“It’s the pits not being able to find something that fits,” says Warna Downey.
La Femme Fatale
Sunnyside Mall, 1595 Bedford Highway
Like many folks, Warna Downey found shopping as a plus-sized woman supremely frustrating, if not downright impossible. Downey, who comes from a STEM background, recalls going into a Pennington’s in Fredericton (“we weren’t cool enough back then for an Addition Elle,” she says) and thinking: “These clothes are ugly.” Fortunate enough to have a bit of a sewing background, Downey would go to a fabric store, buy some cool fabric and sew her own surplice neckline tops. “No one should have to do that,” she says.
So, at a crossroads between continuing in academia after getting her Masters in geology and PhD in earth sciences or trying something completely new, she chose to open La Femme Fatale, a store catering to plus-sized women, which opened October 1 in Bedford’s Sunnyside Mall. “There’s a huge gap in the market, what’s out there is mostly controlled by Reitmans. They do a good job, they’ve been doing it for years for us,” she says. “You could go to Walmart or Giant Tiger but you know those are disposable. After a couple of washes, the t-shirts look a little sad. Something needs to change. It’s the pits not being able to find something that fits.”
La Femme Fatale’s style profile is trendy, modern mixed with boho pieces. “A little camo, a little animal print,” says Downey. “It’s fun, playful. So many great fall colours right now—mustard, forest green, cabernet. Plus-sized women are used to going into a store and picking from black, black, black and grey. I was conscious of that. We still have a fair amount because it’s a great basic but we wanted to branch out.”
“People’s reaction is that it’s beautiful and they get excited. One girl said ‘I didn’t know clothes came in plus-size that were this pretty.’” says Downey. “That right there made it worth all the hard work.”