LOS ANGELES — Inside Milk Studios, a marble building here on North Cahuenga Boulevard, waiters passed sushi rolls amid racks of dresses, bags and T-shirts. Outside, a starlet posed on a red carpet by a reflecting pool, wearing a crimson scuba dress overlaid with black lace. It had all the trappings of a Hollywood branding soiree, announced by a neon sign hovering overhead: “Welcome to the Rebelution.”
But the starlet in question was no blushing waif. She was Rebel Wilson, the Australian actress and comedian known for her ribald turns in “Bridesmaids” and “Pitch Perfect.” She was there to promote her new plus-size collection for Torrid, a design and retail company that caters to sizes 12 to 28.
The line, which arrived in stores Nov. 1 and features about 30 pieces from $16.50 to $98.50, embodies the idiosyncratic moxie known to Wilson’s fans. There are T-shirts printed with gangster koala bears (nods to Wilson’s home country and her love of hip-hop), jackets stitched with varsity letter R’s (an homage to her boarding-school days) and sweatshirts emblazoned with her first name.
That Wilson has entered the fashion game signals not only her unconventional stardom but also how far the plus-size industry has evolved in recent years.
As the mainstream fashion world has continued to neglect women of larger sizes, often relegating them to upstairs corners of department stores, a lively alternative industry has sprung up to fill the gap.
It has its own supermodels (Tess Holliday), its own magazines (PLUS Model), its own runway events (Full Figured Fashion Week) and even its own power bloggers (Gabi Gregg, of GabiFresh), who give voice to grass-roots demand.
Its ethos is equality. “Plus is no different than anybody else,” Lisa Stanley, Torrid’s vice president for marketing, said at the Rebelution party, adding that two-thirds of American women wear a size 14 and up. “Girls just want to wear what everybody else is wearing, but they want it to fit them and make them look sexy and beautiful.”
Now the plus-size world has its own “celebpreneurs” to rival the likes of Jessica Simpson and Gwen Stefani. Wilson’s line comes three months after Melissa McCarthy started her own collection for Seven7.
Torrid seemed a fitting match for Wilson. An outgrowth of Hot Topic, it casts itself as a trendy alternative to Lane Bryant, the century-old chain that dominated the market for decades.
At her first meeting with company executives, Wilson arrived with detailed vision boards that included Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters.
“I always try to wear tracksuits on the red carpet, but my stylists always convince me to wear a dress,” Wilson said at the party, her hair in an Adele-style beehive ponytail. “My natural state is elastic waistbands.”
Surveying the scene from a couch was Tiffany Kaelin-Knight, the editor in chief of the online magazine Skorch, which covers alternative plus-size fashion. (She’s also the daughter of Kato Kaelin.) Dressed in a silver faux-leather jacket, a crop top and a sheer maxiskirt, she eyed Wilson’s designs approvingly.
“It’s another win for plus-size fashion,” she said. “No exceptions. No frumpy cover-up. You’re out, you’re proud, you’re fat, you’re happy.”
By all appearances, Wilson personifies the “you’re fat, you’re happy” spirit that has animated the plus-size movement.
Her breakout character, in the a cappella comedy “Pitch Perfect,” is a college student who calls herself Fat Amy, so that skinny mean girls “don’t do it behind my back.”
In that movie and its sequel (with a third on the way), Wilson combined non sequitur humor with brazen sexuality, at one point wiping her own underarm sweat on the character played by Anna Kendrick, to pass along some of her “confidence.”
In person, Wilson is less flamboyant than coolly calculating. The day after the party, she had lunch at the Chateau Marmont, where Randy Jackson greeted her from the next table with a high-five. She wore a T-shirt from her collection, with a pocket crest bearing the words “revinco eam” — her own Latin approximation for “crushed it.”
Over a Caesar salad and falafel, Wilson described her overnight stardom with an air of inevitability. Within months of moving to Hollywood from Australia to become a star, she landed a part in “Bridesmaids,” written especially for her after she auditioned for the role ultimately played by McCarthy.
“If it wasn’t ‘Bridesmaids,’ I was close to about three or four other films at that exact same time,” Wilson said. “It was going to be one of them.”
After lunch, Wilson was due at a styling session for magazine cover shoot with Chris Hemsworth, the hunky Australian film star. They had been selected as two of the most intriguing people from Australia.
“He’ll be topless,” she said, with a hint of Fat Amy’s deadpan libido. “It’s going to be a pretty good afternoon.” She stood up, revealing a pair of punky faux-leather jogger pants (from her collection, of course). She added, by way of goodbye, “Well, now I’m going to get beautiful.”