Bella Rene’ heads to New York Fashion Week next month as the only plus-size brand on this season’s calendar. “Plus-size women deserve to see women that look like them on the runway,” says Kenyatta C. Jones, the company’s Founder, CEO and Head Designer. “Plus-size women should not be invisible or hidden in the fashion world. Every person of every size and color should feel they have a place in fashion.”
Jones is passionate about plus-size representation, and Bella Rene’s origin story goes all the way back to her childhood.
Jones says she loved window shopping at high end stores during family trips she took in her youth. She would ask her mom to buy the most current issues of Vogue, and then would cut out images of the models. “But none of them looked like me,” reflects Jones.
In 2006 she was living in Atlanta and working a corporate job. Her love of fashion was quickly morphing into frustration. Her job required a wardrobe that wasn’t easy for her to access as a plus-size woman. Earlier that year she had gone to Lane Bryant looking to add pants and suits to her work wardrobe. “There were very limited options,” says Jones. “The largest size they had was 26 and I could not button the pants. I completely fell apart in that dressing room.”
Less than two months later she had been laid off and was feeling the sting. “I went shopping with a friend and there was not one store in the mall that carried my size. I went home, got on the internet and started to research how to start a clothing line. Bella Rene’ was founded out of sheer frustration with the fashion options I had as a plus-size woman,” says Jones.
Jones went back to her home state of Mississippi with $20,000 in severance pay, and talked to the woman who had always supported her love of fashion: her mom. “I told her… I was willing to risk it all because I knew that there were other woman like me that would want what I could create.” Jones could not draw or sew at the time but says, “My mom believed in me and gave me an initial investment from her retirement of $5,000.”
Bella Rene’ was born. In fact, Bella Rene’ translates to “Beautiful Rene’” – her mother’s name.
In 2010 Bella Rene’ moved operations east, and had a rough start. “Many companies turned us down. They did not want to work with a plus-size company.” Eventually the brand found a manufacturer, and a few years later Jones created the reality show House of Curves for WeTV.
Jones was encouraged to apply for New York Fashion Week, and says after several rounds of rejection the company was finally accepted.
“Being the only plussize designer brand on the calendar should not remain the norm,” says Jones. “We need more brands to create the real fashion that plus-size women need and want and then show it on the runway and in the media. I’m committed to continuing the fight for inclusivity in the fashion industry, especially on the runway and in the media.”
Bella Rene’ will be debuting a new contemporary collection September 9, 2021 at 3pm EST on NYFW.COM.