Shopping for clothes can get frustrating and leave women feeling inadequate about their bodies. Often, we find ourselves adjusting our body shape to fit the clothes and not the other way around.
Jan Stimpson and Abbey Stimpson, a dynamic mother daughter duo decided to challenge the norm by coming out with a universal line for women of all shapes and sizes. Jan had been designing clothes for 40 years prior, and Abbey soon followed. From helping lay fabric on the cutting board to working with her mom in between soccer practices as a teenager to make some extra cash, she grew up in the business. Together, they built their BC-based brand Sympli, which stands behind positive body image and caters to all women. Sympli was the first Canadian brand to design a universal line for women of all body types and ages as well as introduce a plus size line.
Behind its success is the long and time consuming process in creating a line that was accommodating to all kinds of bodies while still maintaining some shape to it. When asked about creating the line, Jan Stimpson stated “I had always designed clothes for every woman but as the years went by, the style just got a lot more form fitting, a lot tighter. It was very difficult for women, and I’m not talking full figured women, I’m just talking average women, to fit into anything.”
The name Sympli, refers to the everyday, simpler style of clothing the brand produces. It really is about designing a comfortable line that accommodated as many women as possible with cuts that were flattering for their body, as opposed to putting themselves in boxy t-shirts. This is how Sympli started,with some t-shirts and a few pants. They offer a slim fit, a relaxed fit, and a tunic fit that accommodated everyone. It was a nicely fit t-shirt that came in a variety of necklines and sleeve lengths.
That’s where they thrived. “Women loved it. They could finally shop and look great and feel great. Like the basic t-shirt that’s not just a box for somebody who had had a few kids and didn’t want to wear a skinny t-shirt.”
Along with the basics, Sympli now does tops and lighter weight jackets. Their first line of outerwear coats came out last year. Their market reaches those who embrace the practicality of the line. Abbey states “Once women get around their 30s, they become a lot more open to the fact that fashion should be durable. They make more long term choices and they have more ethical values as to how and where their clothes were made and how long they last.”
Local production is an integral part of the process. The fabrication and local manufacturing allow for superior quality. “We’re not fast fashion so we don’t design our clothes to rotate off the shelf every couple of weeks. We will look at trends that are approachable in a body friendly way and try to include it in a way that won’t be out of style next year. Local production is really important to us and its gotten us to where we are today.”
Jan recalls the the hardest part of taking this approach to fashion is the process to actually accommodate all different body types and the rigorous process to do it authentically. More time is spent picking garments than actually designing them. The garments are fitted on a number of size 4s, 8s, 10s, 16s, etc. Even within size ranges, each body is different. It’s much easier to take the template form of the super thin model sitting in front of a white background. It’s easier to execute, cheaper and more readily available. “People know what’s working out there and they just essentially copy it. Our process is challenging and very time consuming,” says Jan. Around 95% of Sympli’s pieces are not computer generated.
Sympli also works with the Looking Glass Foundation and youth suffering with eating disorders. An automatic match with the message behind Sympli, the Looking Glass Foundation was founded by three mothers whose daughters had suffered from eating disorders. It was started in Deep Cove in Vancouver, where the Sympli got started as well. Passionate about people moving toward a healthier version of body image, the organization’s holistic approach to treating disorders is something both Jan and Abbey believe in. Their Hand in Hand program encourages a real support system between trained survivors and those who are suffering now. This allows for a more organic approach and support system for their journey to recovery.
Sympli challenges other companies to have the guts to display unique bodies, and a variety of healthy bodies. Jan states, “For women to embrace their own bodies and to enjoy it and be healthy and love yourself, the change starts from the way we feel within ourselves. As much as we like to blame the media, we have to take a look at what we stand for and what we’re attracted to, and what we try to be.”