It has been said that real women have curves. Introduced more than a decade ago, the phrase appeared to signal a sea change for body positivity - spawning a market projection of a profusion of fashion options for body types rendered invisible outside of conventional beauty standards. Yet when that promise of increased supply fell short of the overwhelming demand, Los Angeles based trailblazing fashion designer Ciera Rogers brazenly forged a path with her stunning women’s wear line Babes And Felines. Worn by the likes of high profile celebrities such as Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Babes And Felines has fast become the definition of versatility, swank and affordability.
Hailing from Houston, TX, Rogers was reared in a household where utilizing various approaches to engage one’s creativity was not only encouraged - it was a way of life. Her mother, a local singer, was constantly on the search for a unique off-the-rack style that added an aesthetic distinction as colorful and classy as her voice. In the midst of that sartorial search, a young Rogers often found herself in tow. “She always needed outfits to sing at the clubs in Houston,” she says. “So we were always in the thrift stores.”
As a youth, Rogers was no stranger to hard times. She often volleyed from public housing to the homes of relatives with her mother and older sister, even enduring a stint of homelessness. Eventually, Rogers’ mother would open a vintage clothing store - a rare installment in the landscape of the city. She soon expanded her creative genius by designing clothing. All the while, Rogers absorbed the intensity of her mother’s entrepreneurial spirit and fearless creative agency in fashion and music. Soon after earning a bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing, Rogers set her sights on Los Angeles. After an unrequited pursuit of opportunities in public relations, she made the bold decision to pivot into a career as a fashion stylist.
Groomed with a knack for blending eye catching color palates and textures, Rogers soon found herself styling fashion shoots for major publications such as Vogue Italia. Retrofitting her Houston thrifting training with a 21st century moxy, Rogers launched a virtual vintage clothing store on Instagram in 2012. But upon entry, she found the realm overcrowded with purveyors of repurposed threads. “People were already pretty knowledgeable about how to thrift in L.A.,” says Rogers. “So when you’d go to the thrift stores, they were kind of raided. I had to find a way to stand out.”
In an effort to stand out from her peers in the marketplace while introducing added functionality, Rogers began implementing alterations into her vintage pieces to address an unmet need. “I’m a little curvier,” she says. “Vintage is not really stretchy. So I added those components to it. That way, I was creating pieces for girls like me.” Rogers also incorporated wholesale items by other designers into her business model. And while her clientele grew significantly following this move, Rogers knew if she was going to build a strong brand that she would have to push her creative genius past its limits.
The following year, Rogers expanded her horizons by bringing her garment concepts to fruition with the launch of her women’s wear line Babes And Felines. An autodidactic at her core, Rogers taught herself to code in order to construct her new venture’s website. In addition to the launch of her older sister Christina’s clothing line The Boss Branch, Rogers’ new line was inspired by an essential need for a clothing geared towards curvier women with an emphasis on elevated style and versatility at an accessible price point. With that, “There were other online clothing lines out there for curvy women when I started, but not that many,” she explains. “And there weren’t many cornering the market on a chic aesthetic.” Flaunting an unparalleled attention to hues and silhouettes, Babes And Felines began to emerge as one of the preeminent women’s wear lines geared towards body types that had long been ignored by the fashion and advertising industries.
As Babes And Felines grew in popularity, Rogers became an online influencer as her Instagram reach grew past more than one million followers. Her profile would receive a much welcomed boost when her designs found their way into the wardrobe of reality show star/ fashionista Kim Kardashian. That same year, photos of Kardashian flaunted several pieces from the Babes And Felines line during her pregnancy with her first child found their way onto social media. This quickly translated into increased attention for the fledgeling line, with specific attention drawn to the ability of Rogers’ pieces to conform.
“Babes And Felines is different because we do a lot of one size pieces,” she explains. “This means that customers from a size one all the way up to maternity can wear the same piece. Kim wearing my pieces during her first pregnancy truly showed that aspect of the line’s versatility.” With a spectrum of signature colors that span from crisp white and earth tones to nudes and basic black, Babes And Felines garments are tailored to accentuate to a wide range of body types - from slim to full figured and maternity.
The line also draws inspiration from some sound suggestions on wardrobe essentials courtesy of Rogers’ mother. “My mother taught me that there are essential pieces a woman needs in her closet,” she says. “Pieces that you can dress up or dress down. In some ways, I modeled my line on her advice.” Accordingly, Babes And Felines is also comprised of these types of essential pieces that can be worn during a night on the town as well as classy brunch dates. Including a wide range of items such as swim wear, maxi dresses and bodysuits, Babes And Felines accentuates body positivity with a self assured sense of style not typically associated with fuller figured women’s wear.
To shore up the ethos of her line, Rogers made a concerted effort to approach another aspect of the marketing and presentation with equal amounts of pure intention and unmitigated honesty. “When I first started taking photos, lots of girls were touching up,” she explains. “But I was leaving everything to show: my cellulite, my dimples. That’s what set me apart from the other girls. So when we do photo shoots, I don’t do heavy editing of the models. We leave everything natural.”
While many viewed this as a risky move, Rogers - who lists cutting edge film director Quentin Tarantino as a driving ideological inspiration - had an intimate understanding of her clientele that rendered the risk aversion a moot point. “That’s kind of how we got our following,” she says. “Consumers are looking for girls that reflect them. In this way, they can have an accurate depiction of how the clothes will fit on them.” Now with more than two million followers on Instagram, Rogers is setting her sights on expanding the brand to include men’s wear while developing a unique online experience for customers trepidatious about online shopping.
Babes And Felines is also set to bow a line of soft, semi-fitted, unisex, 100% cotton t-shirts featuring images of legendary jazzy soul singer Sade. Both the Relaxation Tee and the Meditation Tee feature Sade in poses from an iconic 1985 breakfast in bed photo shoot, lensed by photographer Jean Claude Deutsch. The Sade Tee features an artist rendering of the oft imitated classic Sade photograph that finds the chanteuse in understated glory - denim shirt, hoop earrings and signature cascading braid.
In the meantime, Babes And Felines is benefitting from yet another Kardashian recently photographed donning select pieces from its line: Khloe. And as her line grows with each instance of exposure, Rogers maintains that she is insistent on keeping the origins of the line intact with each sketch and stitch. “Body positivity is a great thing,” she explains. “But back then, it wasn’t. Babes And Felines was created for women of varying body types who are conscious about their appearance fashion wise, but don’t want spend a lot of money to achieve a look. After celebrities started wearing my pieces, a lot of my customers thought I would change my price structure. And I was adamant about keeping the line affordable. That was always the goal.”