Melissa Odabash – Marisota

I had the pleasure recently of speaking to Melissa Odabash one of the worlds most celebrated beach wear designers. Her beautiful creations have graced some of the most famous bodies on the planet on some of the world’s most exclusive beaches and now she is sharing her amazing swimwear designs with us mere mortals.

You decided to collaborate with Marisota which goes up to a UK 32. Why?

As my own collection is quite limited, working with Marisota gave me the opportunity to broaden my design range (goes up to a size 26) and making it more accessible and at a much better price.

What’s the difference in designing for curvier figures ?

I think it’s down to support, even small sized women, we all have the same issues no matter what size and we all need a bit of nip and tuck or support! Anything that will make our bodies look a bit better, especially in swimwear, when we are at our most vulnerable. While designing I tried to think of all the problem areas, contouring the waist line and pushing seamless finishes so it doesn’t dig in. A key to this is by placing accessories in the right area to draw eye and attention away from other parts

Any tips for those of us who hate showing our lumps and bumps on the beach?

My only advice is don’t worry, even top models have cellulite and issues – just grab a sarong, throw it around your bottom half and when you lay down take it off. Another tip is don’t think because you are larger that means you need more fabric, make sure the fit is snug and close to your body a lot of larger women go up a size so it makes them look bigger as the fabric is loose.

What inspired this collection ?

I tried to bring my trademark animal print into the collection with matching cover ups I love simple solid prints with small delicate accessories

Why fashion design as a career?

I always loved fashion as a kid I learned to sew at age 8 and my mother taught me everything about fashion. I started modelling at 18 and for me the next step was in designing, as I saw there was a huge gap in the swimwear business so started my own collection

And swimwear in particular?

I was a swimwear model so I modelled every type of bikini and swimsuit out there and at the time it was all about bold bright prints so I thought I’m going to do the opposite and design solid colours only.

Why Marisota, considering most high end designers shun ‘normal’ women?

It’s the best way for me to broaden my market I have such a small niche business and it’s fun to branch into different things. I love curvy women and I wish I had more curves on my body! Its actually very easy to design for women with curves as there bodies are more proportionate, shoulders to hips. One of my favourite Icons is Sofia Loren and I just love her curves!

What do you make of that i.e. shunning anything above a 12?

Oh please I grew up in the USA, the average size is 16 (UK 20) and it’s the norm! Unfortunately in today’s magazines, which I think is slowly changing, was showing only thin models. It’s just not attractive, ask any man, they love curves! It’s also much better to have a little excess weight for the wrinkles as long as you eat healthy exercise who cares about your shape it’s about a healthy lifestyle

Where are you based ?

I am based in London but I lived in Italy before, so my favourite place is Italy. I love the fashion, the men and especially the food!!

Who is your typical customer?

I don’t really have a typical customer I get have anyone from a A list celebrity, to a school teacher, to a mom and I sell in 48 countries. Different demands for different markets.

Any tips for SS13?

Stick to earth tones at the beginning of the holiday and as your tan progresses or apply self-tanner go for more of the summer colours red/tuq/pinks

What’s next ?

There is a lot going on! I am currently working on 5 different collaborations as well as opening in 2 new countries. I am super busy with my own 2014 collection and hopefully launching beach bag
collection followed by launching an Odabash foundation for charity!

Evolve’s motto is Be Proud…Be You. What makes you proud to be Melissa?

I don’t know – ask my mother! I get so much pleasure at doing charity work and that is what gives me satisfaction. That I can use my name to help others in need

Nadia Sawalha – interview

I chatted to Nadia Sawalha recently while she was waiting to cook Russell Brand her chocolate , banana and almond cake on the Alan Titchmarsh show. Nadia is one of the UK’s most well known and enduring actresses whose credits include Eastenders, Casualty, Wanted Down Under and Celebrity Masterchef. She is also the author of the best selling Greedy Girls Diet and Ambassador for the online label Bonmarche. We had a right old natter with both of us fighting to get a word in edgeways.

Tell me more about The Greedy Girls Diet and how you ended up doing it?

Over the years I have dieted my way to obesity and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I vowed to never go on a diet ever again. My kids are so full of life and vitality and here was me fed up being on another diet. So I started cooking all the things I like to eat (as I am a real foodie) such as spag bol, fish & chips, middle eastern cooking, and the book is about how to cook all that but using healthy substitutes with good flavour, not just for me but the whole family. I lost 3 ½ stone. I also like wine! My advice is really not to hit the Holy Grail of size 10, my book is not about never having an extra wine or a korma its about having what you want. I also had to be realistic for me a size I can realistically maintain is a 12 for some its a 14, what’s this obsession with being a size 10?

What has been the response?

I was a bit blown away with how much people love it, if I’m honest. It got to no 2 on the Times Best seller list. I got lots of tweets and letters from people who felt how I felt.

What’s your favourite recipe in the book?

This is a hard one because I love all food, it would have to be Lime & chocolate cheesecake, creamy fish pie or falafel – my Dad is Arabic so I love all that.

How did you come to be an Ambassador for Bonmarche?

They asked!

Bonmarche fits with my attitude to food, body, life, its great its online, I am busy and I find shopping a nightmare, so online is great and the cut of the clothes is really good. I have an hourglass figure and I find that mostly jeans don’t tend to fit me. With Bonmarche they fit. They have been awarded the best jeans on the High St. David Emanuel designs for them and the jeans are a great cut especially on the bum. The clothes are incredibly affordable especially as fashion changes so quickly and their jewellery is great. I wore a Bonmarche dress when I did Lorraine and I was complimented on it lots of times as it was so nice. It’s a best kept secret.

Where’s your favourite place in the world?

Cornwall, New York and Beverley Hills but Cornwall really makes my heart sing

What’s on your iPod at the moment?

Florence and The Machine when I go for a run, its weird I play the same thing over and over again for about 6 months.

What’s your favourite food?

Bread of every kind

What are your three handbag essentials for the red carpet?

Lipstick, credit card and tampon, you never know (at my age) when you get caught out.

Flats or heels?


Dress or jeans?


Cleavage or legs?


Summer or winter?

I love every season and greet each one with passion

Eat in or take out?

Eat In

Hair up or hair down?

Always down

Stay in or go out?

Stay in with my kids, my dog and my husband

Maxi or midi?


Britney or Madonna?

Neither, Florence (and the Machine) all the way for me

What’s on the horizon next for you?

Deliver 110 recipes for my next book. Continue with my cooking on the Alan Titchmarsh show. There is also a pilot of Kitchen SOS in the pipeline and continue to be a proud Ambassador of Bonmarche.

Evolve’s motto is Be Proud…Be You. What makes you proud to be you?

I’m a woman proud to be of a certain age and living a great life. I am proud of where I have got to today, considering where I thought I would end up. I had such a journey at being shit, its a hard world to live in and I spent years knocking myself and now when people praise me I say thanks instead of knocking myself. I love being 48 and I love my kids and husband. That’s what makes me proud really.

Catch up with Nadia’s news on @nadiasawalha

Desire clothing enters the curvy market

I came across a new kid on the curvy/plus size block recently.

Desire clothing which caters mainly for the teen to under 30 market (and those of us who fancy ourselves as still looking like that!) has launched a new curvy range to compliment its main fashion range.

Admirably, the owner made the brave decision to cater for this market, because he felt that those of us above a size 16 deserve to dress and look the same as our skinnier counterparts. It took him two years to come up with the range, not because of any lack of will on his part, but because the manufacturers did not want to produce plus size clothing at a reasonable price – terrible isn’t it?

Yet he pursued and last month launched a pretty, fresh, fashion forward, young collection with lots more styles to be added.

Its mainly dresses at the moment, featuring a lot of skater dress in pastel colours and polka dots, the ubiquitous maxis, and even a leopard print number (my favourite).

Check it out

Claire Richards Fashion Worlds new Ambassador

Fresh from her recent stint in Celebrity Big Brother, and now an Ambassador for online catalogue Fashion World I met with the lovely Claire Richards in Central London where she chatted away about everything from her family, future plans and weight issues.

Congratulations on your recent stint in Celebrity Big Brother, how did it feel to be cooped up with a bunch of strangers for 3 weeks?
Just a bit bizarre I am glad I did it.

What about Speidi and what they did with your letter?
Terrible. She is just stupid and I am not sure if she is calculated. He is calculating, he knows exactly what he is going and is actually quite funny but I won’t be going out of my way to meet them.

What about Rylan?
He is lovely, he is my best friend and my child. He is very funny and quick witted, really funny

How did you come to be an Ambassador for Fashion World?
They approached me a year ago because of all the attention my weight and size has gotten over the years and because I think this is me like or lump it I got sick of altering myself to please other people. It was the right place at the right time.

What does being an Ambassador involve?
They allowed me go through everything and choose my favourites out of the range. I choose what’s right and what suited me throughout the catalogue. I’ve also designed a range for their AW13 collection. I have come into my own re design and designed what I like and what I would wear and the issues that I have like using cap sleeves instead of no sleeves to cover up arms etc. I was able to make lots of little tweaks to make the clothes better.

Do you have a favourite item?
My favourite pair of shoes are Vivienne Westwood Skyscraper shoes in black which I love.

From Fashion World?
My style during the day is pretty and comfy for the school run, and I love the little Tea dress with butterflies which comes in Black/White and Yellow/Blue.

You’ve made no secret of the fact you’ve had trouble with your weight and have had your fair share of criticisms and catty remarks over the years about your size. How do you not let that bother you when you are constantly in the public eye?
Yes it bothers me, but it depends on my mood if it will really get to me, make me angry. Depends on hormones. Its getting better (the criticism) and I used to listen to comments and get upset but ,maybe its age that I don’t so much anymore. Everyone else is so obsessed with my size, it has made me less obsessed, I am very happy. There are days when I want to be a size 10 but every woman feels like that. There is a lot of outside negativity and outside pressure and I don’t need to listen it.

Any advice for anyone going through similar issues because of their weight?
There are no written rules, you need to get to that place by yourself. It took me a long time to come to terms with it. This is the size (16)I have maintained the longest and this is me. Be happy in yourself. Say to the world it doesn’t matter. Love when you look in the mirror and see I am happy. I would love to click my fingers and help everyone to be happy. There si not enough help out there to find an outfit if you are bigger that make you feel confident and attractive. I sued to go around in big old baggy T shirts and leggings. There is not enough education out there for bigger ladies.

Evolve (my magazine) are co-hosting London Plus Size Fashion week 15/16 February which is the first of its kind to support and promote ladies (and gents) who are considered plus size. What would your message be in support of this (given we will get our fair share of trolls out there being nasty)?
I heard of it. Its a brilliant thing and I am very excited by it. There are more women like me that anyone on a catwalk in Fashion Week, if they want to appeal to consumers. That (the catwalk) is not reality, not real life. Our world is real people. Why not bring it into fashion. Mainstream its not us or majority of those (catwalk) are not real consumers. It a very natural way to go i.e. real people, real things.

Where do you usually buy your clothes?
Wherever I can, I search a lot on the internet for vintage replicas. I love the way 50’s and 60’s cut for curvy women. Seams were constructed for boobs, bums and waists, somehow that got lost. I don’t really shop on the High St, I don’t like changing rooms and end up taking everything back. When I was appearing on CBB, I got so many packages in the door (from shopping on the Internet) my husband thought I was opening a shop.

Any freebies?

Some but not all of it!

Do you encounter the same issues as the rest of us i.e. struggle to get decent, fashionable clothes that fit, and how do you manage to look so lovely all of the time?
Some people are surprised and think I am much bigger than I am. T.V. does put on 10 llbs they say. I recommend a good bra and one of those things that squash you in knees to armpits and that you can wear your own bra with it, that go under your bra. They are the best, and I have tried them all believe you me.

Like Gok does for Simply Be?

What do you normally like to wear?
Nice stretch jersey wrap-over dresses for the school run with opaque tights and a nice fitted dress to go out that clings in all the right places.

What do you think is your best feature?
I like things that go underneath my boobs and that accentuate my waist. I’ve got boobs now.

Your husband must love that?
He’s a bum man!

What makes you feel good in terms of life, love the universe?
Knowing I am secure and safe in my family. I have a very stable family life which helps with my confidence in work. Having my kids and my husbands love. Kids love is unconditional and I don’t why but its the best feeling in the world.

Who would be your fashion icon?
I love looking at different types of fashion. I love the 50’s and 60’s fashions and Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren, Jane Russell.

What’s on the horizon next for you?
I am going to do a bit more cooking and will be on the Alan Titchmarsh show for a few weeks. I would love to do a solo album, its now or never. I always wanted to do a solo album after 17 years in the business it is time. I have been talking about it with a friend who is a songwriter for years and now is the time.

What do you like?
I go from one thing to the next. The album would be good songs I like, like Easy Listening – Burt Bacharach.

Evolve’s motto is Be Proud…Be You. What makes you proud to be you?
All sorts, I look at my kids and think I made those two little people and if I have done nothing else with my life I have done something good in that.

Check out Claire’s favourite items in

Finally a high end designer who gets us – Interview with Danilo Gabrielli

The Danilo Gabrielli brand is a high end fashion label based in NYC founded by the Italian designer, of the same name. Born and raised in Porto Santo Stefano, Monte Argentario – a small island off the West coast of Tuscany, Italy, Danilo moved to New York to pursue his career in the Fashion Industry and after many years of designing for high end labels such as Tommy Hilfiger, Simply Vera Wang, and The Gap, he is excited to launch his new line which goes up to a UK 26.

1. How did you start out in fashion considering you were in the Italian navy for 3 years which is a very unusual step to take given your passion for fashion?
I always wanted to be in the fashion industry as a designer, ever since I was a child. I used to draw sketches even when I was 8 years old but it seemed like that could never happen for me because I was living on a small island on the west coast of Tuscany where we had no access to any kind of fashion school.
 It was when I was in the navy in Rome for almost 3 years when I started to look and search around for any kind of Fashion school. After I finished my service in the army, I applied to one of the most prestigious academies for fashion and costume design in Italy.
After an intense test and selection of about 500 students (all of them with a strong fashion and artistic background) I was accepted. I couldn’t believe it – it was just like a dream come true.

2. What led you to choose fashion designing as a career?
I believe it was because of my family – specifically my mother, her best friend and her sisters. They used to spend the wintertime at home doing crochet or creating patterns and garments for all of the kids. It was mostly to save money but also because at the end of the day their garments would look much better than the pieces you would buy at any boutique.

3. Do you ever draw from your navy experiences in any of your collections?
I actually never did that. I think that is because my experiences were strictly too much in one direction, which is totally the opposite of who I am personally. What I did learn from the Navy that I carry into my current career is discipline and the ability to deliver only high quality.

4. Where are you based and where is your favourite place in the world?
I’m based in NYC where I design and make my first samples for the collection. My Pattern Maker is here in the garment district.
 My favourite place in the world is my hometown of Porto Santo Stefano in Tuscany; it is the only place where I can be completely relaxed and spend quality time with my parents, my family and my friends.

5. After working for and with such prestigious US fashion houses, it must have been very daunting to go it along and launch your own collection. What spurred you to do this?
Yes, it was a big risk to take. Working with prestigious American fashion companies and leaving a successful job can be scary, but I always said to myself that I need to express myself and my talent and you can only do this 100% if you are designing your own label. I just felt that the time was right for me to take that risk.

6. Who is your typical customer?
A sophisticated, intelligent and confident woman with a strong personality; someone who is not afraid to be herself.

7. Your collection goes up to a UK size 26. Why did you decide to include the larger lady in your collections, given that most high end designers shun this customer?
Real women have curves and they should embrace them – like your motto says, “Be Proud”. I want to dress all women in world, regardless of their size. The real beauty comes from inside first and then it reflects on the outside. It doesn’t matter what size you are, if you are a beautiful and happy person inside, then you are outside as well. I design clothes to make all women feel confident about themselves regardless of their figure.

8. What’s the difference in designing for curvier figures, is there more technique and craftsmanship involved?
The technique is exactly the same. It really depends on what kind of garment you are designing; a lot of work goes into my designs. I try to pay attention when I am designing certain pieces, keeping in mind a full figure and how it would be flattering for that customer and make her feel beautiful when she wears it.

9. Any tips for those of us with fuller and curvier figures?
Oh yes! Please don’t purchase a garment only because it says it is made for a fuller figure. Just because it says that, it does not mean it’s correct for your body. Instead, just go for the one that you can see has been designed and made for your body and figure. Choose the garment that will make you look great and feel beautiful.

10. Who and what inspires your collections?
I get my inspirations from a variety of sources. Mostly I would say from Hollywood movies; I am a big fan of them, especially the older films. Sometimes it can also be a song or a ballet, or just walking around the city and looking at the women walking on the street.

11. Who would you ideally love to dress if you had the choice of any woman in the world past or present, fictional or real….and why?
Someone from the past would be Maria Callas – she was an amazing Opera singer. In the current day, I would love to dress Adele and Kate Middleton. All of these women represent beauty, elegance and a strong personality to me.

12. Any style or colour tips for SS13?
Black is always a great staple colour to have. Also, dusty rose and ivory are very big for SS13.

13. Who or what is the inspiration behind your SS13 collection?
My SS13 collection was inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood in the late 20’s and early 30’s. This was a legendary time in Hollywood which signified the end of the silent era in American cinema and the birth of a new generation of great women in Hollywood, such as Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo and Ginger Rogers.

14. Where in the UK can we get your pieces?
All of my designs are available on my website, We are also working with Little Black Dress as well as Monica and Joe. My designs will be available on these websites in the near future.

15. One of my favourite movies is Cinema Paradisio which you worked on. What was it like working on the costumes for such a great movie?
It was great! This was one of my first big experiences as a young student working at the Academy of Fashion/Costume design. I was working inside of one of the most prestigious costume houses in Rome and I was basically learning so much, watching closely with all of the costume designers, pattern makers and actors doing their fittings.
It was awesome!

16. What’s next for Danilo Gabrielli?
I am busy creating my new AW13 Collection, to which I have dedicated the last 5 months. It’s going to be an amazing collection. The AW13 collection was inspired by the Medieval period of the Middle ages. The clothing and fashion during this Medieval period was dominated and highly influenced by the Kings and Queens of the era. It’s a collection of beautiful dresses, skirts, blouses, coats and capes.

17. Evolve’s motto is Be Proud…Be You. What makes Danilo proud to be Danilo?
I have always lived by that same motto. I am a very real and sincere person and very proud of the person I am. I think this is reflected in my creativity and passion for what I do.

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