Influencer Katie Parrott
by The Hobart Magazine
Katie Parrott is a Hobart-based plus size fashion influencer and model. She’s freshly back from her very first stint at Australian Fashion Week where she took part in the event’s first ever size-inclusive runway show. Katie spoke to The Hobart Magazine just after the trip, and told us that whilst the fashion world is waking up and noticing people outside of the standard sizing range, there are still many difficulties in being a size 24… and what she just adores about Hobart.
Congratulations on being invited to Australian Fashion Week this year – what did you get up to over there? Thank you, it was definitely a career highlight to get to be there! I was invited to attend by Vagary, one of the brands that was part of The Curve Edit – the first-ever plus size show at Australian Fashion Week. I also got to spend time with other plus size influencers and go to a few other events.
How did it feel to be part of something that for a long time has not been particularly inclusive? It was amazing to be honest. The vibe outside Carriageworks before the show was truly electric, we all knew we were there as part of something quite momentous. And of course there were a lot of emotions and tears after the show. Speaking for myself, I never even wanted to attend Fashion Week in past years because I felt so unwelcome and invisible due to my size – this year really flipped the script and I have my fingers crossed that it becomes part of the norm at these large fashion events to see a diverse range of models, in age, size, ability, and skin colour.
How quickly are things changing in the mainstreaming of plus size fashion in Australia? Very, very slowly. Overseas, the industry is lightyears ahead, with many mainstream brands carrying extended sizes both online and instore. There are also substantially more fashion forward plus size brands in affordable price brackets, which is sorely lacking in Australia, as well as more sustainable plus size options. In all areas, we are slow on the uptake, but things are definitely changing bit by bit.
How important is it to you, being a plus sized model in Tasmania, to be able to hang out with your peers in that space in real life? It is so important! Instagram can be a bit of an island, as you tend to be working in isolation, in your own little corner of the internet – no idea what brands are saying to other influencers, no idea what other people are charging for content, and no boss or colleagues there to give you performance support. As someone who has always worked a 9-5 office job, you really have to be self-sustaining in the content creator industry. For that reason, getting to spend time with my peers (many of whom are close friends) is a “cup filling” experience. We get to connect and learn from each other, as well as make shared content which is so much fun – collaboration over competition does it for me, always.
You have a huge community on social media. Why did social media appeal to you? It’s quite surreal to have so many people following me to be honest. I’m just my daggy self, and apparently people like it! I’ve always been someone who has found my people online, whether that was back in the Tumblr days or in Facebook groups for brands (which is where I got my “start” in social media). I’ve always loved the way social media allows you to connect with people from all over the world, who you may never have otherwise met, but that you have so many shared experiences and values with. People speak very negatively about social media, which I agree with at times, but overall I think people forget that social media gives us the power to control the media we consume for the first time ever – no longer are we at the mercy of TV executives and magazine editors to see who we should look up to and what they’re doing. We’re in the driver’s seat, which means that I get to follow people who are activists, gardeners, sustainability experts, and yes, people who have bodies that look like mine. That’s powerful!
What are some of the biggest barriers when it comes to accessing the clothes you need/want in Hobart today? That mainstream brands just don’t make my size. This is a problem regardless of where you live to be honest – I had basically the same experience when I was in Sydney. There aside from the big box stores (Kmart, Big W, Target), your options are limited to a handful of stores no matter where in Australia you live. And this limitation grows the larger your size; the experience of a size 18-20 woman is very different to that of a size 24-26. If I want something for an event, or for a special activity, I need to plan it minimum two-three weeks in advance so I can order, wait for it to arrive, see if it fits, and potentially order something else if it doesn’t. There can be no last-minute shopping as a plus size person!
Tell us about some of the difficulties you’ve had accessing appropriate gear for the Tassie winters in your size? It’s a very common story in our community, and really sad because the outdoors should be for everyone! But it is extraordinarily difficult to find technical clothing in plus sizes. Good quality water-proof jacket? Sorry, only up to a size 16/18 (maybe a size 20 if you’re lucky). Keen on a super warm down puffer jacket? Yeah, that’s not an option. Hiking trousers? You’ve got to be joking! In times gone by, I’ve had to cut bushwalks short because I simply could not find waterproof gear, and have been rained out. This was incredibly eye-opening for my (straight sized) partner, who has always been able to find everything he needs in local specialty shops. It was confronting for both of us for me to be in a position where I was crying because I had gone to every outdoors shop in Launceston and couldn’t find anything suitable to keep me both warm and dry for our trip to snowy, wet Cradle Mountain.
How often are you discriminated against because of your size? Overtly? Not that often anymore, although I suspect there will always be men leaning out of cars to remind me that I’m fat (wow, shocker!) or a pig, or will moo like a cow. That’s never fun and happens every few years. But there are lots of every day discriminatory things that fat people experience – like the fact that there is only one or two meeting rooms in my workplace that have chairs that comfortably fit me, or an arm rest-free option. Or when I get on a plane and watch peoples eyes track me down the aisle, clearly hoping that I won’t be sitting next to them, despite the fact that it won’t exactly be fun for me to be desperately trying to shrink my body and stop it touching a stranger for the duration of the flight. And the even subtler things – people commenting when you bring in a healthy lunch, as though it’s something that needs encouragement; or when children start picking up body-aware language and comment on my stomach. It’s hard.
Is that getting any better? I think it is. People are more willing to advocate for themselves now, and in turn create allies where before there were none. Online communities help with this so much, as we can share our experiences, and also share what works in making things better. And overall, I think there is a greater awareness in our society that fatness isn’t bad, it’s just how some bodies are. I love seeing body inclusive models and representatives in the media, showing that we can be beautiful and strong and role models. I’m proud to be a small part of that change, in my little corner of the internet.
What are your absolute favourite things to do in Hobart in your spare time? Ooh I love a brunch, we have some of the best cafes in the world I reckon! Particularly loving the new Madam Clarke’s in Kingston, as well as Sisterhood in Sandy Bay. I also love heading up the mountain for a stroll or just to enjoy the view. We are so lucky to live where we do!