E!’s Nina Parker is known for her no-nonsense approach on camera, but she’s dealt with plenty of nonsense when it comes to her wardrobe, often struggling to find cute clothes that fit her figure or a stylist who knows where to shop. Now, the “Nightly Pop” host is launching her own clothing line with Macy’s — their first-ever plus-size brand by a Black woman — debuting May 14 in stores and online. “My goal isn’t money. My goal is to empower women,” Parker tells Variety. “I want other women feeling the way I felt once I was able to embrace my body and feel good in what I had on.”
Below, Parker discusses how the clothing line came to be and why its placement in stores is game-changing for plus-size fashion.
How did you go from journalist to fashion designer?
It’s frustrating to be on air — when you have so many insecurities anyway about your voice or what you’re going to say, worrying about your look is an extra thing that adds stress onto you. But I’ve learned to build out of my frustration, instead of sitting in it, and I started putting outfits together on my own. I would take things off of one shoe and put it onto another. Cut a shirt up; take it to the tailor; expand the back. Eventually I realized, “I should be doing this for everybody.”
In 2019, I knew I wanted to do a clothing line. I had the idea and thought, “This is crazy,” and I took it to my agent who was like, “Are you crazy?” and then said, “Okay girl, it’s different for you, but if you want to do it, let’s explore it.” Before she could even reach out, we were approached by Reunited Clothing. The head of their company happened to watch my show “Nightly Pop” and loved how I was putting my clothes together and said that she had been looking into wanting to expand into plus-size fashion and do a line.
How did Macy’s enter the picture?
Reunited Clothing took the idea to Macy’s, and they loved it. They were really excited to do a plus-size line with a woman who was actually plus-size, because in talking to their buyers, a lot of times they’d have to educate people on what the consumer wants, and with me, they didn’t have to do that. When we were talking, they were like, “Oh, she knows what she’s talking about.”
How involved were you in creating the looks?
I have been a part of every part of the design process. I think a lot of times people think you just stamp your approval, and that really wasn’t it for me. I would film [“Nightly Pop”], come home, and just attach myself to my computer.
I was a part of every design meeting; I was a part of the go-sees where we pick the fit model. It was important to me that our fit models [had the right shape], because often a woman will be curvy, but she will have a flat stomach, or she won’t have thick thighs, or maybe she’s a little wider, but everything is flat. I don’t operate that way; I’ve got a stomach, I’ve got back fat, so seeing you without your stomach modeling the clothes does me no good. Those were really important factors in building this line so that everybody feels like, “I look good in this, for real, for real.”
What were some of the design elements you focused on?
I want to stand out. A lot of times, plus-size clothes make you want to shrink, and I don’t want anybody feeling like they need to shrink in these clothes. I started with a vision board with things I wanted to see: bright colors; cut-out shirts that I could still wear my bra with; clothes that have power mesh inside of it so you didn’t feel like you always need to have Spanx on; jeans that were long enough for me.
I have these sequined jogger sets that are in these really pretty greens and neons. There’s body suits that are built in a new way never manufactured before. There’s a skirt that I love that has a front zipper that can go to the back or go to the side and its functional, so it can go all the way up to mid-thigh. You can start conservative and end up at happy hour if you want to. Everything I’ve made is meant to go from casual to dressy.
This line is not only available online, but it will also have prime placement in stores. Why is that a game changer?
I’m the kind of person where I feel like being honest is the best way to show you I love you, in the most delicate way. [In a conversation with Macy’s execs] I said, “Hey look, I feel like not everybody who is plus feels valued in every part of your store. Some of the stores that I’ve been in, I’m not seeing plus sections until I go to like the third floor, and I’ve got to walk past the underwear section, and it’s in the corner, and that makes you feel a way. If I go shopping with my girlfriend and she’s a size four and her clothes are downstairs and my clothes are upstairs, why is that? That makes no sense to me.” I said, “Listen, the average size woman is a 16 or an 18, and we deserve to let her be celebrated upfront and out loud and in person.”
And Macy’s agreed. I don’t always think people intend for it to be that way, it just gradually does that over time, but they were like, “You’re absolutely right.” So they’re moving a lot of these items to the front of the store. If you weren’t even intending to go into the store, you’re going to walk by and you’re going to see this representation, and I think it’s going to make a lot of people do a double take.
What’s next for the line?
I’m putting out a new collection almost every month for the rest of the year — as few as five new styles or up to another 17. In the first collection, we range from 0X to 3X and sizes 16 to 24. But in the fall, we’re going to expand the sizes to 4X and to 28. So if you see something in the stores in May and you feel like you don’t have the options, I’m already working on it.