One of the benefits of being a famous actress is having unlimited clothing at your disposal. Except when you don’t. “I could not find, with consistency, something that felt young and modern and easy to wear,” says Melissa McCarthy. “And then I started thinking, Why don’t I make the closet?”
So she did: In August, McCarthy launched her first clothing collection, working with Sunrise Brands to create a line of all-size, fashion-forward basics. Priced from $54 to $169, Melissa McCarthy Seven7 items will be available in plus sizes at Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Lane Bryant. In a new twist for this market, MelissaMcCarthy.com will carry the same styles in sizes ranging from 4 to 28, small to 4XL.
The plus-size clothing industry generated $17.5 billion in the U.S. in the year prior to April 2014, and yet still 81% of plus-size women say they’d spend more on clothes if they had better options, according to a survey by online retailer Modcloth. Given that the average American woman is a size 14—which, coincidentally, is where plus size starts—that represents a huge untapped market. Lately, retailers have been getting better at serving plus-size customers: both Target and H&M have launched specialized lines in the past few years, and Isabel Toledo partnered with Lane Bryant in 2014 on an exclusive collection.
But even ultrastylish plus-size-only clothing isn’t good enough, says McCarthy. She wants ultrastylish clothing designed for women regardless of what size they are, and she wants to be able to find it in the same places so-called straight-size women shop. “Women do not stop at a magical size 10 or 12, and I thought, Why would clothes?” McCarthy says. “I have been every size under the rainbow, but my style never changed.”
Going in, McCarthy says, “I think there was the assumption that they would just make their line and I would slap my name on it.” But the actress—who dreamed of studying fashion until her high school best friend, the now-famous shoe designer Brian Atwood, convinced her to do comedy instead—was involved in every stage of production, pushing the Seven7 team to make their designs more contemporary.
Her collection includes items like patterned pants and formfitting skirts that plus-size retailers have typically shied away from—but that’s kind of the point, says McCarthy. “You can’t say to people that a woman doesn’t want this,” she says. “I want it.”