Meaghan O'Connor

Meaghan O'Connor

by Melissa Magsaysay

Tess Holliday’s Stylist Talks About Advocating for her Clients and How Brands Can make Lasting Change in the Fashion Industry

In a crowded fashion landscape teeming with editorial and celebrity stylists, it’s hard to identify someone who is doing work that really stands out, cuts through the noise and moves the industry forward. Meaghan O'Connor is a stylist who stands out, working with a roster of clients breaking barriers, inciting conversation and pushing for

The New York native has been interested and entrenched in fashion all of her life and in the past decade, she has emerged as the go-to sartorial confidant of celebrities moving the cultural needle for progress and inclusivity.

“There will always be challenges in this industry, and specifically in styling for an underserved community, but it's what you do with that challenge that matters.”

O’Connor’s expertise is sought out by Tess Holliday (a longtime client) and actress Adrienne Moore, plus a slew of fashion brands and publications that look to her for effortless style and knowledge on finding the right fit beyond sample size.

Here, the stylist recounts her rise to success and the challenges presented by the fashion industry when she was just starting out.

Photo by Lydia Hudgens

Q & A with Meaghan O’Connor

Have you loved fashion from an early age?

100%. Fashion has always been a part of my life. My grandmother was a casting director in the industry, so the appreciation for fashion and beauty started with her! I remember at an early age being taught the importance of looking good and presenting your best self. My mom made it a point to always make sure we were dressed head to toe- so it was sort of a second language since I was a kid. Combine that with a healthy obsession of barbies and dress up and I guess you could say fashion was always somewhat meant to be for me.

Do you have a signature look in your styling? If so, how would you describe it?

I don't know if I have a signature look, per se. But I have a signature approach, and that is to always send my clients out the door feeling the best, most confident versions of themselves. For each client that approach varies, but the end result is always the same. The goal is to find looks that bring out the best in them, that add an extra pep in their step, that make them stare in the mirror just a second longer than usual. Getting there is collaborative, and comes from a place of self-love. I work hard to get a sense of who they are and what they love so I can use fashion as a tool to highlight their individuality and what makes them, them!

How did your styling roster veer toward having some of the most notable plus size celebrities? Was this deliberate on your part?

I wouldn't say it was deliberate, just truly meant to be. I've had a range of clients - men and women, straight and plus, it just happened to be that over the years my client roster has become a curated list of some of the most beautiful, empowered women who just happen to be plus size. I have been plus size my entire life. I've lived through it, I've seen the industry change and above all else, I understand the nuances of being a plus size woman. To put it simply, I get it, and I know my client’s value that just as much as they value my expertise in fashion and style.

What were some of the challenges when starting out in your styling career? Were brands and designers receptive in the beginning?

In general, I think the biggest challenge has been in helping others understand that style is not defined by size. More specifically, the challenge I face as a plus stylist in this industry is in advocating for my clients with brands, designers, showrooms etc. I've gotten a lot of "no's", and I'd be lying if I didn't say there were moments where I just shut the computer and scream. But those challenging conversations can oftentimes have positive outcomes. Approaching designers and discussing inclusivity can be difficult but I am, and continue to be, hopeful. Because among the sea of "No, we'll pass at this time" responses, there are brands who are ready for change, designers who want to do custom pieces, showrooms who start to carry more inclusive options and online retailers like 11 Honoré who are continuing those conversations towards a more inclusive, high fashion luxury space. An open mind and a willingness to change is a beautiful thing.

Would you say the industry has made positive strides toward size inclusivity since you started? If so, how and are there any designers or brands that you feel are making lasting change?

Absolutely! So much has changed since I started my career. From more fashionable options to inclusive sizing and diverse representation in marketing. To think that even a few years ago we didn't have what we have now is so incredible. Being a plus woman, you sort of inherently have a knack for "making it work" because that's just what the plus woman has had to do for so long. We took what we were given and we figured out a way to make it work- and that mentality was sort of the same at the beginning of my career. It was a lot of getting creative, and figuring out how to create a couture inspired runway look with little to no resources. Now, there is an actual catalog of inclusive brands and designers. It's amazing to look back and see how much has changed. It incites a sense of pride, knowing the work my friends and peers have put in towards change over the last decade, or longer, is actually coming to fruition right before our eyes.

However, the options for plus size women (and men, might I add) are still extremely limited in comparison to the straight size market, but it is a work in progress. We've come a long way from Christian Siriano and Chromat being the only designers to send plus down the runway. Now their peers are following suit, and there are dozens of designers who are starting to realize that there's a billion-dollar market of shoppers out there just waiting for great fashion.

What more do you think the fashion industry can be doing to make size inclusivity the norm?

Everyone needs to start to take a little bit of responsibility, both brands and consumers.

On the brand side, they can't just introduce a size range, tap into the market share and fall back in line. This sort of change takes time, and it takes more than just one or two traditionally straight size ready to wear brands adding size 14 and 16 for a season. For the brands who are venturing into size inclusivity, they need to consider the impact of their limitations if they don't intend on expanding into a full-size run. Not being fully inclusive sends the same message as not being inclusive at all. It's new territory, and I understand that from the business side of things it can be a big risk with a big spend. But at the end of the day, if a brand is committing to change, they should fully commit.

The images we share, the stories we tell, the representation being shown in print and online media, even the way we speak and represent ourselves and others are all a part of the big picture. The more we embrace (and demand) inclusivity in our day to day the easier it will become for others to follow suit. At the end of the day, I think there is always the fear that this isn't progress and that it's just a trend. But I think if we continue to cheer for the ones who are making changes, there will be more to celebrate!


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