“I’ve been modeling since I was in school, but the plus-size industry wasn’t, and still isn’t, really as developed, so we don’t see as much diversity and inclusion in collections,” she says. As “indie sleaze” and “heroin chic” resurface and low-rise Miu Miu micro minis dominate the fashion sphere, it almost feels as if we’re moving backward.
After being heavily disappointed by extended-size offerings throughout the years, Nu recalls spending her days scrolling through her feed during the 2020 lockdowns, which eventually sparked a moment of realization.
“I was bored like a lot of people, and I was trying to check each staple off my wardrobe list, and it just went terribly,” she says. “There are some pieces that just literally don’t exist in my size — I’m on the mid- to plus-size scale. I have the privilege of being able to fit into a lot of the end-of-range sizes for many brands. But I was thinking, if it’s hard for me, it’s so much harder for someone who has like a 2X, 3X or even a 6X. It’s a lack of true care and inclusivity [from brands].”
With a constant stream of celeb-founded labels and influencer-inspired brands, the straight-size market is well oversaturated, to say the least. But with a cost valuation of nearly $200 billion, the plus-size market still remains mostly untapped.
After moving to New York from Los Angeles over two years ago — much of which was spent going door-to-door, meeting hundreds of pattern makers and looking at sample fabrics — Nu’s ready to introduce Blueki, a brand of made-to-order pieces available in sizes XXS to a 6X, with prices capping out at $350.
Creatives across the board can agree that, with any business start-up, one of the most difficult parts of the job is coming up with a name. For Nu, it came one day as she oversaw her mother’s phone while she played poker; she entered the name “blueki,” a combination of her family’s maiden name, Aoki, with its English translation, “blue tree.”
“I just thought it was really cute and sounded like a little character. I liked that [blueki] has this familial meaning behind it,” Nu says.
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Blueki’s first collection spotlights 12 knitwear styles made to fit people of all shapes and sizes, inspired by a mood board stacked with iconic ’90s references, futuristic 3D digital art and Japanese designs, along with beloved fashion brands like Helmut Lang, Blumarine and Eckhaus Latta. There’s an array of comfy ribbed pieces that offer a timeless edge, mini dresses and Renaissance-inspired laced corsets, balletcore-inspired cropped cardigan sleeves, plus Nu’s favorite: the Deb maxi, knitted dress adorned with cutouts at the stomach.
Nu may not have gone through the typical fashion school funnel, but aside from inclusive sizing, she envisioned Blueki as a resource for versatile wardrobe staples.
“I was trying to design some cooler pieces that have some edge, but I still want it to be cool in five to 10 years from now,” she says. “With fast fashion, there’s this constant need to be up to date with what to wear. I wanted to lean into what’s cool now but also can be worn years later and even passed down. I’m thinking about anything and everything, because I don’t take it lightly that people are investing in the brand and buying things from us.”
On top of Blueki’s size-friendly It-girl pieces, Nu is also keen on making sure her line is intentionally and ethically produced in New York City. Nu assures that her pieces are crafted at a 3D knitting factory, so there isn’t much human labor behind her collections. Each item is also created based on demand to reduce excess production.
“One of the biggest things about starting this brand is that I want to add an option into the fashion industry: We don’t have to ignore the unethical practices that are happening behind closed doors, and this garment won’t fall apart after a few washes and end up in some donation center, then a landfill,” she says. “I have to admit that it does cost more, especially if you’re a smaller brand… It was expensive for us to make 12 sizes in a collection, so I understand the amount of money and effort it takes for a smaller label to make this switch. But if you’re a huge corporation with tons of money, there’s no excuse, especially if you’re stopping at an XL — they’re going to get left behind.”
Nu’s original plan was for Blueki to be a plus-only brand, “but then I thought it’d be cool for someone of all sizes to wear my pieces,” she says. “The plus community needs it more, for sure, but I wanted to make Blueki a fully inclusive brand, because we all deserve to be dressed.”
The future looks bright and hopeful for Blueki and Nu: In the coming months and years, the 26-year-old wants to experiment with other aesthetics, create more non-stretch pieces and just be like “the cool older sisters” that provide customers with options.
“I really want everyone of all sizes to feel that they belong,” she says. “I feel like we haven’t had that… Little by little, I’m putting a brick on the house and aiming for that.”
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