How did you get into fashion?
I've always been into fashion. My mother was a professional seamstress and she would always make things for me. Eventually, I started acquiring some skills of my own and I would make my own pieces. Usually they would be recreations of pieces that I really wanted but I couldn't afford. For instance, I remember these Bermuda shorts (don't judge!) that I really wanted but was out of my budget so I made them myself.
It seems natural that you would go fashion school.
I got my degree in fashion design and textile design. At the time, computer aided design was getting really big and textile design was all about that so I wanted to make sure I got some tech experience under my belt. Post graduation, my first job was in textile design so it all worked out.
I was worried about being pigeon-holed as a textile designer so I started marketing myself as someone who could do everything from sketch to design to textile and eventually got hired at Calvin Klein. That's when I started progressing in my career in design.
When did you start moving into the plus world?
I always wanted to have my own brand. I used to gab about my design concepts with my girlfriends who have a wide range of body shapes and sizes. At the time, I wanted to make breezy, young, fabulous dresses and I remember my curvier girlfriends being adamant that that was ridiculous - I would be designing for women who already have a gazillion fashion options; why not design for curvier women who have a far more limited section? That planted the seed in my head and I started doing some research. And it was really eye-opening.
The craziest part of all this is that right after this conversation, I got recruited by Lane Bryant. It was total karma. They were based in Columbus, Ohio while I lived in New York City with my husband and we made the decision that I would move out to Ohio and learn everything I could from one of the biggest players in the industry. And that's exactly what I did. I was there for three years.
Eventually Lane Bryant underwent a giant reorganization and I thought it would be a good idea to come back to the NYC. I was ready to launch my own thing. I even started putting together a business plan.
And then, of course, right when I came back, I was tapped by Maree Pour Toi, an independent fashion brand that was focused on the plus community and just starting up. It was a huge opportunity for me to learn about creating a brand from the very early stages so of course I had to take it. I was there for about a year before I felt that it was the right time to take the leap.
So this sounds crazy but May is my grandma's middle name as well as the middle name of my mother in law. It's also my middle name. I thought it was fascinating how two unrelated families had May in their names and we all have different bodies and shapes and sizes. It was my way of bringing together the different "Mays" and cultivating a brand for everyone.
Tell us about your production process.
We use a sustainable fabric that's imported from a mill in Turkey. They're certified by a European regulator for using raw materials from sustainable farms and processed in a sustainable manner. Unfortunately our printing process isn't completely sustainable (that's in the works) but the base fabric is sustainable.
Also, everything is produced locally in New York City in a woman-owned and mostly women-run factory and we only use recycled packaging.