Throughout her career, 34-year-old writer and director Lena Dunham has cast herself as relatable characters for the millennial emerging into adulthood. From her role in the 2010 film "Tiny Furniture" to playing Hannah Horvath in her semi-autobiographical HBO series "Girls." Now, Dunham is once again mining her experiences growing up in an artistic New York City family and (perhaps most importantly in this case) her relationship with her body into something people can enjoy: a fashion line.
Dunham collaborated with Patrick Herning's 11 Honoré, a plus-size fashion retailer that offers runway-worthy designs for sizes other than twos, fours and sixes. Dunham's line of five versatile pieces come in sizes 12 through 26 is the brand's first celebrity partnership. She worked with Honore 11's core designer, Danielle Eke.
"I’ve wanted to create a plus-size collection ever since I settled into my adult (post-20s post-hysterectomy body) and started to really feel the gaps in the market. The main way I shop is through 11 Honoré because they make it possible to get the items I fantasize about from designers who don’t historically make plus size, and they’ve created a really powerful community for plus women," Dunham said in a statement given to TMRW.
The pieces, which range from $98 for a white mock neck tank top to $298 for a double-breasted, pinstriped blazer with a scalloped hem, target women with fuller bodies who, like Dunham, admire designer pieces but are sick of — as the actor put it — constantly adjusting and pulling down clothes fashioned for a skinnier body type.
"Each item is inspired by and named after a place in Soho in the '80/'90s. When I was growing up it was an emerging neighborhood full of artists of all kinds and the major feeling was of freedom, of style, of the mind. The women I saw every day — my mother, her friends, random ladies shopping at the flower market on Saturdays — had such a confidence that came from being purely themselves," Dunham said.
Her mom, artist and photographer Laurie Simmons, helped name the pieces — like the Dean blazer and Deluca mini-skirt (after Dean + Deluca's flagship location that shuttered permanently in 2019). Dunham's father, painter Carroll Dunham, designed the geometric floral shapes for the Madderlake dress.
"I have made it my mission as a customer and now a creator to really haunt every corner of the web that caters to women with curvy bodies and the thing I find is that companies think we either want to dress like we are headed to the club or like we are grandmas, and Patrick gets that there are as many fashion-loving plus women as there are straight-size women," Dunham said.
Dunham announced the collaboration with an Instagram post on Tuesday in her signature candid, anecdotal style. And while many followers expressed excitement about the line, others felt Dunham's message of creating clothes to empower fuller-bodied women was lost in the price tags.
"Gorgeous clothes and a big congrats for creating an inclusive line. And I adore YOU. But, those prices are definitely not inclusive for the typical American woman," one fan wrote.
"Thanks for being so vulnerable. I truly felt this ♥️ I have the same struggles. I have good, and very bad days. Due to quarantine, and a year of tremendous personal loss mainly bad ones lately. Sometimes I feel completely alone in this struggle. While I personally cannot afford any of these lovely pieces I understand the sentiment, and I feel heard," another said.
Danielle Eke, 11 Honore's design director who is a Black, plus-sized woman on a mission to normalize size inclusivity and representation of people of color in higher-end fashion, responded to criticisms of the line's price points.
"Over the years as the plus-size and inclusive market has grown, most of the offering has been in the lower to mid price point," she told TMRW. "11 Honoré wanted to speak to a different customer who had a little more money to spend and was looking for quality over quantity. The contemporary and designer market has ignored the plus-size community, and we are here to disrupt that."
That being said, she added that the brand's ultimate goal is to dress as many women as possible and the company plans to reevaluate its business model to adjust "where needed, including price point, size range and style offering."
Like many celebrity endeavors, Dunham also met with some backlash from critics who thought other underrepresented women in the plus-sized community would have been better faces for the company. Nylon reported that Dunham's public discourse about disliking her body and having fluctuating weights and shapes throughout her life discredited her "understanding of the community she's now profiting from."
Other critics feel the five-piece collection isn't adding much to the diversity of options for plus-size shoppers.
In an interview with the New York Times, which announced the line, Dunham explained this project is not about summarizing others' perspectives, but (as her artwork often is) a "direct response" to her own viewpoint.
"I also want to send the message that being curvy is something to celebrate, not simply handle — it’s not a problem to fix or cover up, but rather a really beautiful celebration of having a lot to give," Dunham said. "It took me a long time, but I love the fact that my body tells a story of vastness, of ampleness, of presence."