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Nikki’s plus-size dream becomes a Rude & Fluffy reality

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Collaborators: Calshae Iris of Vim and Venust, left, and Nikki Fagan of Rude & Fluffy (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
A Rude and Fluffy woman is unapologetically herself (Photograph by Cimeon Tyrrell)
Rude and Fluffy clothing is a little bit cheeky (Photograph by Cimeon Tyrrell)

When Nikki Fagan visited Jamaica a few years ago, she loved that ‘fluffy’ was used as a term of endearment for larger women.

Inspired, she called her new plus-sized clothing business Rude & Fluffy, ‘rude’ being a nod to the style of clothing she sells.

“My pieces are a little cheeky and a little rude,” she said. “The items I sell are certainly a little shorter and tighter than society says that plus-sized women should wear. A Rude and Fluffy woman is unapologetically her and not hiding from being out, seen and bold regardless of what society says about women with more to love.”

One in every three adults in Bermuda, is clinically “fluffy”, but clothing options for heavier women are often lacking in local stores.

“There are a few stores that serve the plus-sized market here,” she said. “Some of them have some really elegant pieces, such as Urban Cottage on Front Street.”

But, she said, in general, options are limited, or not particularly trendy.

Enter Rude & Fluffy. Ms Fagan sells plus-size pieces that are unique and dressy.

“It is not in competition with anyone else,” she said. “You will still need to go to Gibbons Company to get your staple pieces. But these are the special pieces.”

She was about to start Rude and Fluffy in 2020, but when the pandemic hit she had to focus on Brand Lion, the branding business she founded several years ago.

“I put Rude and Fluffy on pause,” she said. “I finally kicked it off two months ago. I thought, I will still do this. I still have the same thing in mind.”

The business appealed to her because she loves working with women; she loves shopping and she loves building brands.

“Those are my three things,” she said. “As I shift the Brand Lion to an online platform, it gives me space in my schedule where I can indulge my passions in a different way. That is how Rude & Fluffy came to be.”

Along the way she has teamed up with her cousin, Calshae Iris, owner of scarf company Vim and Venust.

“When Rude and Fluffy were going to do accessories we brought in these awesome fedoras in these big bold colours,” Ms Fagan said. “Calshae was already doing scarfs in big bold colours.”

Ms Iris sells scarfs and also head bands that easily covert into handbag bands, hat bands or head bands.

“I launched two years ago,” Ms Iris said. “I have bold pieces but I also have elegant pieces. Working with Nikki has been good. My cousin is like a mentor for me. I grab every opportunity to work with her. She has taught me a lot. It has been great.”

Rude and Fluffy has been doing well over in the short time since launching, and are now on the Sargasso Sea app, exclusively.

“Rude and Fluffy is the first plus-size clothing company on the Sargasso app and they were excited to welcome us,” Ms Fagan said. “As a new company, we were glad to have a same-day delivery solution that did not involve us having to manage the process. We offer a variety of items on the app from really special dresses and suits to last-minute accessories. We just added hats.”

She said when you are a small business, you do not always have all the moving parts to make home delivery work.

“This is where Sargasso goes to work,” she said. “They made it simple to get set up and start delivering. You can plug and play now.”

She said now is a good time to start a business.

“It is so much easier for people to do that now, and really be successful at it,” she said. “You can build a proper business by joining forces with other people. With Sargasso, our first sale came after a week and a half. Offline, our first sale happened within the first week of letting people know Rude and Fluffy is open.”

She took an organic approach to opening her business.

“I was on my Whatsapp, saying to my friends, hey, guess what I am doing?” She said. “Yes, we have a Facebook page and an Instagram page, but we did not have an audience on there yet. It really did take word of mouth for me to move that through people for people to know. Collaboration is great. Calshae exposed me to her market which is a completely different market.

Even though I did not have much of an audience because it was a brand new company, collaboration allowed me to take a short cut.”

Rude and Fluffy has received good reviews on Sargasso, and many positive direct messages from customers.

“We have a private WhatsApp group also where people get first dibs at new pieces,” she said.

Her target demographic are women on the older side of the millennial spectrum.

Although Ms Fagan works with brand building all day with Brand Lion, she said it is different when it comes to your own business.

“But I am a serial entrepreneur and have run a number of businesses,” she said. “I am a bit less attached to the outcome, then some new business owners would be. That makes me open to risk. I will start a brand and will say, either this brand is not viable so let’s shift to something else. But the name of the game is being able to pivot. That doesn’t change for me pre pandemic or post pandemic. It is important to not get stuck and not get safe.”

She feels that Bermuda retail has stayed in the safe zone for too long.

“The pandemic forced people to shop here, instead of continuing to go overseas for the excitement and the variety and trends that they were not getting on the Bermuda retail scene,” she said.

She tries to stay agile and flexible with her business.

“I respond to the market,” she said. “Customer service is so, so important to me. When you buy an item on Sargasso, if you have any questions I am right there to answer them. It comes in beautiful packaging. If you have to send anything back, I am right there to pick it up. I care. I am not big enough to be safe in my seat, and say, oh, they will come to me no matter what.”

She feels the old guard in Bermuda retail got too comfortable with the idea that their customers had no other options.

“When online shopping was introduced they felt it,” she said. “They did not try to innovate. They did not try to figure out what next. I feel like they were all sitting around a board room table saying ‘they’ll come back’.”

She does not want people shopping with her, because they have no other choice. She wants people to shop with her because they love what she sells.

“I take pride in picking the pieces,” she said. “I bring in very limited numbers of the pieces. I only bring in one of one size. You won’t go to an event and find that everyone has your dress on. I am very nuanced with the whole thing.”

The pandemic lockdowns gave her lots of time to research plus-size manufacturers and distributors.

“When I started moving around in that world I found some beautiful vendors in Miami and California,” she said. “I wanted established vendors so that the sizing and quality was consistent.”

She said the market she is in is a $178bn industry in the United States and is projected to grow about 4.3 per cent by 2028.

“I never build a business thinking of Bermuda as full stop,” she said. “Rude and Fluffy may end up being a franchise. I have no idea. I just know that the industry is big enough to support whatever my dreams are.”

For more information see Rude and Fluffy on the Sargasso Sea Aaapp, or on Instagram and Facebook @rudeandfluffy, call 536-9343 or e-mail heysis@rudeandfluffy.com.

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Published August 23, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated August 24, 2021 at 8:04 am)

Nikki’s plus-size dream becomes a Rude & Fluffy reality

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