St. Louis native Qristyl Frazier is making a name for herself in the New York fashion industry, thanks to several TV appearances and a gig with retail giant Lane Bryant. With many exciting opportunities on the horizon, Frazier discusses her work, her success, and what’s next for her.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m from the Central West End in St. Louis, and my family still lives there. I graduated from Stephens College, and later moved to New York to pursue my dream to be a fashion designer. I knew that New York was where I needed to be because it’s the center of the fashion world. I’ve worked in production and technical design at Jones Apparel and White House Black Market, but I always did my own business on the side. In 2006, I was invited to do Black Entertainment Television’s program Rip the Runway. My website received more than 150,000 hits after the show. At that time, I realized there was a big market for plus-size clothing, and I started developing my “plus-sexy” concept.
I know you have some designs available at Lane Bryant. How did that come about?
I was on a show on the Sundance Channel with Joe Zee, creative director of Elle magazine. He works with designers that are extremely talented, but struggling. He liked my “plus-sexy” market and thought I would be a big hit with Lane Bryant because we have the same type of customer. But Lane Bryant’s collection was missing something. Customers also need clothes for going on dates or going on vacation, so I provided what I thought would be a good fit for their store.
Lane Bryant bought 10 pieces, which have been available since February. So far 65 percent of that has been sold, which has exceeded their expectations. Lane Bryant invited me back to do a much bigger collection for the fall. The first time was a test order, but this time they bought 14 out of 18 looks and tripled their order. It will be on the floor in September.
Your first collection is available online and in Houston, New York, and St. Louis. Was that your choice?
Yes, I had to have the line in my hometown, and Lane Bryant was kind enough to provide that. I have a lot of supporters in St. Louis.
How long will the items be available?
Until sold out. Once they are gone, we will move on to the new collection. But the second collection will be much larger, and it will be available in 60 stores instead of only 10. It’s very exciting to be at Lane Bryant. Joe Zee opens doors because he’s well-respected. When he calls, people listen. But just because he calls doesn’t mean I’m automatically in. I had to prove why they should purchase from me, even though they have their own design team.
Where do you look for inspiration?
My inspiration comes from listening to my customer and from my own experience. I’m inspired by fabrics and silhouettes and what real women want to wear. They want to wear clothes like their smaller counterparts. So if it’s a size 6, I wonder if I can make it in a size 14. Lane Bryant really liked the ideas I presented because that’s what our customer wants. She wants clothes, style, and a good fit, and that’s what I’m about.
What are some of your most popular items?
All of my sequin dresses are extremely popular, such as Shimmering Sexy and Embolden in my Epitome collection. My jumpsuits are popular as well.
What’s next for you?
I’m opening a showroom here in New York. I am also working on a couple of collections, and I have some really big projects in the works. Fall looks like it’s going to be a dream come true for me. My new collection, Nirvana, will be on “Rip the Runaway,” which airs on March 21. This one has some swimsuits, and I’m already being bombarded by orders.
Any plans for an appearance in St. Louis?
During the past few years, I’ve been involved with the Sheer Elegance fundraiser for the Mathews-Dickey Boys’ & Girls’ Club at the Chase Park Plaza. I will probably be there again in December for that show.