We are so excited to bring you an exclusive interview with Lydia Okello (they/them), known for their exquisite style and taste in curating plus size outfits for all genders.
At a time when major fashion brands are asking, “what do non-binary people look for in style and clothing? How can we include them in plus size lines?” the most important action is to listen and give non-binary plus size people space and platform to share what’s important to them.
Up Close and Personal With Lydia Okello
Liz (they/them): As a Black plus size person in the modeling and fashion industries, what brings you joy when it comes to clothes and the outfits you curate?
Lydia Okello (they/them): “Colour, creativity, and expression. I’m lucky that my job affords me access to designers I love, and it excites me to do their garments justice. I love being fat in baggy layers, or obnoxious colours, or loungewear. I’m always trying to push myself out of my comfort levels and challenge myself creatively as well!”
Liz: How has gender impacted the type of clothes you buy and wear? Have you found your style changing and evolving over the years, or has it mostly stayed the same?
Lydia: “Ooof. If only I had a concrete answer to that one. I think my relationship to clothes as expression has been clearer, for longer, than my understand of my own gender. I identify as non-binary, and as I started to unravel my relationship to my gender, I felt panicked that I was going to lose a major form of expression. I had all these preconceived notions of how to be the “right” kind of NB. Which was my own transphobia to unpack, then and now.
I feel like now I have more freedom in what I choose to wear. I had a lot of rigidity around performing femininity… and I was very much a high femme for most of my 20s. I’ve realized that I am more than those specific parameters, even if my body type is not what folks associate with being NB. I don’t feel the need to police my gender as much — in short, I try to wear what makes me happy and feels good. Sometimes it’s a very fluffy dress, sometimes it’s a sweatsuit. Sometimes it’s neither.”
Check Out Our Latest Here: Nordstrom Collabs with Genderfluid Fashion Brand, Wildfang; Reminds Us that Clothing Has No Gender
Liz: Where do you get your inspiration for outfits and styling?
Lydia: “Oh, a really tough one to answer! Many many places. Friends, family, acquaintances. Social media — there are so many rad folks on Instagram and TikTok. I also love to reference nature (source of the best colour combinations), nostalgic media from my childhood, books and music. I suppose, all in all, media, art, nature. Sometimes it’s a direct outfit to emulate, sometimes it’s a silhouette, and sometimes it’s just colours or a mood. And sometimes, it’s just something plucked from my mind.”
Liz: You started your blog in 2008, and recently wrote for Vogue Business – what has been the most exciting point of your career, thus far? What career goals do you have for yourself in the next few years?
Lydia: “Writing for Vogue has definitely been a career highlight — a very big leap from typing on my family computer and using my mom’s digital camera. I don’t know if I have one specific highlight though. I tend to be a person who is always moving the goalposts… I’m working on that. I hope in the next few years I can build Style is Style into a business with a few employees, and perhaps write a book. And… be happy (corniest I know).”
Looking into the future
Liz: How would you like to see the plus size fashion industry change in the next five years?
Lydia: “I would love to see the industry move towards “what do [plus size] customers want?”. I want a future in fashion where fat folks have as much selection, quality and availability as straight size folks. And I don’t mean just up to a size 18 or 20 but for super-fat and infini-fat folks as well. I know that there are so many folks who are left out of accessible, quality, ethical, sustainable, affirming clothing. Maybe a bit ambitious but — I believe that folks have the ability to strive for so much more.”
Liz: What plus size clothing brands have your eye as we gear up for summer?
Lydia: “I have some usual favourites. I’ve been looking to Wray NYC – their bright colours and unique patterns are art inspired. I find excitement in the palette’s Wray chooses. I also love Nettle Studios in San Francisco. Very flexible sizing, very comfortable pieces, AND some of the most unique linen pieces around. I’ve got a major love for shoes — I’ve been eyeing Maguire Shoes and Zou Xou for quality, sensible shoes that know how to have fun.”
Liz: What is something you wish cisgender-heterosexual people understood about gender and clothing?
Lydia: “That clothes are not assigned a gender — they are inanimate objects. Don’t take it all so seriously — Wear whatever you want to wear. Your gender and sexuality are not determined by clothing. That’s an inside job.”
“Your gender and sexuality are not determined by clothing. That’s an inside job.”– Lydia Okello
Liz: If you could meet with and interview one person in the fashion industry, who would you choose, and why?
Lydia: “There are WAY too many folks to choose from, but if it was someone living, I would love to meet Recho Omondi. She is a modern designer — unique point of view, deep, deep knowledge of fashion and fashion history, and not (to my knowledge) a trust fund baby. She’s never afraid to state observations as she sees them, no matter how divisive. If you are a fashion person and don’t listen to The Cutting Room Floor, you’re severely missing out.”
This article edited for length and clarity by Liz Brinks