smaller waist. A friend is 5'5", and also wears a 16-18 in jeans, but has skinny legs, no ass to speak of, and carries all her weight in her chest and tummy. There's *no* percentage of spandex that will make the same pair of breeches work for us both. I'd love to see plus-size breeches offered not just in larger sizes, but in "pear" and "apple" shapes.

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  15. Some things are just not made for the fuller gal.... I finally gave up and wear ropers because they only go over the ankle..

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  16. Hiya ive made a website where everyone can upload their story about their journe with their horse or just how much you love them :) www.inthehoof.com

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  17. bras please that keep the "girls" from bouncing! Fuller girls can be so distracting when trotting down the road side it is your civic duty to save the drivers from running off the road! thanks for the cute clothes and a size 12 is appreciated too

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  18. I finally bought a pair of FF field boots, thank God you are finally distributing in Ontario, Canada !!
    I am a regular size in general but with calves the size of a heavy weight boxer, and have always felt so embarrassed when trying on long boots that NEVER fit; with the sales person looking at my legs in horror !

    Your boots are so comfortable, affordable.....bravo to your company !

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  19. Thank you so much for writing this. I am a tad bit behind the times, as I just bought my first pair of Fuller Fillies breeches, but I love them, and I really appreciate your initiative to bring this line to market in the USA. I am 42 years old, 6 feet tall, a US size 22/24, and I have just returned to riding after a 21-year absence. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for providing me with fantastic riding clothes. Please keep up the good work! Bravo!

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  20. Good job with the whole post. It has been written so well and presented in such an amazing way.
    Thank you so much for sharing this.

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