Eden Miller becomes first plus-size designer to show at New York Fashion Week

Nadine Kalinauskas
Shine On

During Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week (NYFW), which started Thursday, a designer showcase will feature a plus-size label for the first time in the prestigious fashion event's history.

Eden Miller will show her high-end line, Cabiria, that is designed exclusively for women sized 12 to 24.

"Cabiria is the first plus designer to EVER be invited to show at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Shows. Ever. This is such a huge milestone for legitimizing plus fashion, and incredibly exciting for me personally," Miller writes on Cabiria's official site.

Miller, 41, a costume designer for two decades, was chosen as one of six up-and-coming designers to be featured in a New York Fashion Week Spring 2014 showcase presented today by Fordham Law School's Fashion Law Institute.

"It just happened to be that they liked my stuff," she tells Fashionista of being chosen for the showcase. "It didn’t matter that I’m doing plus."

She calls the opportunity to show her line, which already has a small-but-dedicated following, "both mind-boggling and an honour."

"Part of it is a responsibility that I feel to make space for other relevant, worthy plus-sized lines to come in the door and show as well," she tells TODAY.

Also see: Plus-size model finally debuts flattering swimwear line

Miller raised the money to fund her Spring/Summer 2013 collection on Kickstarter — and exceeded her goal by more than $5,000.

Susan Scafidi, Fashion Law Institute’s founder and academic director, says choosing to feature Miller's line was a "very easy and obvious choice."

"I remember looking at her line when she came to the clinic and thinking, 'Wow, I wish she cut clothes in my size,' because I wear more common sizes. And immediately, I got it," Scafidi says. "I suddenly understood, looking at this line of plus-clothing, what so many curvier women feel when they look at the traditional, very narrow range of designer sizes."

Miller hopes her line isn't just compared to other plus-size lines of clothing.

"I want to get to the point where plus fashion is just as legitimate as any other fashion out there on the runway, and whatever somebody is showing, the collection itself is what speaks," she tells TODAY. "I love the idea of pushing that forward. But what I'm really looking forward to is, as plus-size becomes more legitimate, the weight of responsibility of opening that door becomes less and less, and it can be more about just the clothes."

"The only thing that really is important to me about all of this, is that I'm fighting for legitimacy," she tells The Atlantic Wire.

Also see: The problem with shopping for plus-size clothing

Kurt Soller, the fashion features editor at The Cut, isn't sure Miller's line will make the splash it hopes to, mostly because of the hectic schedule of Fashion Week.

"Truthfully the fashion schedule is so busy…I think it's really hard for a small brand to break through at something like New York Fashion Week," he tells The Atlantic Wire.

He adds, "It's better to get people's attention in the off-season. It's really hard for any brand to break through the noise that is New York Fashion Week."

Still, just Cabiria's presence at NYFW is giving some plus-size fashionistas hope.

"This is a revolutionary moment," says fashion blogger Liz Black. "The fact that a plus designer is included in an arena where thin is idolized shows that change is happening."

"When I started attending Fashion Week [as a plus-size blogger] in 2008, I was often the only bigger girl in the room," she tells DNAinfo. "Now, more and more I am seeing other women who look like me."

Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn complains, in an interview with Huffington Post, about the void of great fashion in sized beyond a 12.

"Go to Lord & Taylor on Fifth Avenue, I think it's the eighth floor, and it's just a department called 'Woman.' It's rather devastating. You've never seen such hideous clothes in your entire life. I mean, it's simply appalling. Thank God there are no windows on that floor, because if I were a size 18, I'd throw myself right out the window [after seeing those clothes]. It's insulting what these designers do to these women," Gunn says.

Also see: Inside the life of a plus-size beauty queen

Most designers just aren't interested in expanding their work into the plus-size market, he says.

"I've had my own moments in front of designers when I've actually said, 'You know, there's a market here for expanding your work, and here it is,'" Gunn says. "And frankly, there are two markets: The women who are larger than the 12, and then there are women who are petite. And most designers that I talk to have absolutely no interest in addressing either of those populations, which I find repugnant."

"I think it is a debilitating cycle that plus-size women are taught — that they are told they are not worth having beautiful things and then they think they don't deserve beautiful things," Miller tells DNAinfo. "It is a perpetual cycle."

Marshal Cohen, chief fashion industry analyst for the NPD Group, tells TODAY that Miller's line will be sending a "very big signal" to the market about the underserved plus-size fashion community.

"This a really good time for designers to take advantage, because the market is absolutely starved," he says.

And if Miller's Cabiria is a success, other designers are more likely to follow her lead.

"One thing about fashion, they’re not ashamed to follow success. If somebody else did it well, they'll come right back and do it themselves in their interpretation, in their way of selling plus size," he adds.