Rana Good is the founder of Naïra NYC. A writer for publications such as Forbes, Travel + Leisure, Coveteur, Mens Journal and others, she created her own platform celebrating women of color.
Model and influencer Denise Mercedes lives by the motto “Style Not Size” dispelling fashion’s narrow view of who should be wearing what. Instead, she showcases an array of pieces, colors, and cuts on her platform, proving there should be no restrictions when it comes to clothes. Together with a close friend, she created a hugely popular series in which they both wear the same item (each in their size) to show that different body types can look great wearing the same thing.
I spoke to Mercedes about how she’s inspired so many people with “Style Not Size” and got some fashion tips for summer — keep reading for her insights on shapewear, jeans, and much more.
Your motto is ‘Style not Size’, can you tell me more about that?
Denise Mercedes: Being a plus-size model, our community has always felt restricted when it comes to particular styles in fashion. I wanted to show people that I’m plus-sized but I can still wear crop tops and body-con. I can still work it! My best friend Maria is a size 2 and I’m a size 14. We came up with the idea that we could both wear the same item, both of us rocking it in different sizes. We’ve been having so much fun with the idea that we turned it into series and our audience has responded so well.
What’s your relationship with Maria and how you came up with the idea?
Maria and I met a few years ago. She’s a professional dancer and a part-time photographer. She started to shoot my pictures for my Instagram and blog, and I encouraged her to take pictures of herself also. Last year we started “Style not Size” because we would buy the same thing and decided to showcase that all body types can wear the same item and look beautiful. Our first shoot was with Aerie in the same swimsuit at the beach — it got great feedback. We did another swimsuit shoot and then shot with Calvin Klein – both were a huge success. Then TikTok came around and we showed on video that you can look amazing no matter what size.
The videos resonated even more than the photos, I think people could see us dancing and having fun in the same style. Now brands are contacting us and we recently shot seven girls with a variety of body types. We really want to take the concept of style not size to the next level.
Why do you think it resonates so well with people?
We’re so used to only seeing one body type being praised and that leaves a lot of other people out. The series makes other people feel included and they tell us their confidence level went up so much. You never know who you’re inspiring!
How did you become a plus-sized model?
I never planned on becoming a plus-sized model. It came as part of being an influencer and taking pictures. I had a modeling agency reach out to me and was signed with them for a few years. After the contract ended, I decided to just focus on my own platform. I love being a content creator and producing my own work. As an influencer, I still collaborate with brands and do editorials and partnerships though, of course. I’ve also launched my own collections with brands, which really shows my personality and my ideas.
What are some of your favorite curvy body styling tips?
I love shapewear. It’s a super important part of my wardrobe. I love Shapermint and love SKIMS they’re both seamless and look great with dresses. My friend who’s a size 2 also wears shapewear, I think it’s a misconception that slim people don’t wear it.
If you’re wearing high-waisted jeans, I recommend wearing a belt. I also think it looks great when you’re wearing a dark crop top with lighter jeans so you look smaller on top and bigger on the bottom.
Everyone should style their body in different ways. That’s one thing that I learned with Maria, there’s ways she can style her body that makes her look particularly good — I get to see both sides of the spectrum. When we make our videos, we look at what will look good on both of us.
What are you loving for summer, color and cut-wise?
I always love high-waisted mom jeans, crop tops, leather jackets, and booties. I love the high-waisted jeans from American Eagle, it feels like they made the jeans just for you specifically.
American Eagle’s curvy jeans are a life changer. When I wear jeans they tend to gap because I have a bigger bottom and smaller top. They hug your body in the right way. Maria and I got them in our respective sizes and they look good on both of us.
Do you like to showcase your heritage online? If so, how?
I definitely let people know that I’m 100 percent Dominican and love to rep my culture. That’s why I tend to do dancing to Spanish music. I’ve also recently started speaking Spanish because so many of my followers are Hispanic. Maria is Ecuadorian, she’ll speak in English for one story and then in Spanish for the next one, so I’ve started to do the same.
What else would you like to try out this year?
If our world situation calms down, I’m hoping to launch more collections. I’ve had two in the past with RebDolls. They’re an all-size inclusive brand — they’ll have the same dress in the smallest to the largest size. I’ve had two collections with them and they’ve done so well. Maria and I were even thinking about coming out with our own collection for “Style not Size”. I look forward to seeing what happens next.