Contributors: Calshae Iris of Vim and Venust, left, and Nikki Fagan of Rude & Fluffy (photo by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
A rude, fluffy woman is herself without apologizing (photograph by Cimeon Tyrrell)
Coarse, fluffy clothes are a bit cheeky (photograph by Cimeon Tyrrell)
When Nikki Fagan visited Jamaica a few years ago, she loved that “fluffy” was used as an affectionate term for taller women.
Inspired, she called her new plus size clothing business Rude & Fluffy, “rude” being a nod to the style of clothing she sells.
“My pieces are a little cheeky and a little crass,” she said. “The items I sell are definitely a bit shorter and tighter than what the company says plus size women should wear. A rude, fluffy woman is shamelessly her and doesn’t hide from being outside, seen and daring, no matter what society says about women who have more to love.
One in three adults in Bermuda is clinically “fluffy,” but clothing options for heavier women are often lacking in local stores.
“There are a few stores that serve the plus size market here,” she said. “Some of them have really stylish pieces, like Urban Cottage on Front Street.”
But, she said, in general, the options are limited or not particularly fashionable.
Enter Rude & Fluffy. Ms. Fagan sells large pieces that are unique and dressy.
“He’s not competing with anyone else,” she said. “You will still have to go to Gibbons Company to get your basic parts. But these are special pieces.
She was set to launch Rude and Fluffy in 2020, but when the pandemic hit she had to focus on Brand Lion, the branding company she founded several years ago.
“I put Rude and Fluffy on hiatus,” she said. “I finally started two months ago. I thought, I will always do this. I still have the same thing in mind.
The company seduced her because she loves working with women; she loves to shop and she loves to create brands.
“These are my three things,” she said. “As I move the Brand Lion to an online platform, it gives me a space in my schedule where I can indulge my passions in a different way. This is how Rude & Fluffy was born.
Along the way, she teamed up with her cousin, Calshae Iris, owner of scarf company Vim and Venust.
“When Rude and Fluffy were going to do accessories, we brought these awesome fedoras in these big, bold colors,” Ms. Fagan said. “Calshae was already making scarves in big, bold colors.”
Ms. Iris sells scarves and also headbands that easily turn into purse bands, hat bands or headbands.
“I started two years ago,” Ms. Iris said. “I have bold pieces, but I also have elegant pieces. Working with Nikki has been a good thing. My cousin is like a mentor to me. I take every opportunity to work with her. She taught me a lot. It has been awesome.
Rude and Fluffy have been doing well since launch and are now exclusively on the Sargasso Sea app.
“Rude and Fluffy is the first plus size clothing company on the Sargasso app and they were delighted to welcome us,” Ms. Fagan said. “As a new business, we were happy to have a same day delivery solution that didn’t require us to manage the process. We have a variety of in-app items, from really special dresses and costumes to last-minute accessories. We just added hats.
She said that when you’re a small business, you don’t always have all the moving parts to make door-to-door delivery work.
“This is where Sargassum is going to work,” she said. “They made setup and delivery simple. You can plug in and play now.
She said it was a good time to start a business.
“It’s so much easier for people to do it now and really be successful at it,” she said. “You can build a suitable business by joining forces with those of other people. With Sargassum, our first sale took place after a week and a half. Offline our first sale was in the first week after letting people know that Rude and Fluffy were open.
She took an organic approach to opening her business.
“I was on my Whatsapp telling my friends, hey, guess what I’m doing?” She said. “Yes, we have a Facebook page and an Instagram page, but we didn’t have an audience there yet. It really took word of mouth to let people know. The collaboration is excellent. Calshae exposed me to his market which is a completely different market.
Even though I didn’t have a lot of audience as it was a whole new venture, the collaboration allowed me to take a shortcut.
Rude and Fluffy received great reviews on Sargassum and many positive direct messages from customers.
“We also have a private WhatsApp group where people get the first kicks in new rooms,” she said.
Its target demographic are women on the older side of the millennial spectrum.
Although Ms Fagan works all day with Brand Lion, she said it’s different when it comes to your own business.
“But I am a serial entrepreneur and have run a number of businesses,” she said. “I’m a little less committed to the bottom line so some new business owners would. It makes me open to risk. I’m going to launch a brand and say, either this brand is not viable so let’s move on. But the name of the game is being able to pivot. It doesn’t change for me before or after the pandemic. It is important not to get stuck and not to be safe.
She believes Bermuda’s retail business has been in the safe zone for too long.
“The pandemic has forced people to shop here, instead of continuing to go abroad for the excitement, variety and trends they weren’t getting in Bermuda’s retail scene. “she said.
She tries to stay nimble and flexible with her business.
“I respond to the market,” she said. “Customer service is so, so important to me. When you buy an item from Sargassum, if you have any questions, I am here to answer them. It comes in beautiful packaging. If you need to send something back, I’m here to pick it up. It’s important to me. I’m not big enough to be safe in my seat and say, oh, they’ll come to me no matter what.
She believes Bermuda’s old-guard retail industry has grown too comfortable with the idea that their customers have no other options.
“When online shopping was introduced, they felt it,” she said. “They didn’t try to innovate. They didn’t try to guess the rest. I have the impression that they were all sitting around a table in the council room saying “they will be back”.
She doesn’t want people shopping with her because they have no other choice. She wants people to shop with her because they like what she is selling.
“I’m proud to pick up the pieces,” she said. “I bring a very limited number of pieces. I only bring one size. You won’t go to an event and find that everyone is wearing your dress. I am very nuanced with all of this.
Pandemic lockdowns have given it plenty of time to research large manufacturers and distributors.
“When I first started moving around in this world, I found beautiful vendors in Miami and California,” she said. “I wanted established suppliers to keep sizing and quality consistent.”
She said the market she is in is a $ 178 billion industry in the United States and is expected to grow about 4.3% by 2028.
“I never start a business with Bermuda in mind as an end point,” she said. “Rude and Fluffy could become a franchise. I have no idea. I just know the industry is big enough to support my dreams.
For more information, see Rude and Fluffy on the Sargasso Sea Aaapp, or on Instagram and Facebook @rudeandfluffy, call 536-9343 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.