Honor Code: 11 Honoré Design Director Danielle Williams Eke on Building the Brand's 1st In-House Collection

11 Honoré Design Director Danielle Williams Eke, center, wears 11 Honoré’s Nia Dress and Nora Blazer designs from luxury e-tailer 11 Honoré’s first in-house collection, modeled by Marquita Pring.
11 Honoré Design Director Danielle Williams Eke, center, wears 11 Honoré’s Nia Dress and Nora Blazer designs from luxury e-tailer 11 Honoré’s first in-house collection, modeled by Marquita Pring.
Photo: 11 Honoré

Luxury has long seemed an elusive concept when outfitting what is commonly referred to as the “plus-size” market. Despite nearly 70 percent of American women being a size 14 and above, most brands still struggle with fit and quality—and elegance rarely, if ever, comes into play. So when fashion and tech veteran Patrick Herning launched the online boutique 11 Honoré in 2017, it filled a much-needed void in full-figured fashion, making highly curated, size-inclusive collections of luxury clothing from well-known designers available to of women who’d been long denied that accessibility. Using the industry’s top models in styles often exclusive to the site, 11 Honoré presented fashion for plus-sized women with the same consideration, quality and shopping experience as previously only seen on sites with comparable pricing and designers but disappointingly limited sizing, like Net-a-Porter and ShopBop.

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Creating a marketplace for some of the world’s best-known designers to cater to plus-sized women (and convincing others to follow suit), was ambitious; creating an in-house collection is a new undertaking altogether. Nevertheless, in late June, 11 Honoré did just that, debuting a new 24-style capsule collection “comprised of chic, understated pieces that can be seamlessly incorporated into one’s wardrobe.”

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The best part? It was designed by a Black woman, 11 Honoré Design Director Danielle Williams Eke. More details from the brand:

The first collection will launch with over 24 styles across three drops and includes timeless wardrobe staples such as the perfect stretch linen shirtdress, an ultra-flattering deep v-neck, a stretch charmeuse slip dress with asymmetrical hem, and wide leg high-waist trousers. The second drop will feature a more casual, athleisure aesthetic including crewneck sweatshirts with back snaps and high waisted pintucked sweatpants, and the third drop will feature tailoring, including double breasted blazers, high-waisted cropped trousers and sumptuous supima cotton bodysuits. The color palette evokes notes of muted neutrals inspired from desert landscapes and the beaches of southern Europe.

11 Honoré Founder and CEO Herning further explained the impetus behind adding to the brand’s designer offerings with their own label, saying in a statement: “Since inception, we have been engaging with our customer, collecting data, and listening closely to what has been missing for her these last three years. We’re confident this offering will provide women with timeless, stylish and easy pieces, using luxurious fabrics, expert tailoring and elevated details, with fit with being of the utmost importance and priority.” Herning also shared that his company had “invested significantly in both fit technology and a seasoned, pedigreed design team.”

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The leader of that team is 11 Honoré Design Director Danielle Williams Eke, who worked closely with Herning “to refine and perfect a fresh aesthetic and modernized fit to the inaugural 11 Honoré collection,” says the brand. A graduate of Miami International University of Art & Design with a Master of Fine Arts in Fashion from Academy of Art University, Williams Eke boasts nearly a decade and a half of plus-size design technique and experience under her stylish belt. Prior to joining 11 Honoré in November of 2019, the Silver Spring, Md. native worked her way up through the ranks over eight years at popular plus-sized fast-fashion brand Torrid, where she eventually oversaw the design team at. But as she tells The Glow Up, her interest was piqued by the emergence of fellow Los Angeles-based brand 11 Honoré, excited by its innovative and elegant approach to the plus-sized market.

Clearly, the admiration was mutual: the brand’s team reached out to her last year about designing its first private label collection—and a dream collaboration was born.

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“As a plus-sized woman with a deep adoration of fashion, I’ve been faced with the false idea that a plus-size brand could not be stylish, fashion-forward, and with an impeccable and consistent fit,” Williams Eke said in a statement. “This collection embodies a modern mix of timeless and chic silhouettes, with thoughtful details and a fit that reaches a range of shapes and sizes. We have sourced the most luxurious fabrics and implemented stretch, exactly where you would appreciate it most.”

“I think 11 Honoré is very instrumental in moving this conversation beyond just a conversation,” Williams Eke further explained in an email interview with The Glow Up. “We are doing the work to make sure that plus size women are included in the designer and contemporary fashion space. I think our in-house collection is another move toward global inclusion by designing into a contemporary collection and aesthetic that hasn’t truly existed in the plus-size retail space.”

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Drawing inspiration from design legend Donna Karan’s famed 1985 concept of “Seven Easy Pieces” as well as her own personal design aesthetic of “pared-back classics with injections of fun and edgy details,” Williams Eke set out to create a collection that was interchangeable, transitional, elevated and most of all, easy for the quality-obsessed 11 Honoré customer. Little could she have known just how timely her approach would be by the summer of 2020.

“We started designing this collection last year, pre-COVID, but we were able to design a collection that is even more relevant today. This entire collection has pieces that are relevant to working from home, local activities with the family, casual date nights, or weekend road trips. We really wanted to create a true lifestyle brand,’” the designer told us. “Now, more than ever, clothing should be made to transcend trends or seasons...Understanding that as women our lifestyles evolve day-to-day, I wanted to make sure our collection reflected that.

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“The 11 Honoré woman is strong, smart, and sophisticated,” Williams Eke continued. “We see her wearing this collection through her ever-evolving lifestyle. I wanted this collection to easily work into our customers’ current wardrobe so I focused the color palette on neutrals, including a chic mushroom color which feels like a more modern neutral. For a pop of color, I am introducing a dusty blue tone that is beautifully executed in both a luxe satin as well as a casual washed-down sweatshirt & sweatpants. Because of the versatility of the palette, there are so many styling options....with each drop, there are more possibilities.”

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And these styles have shape as Williams Eke told us, the “number one guiding principle was to focus on fit.” Using data and feedback gleaned from fitting real women ranging from size 12-26 with different body shapes, “we were able to make necessary tweaks to our grade rule to make sure that our fit was consistent style-to-style, regardless of size,” she added, noting that the 11 Honoré team’s experienced technical designer then used that knowledge to refine the brand’s grade scale up and down from a base size of 18.

For those of us who know the struggle all too well, these fundamental fixes are long overdue—as is seeing more talents like Williams Eke in decision-making roles. The fashion industry may only now be addressing its diversity issues after decades of urging, but 11 Honoré’s approach to full-figured dressing is clearly not the only way in which its ahead of the proverbial curve.

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“Being in this environment that not only welcomes but embraces my thoughts is refreshing and empowering,” says Williams Eke. “When our voices are minimized, it’s easy to fade to the background—which oftentimes results in not being able to work to your fullest potential. Being in a role where I am able to voice my opinions and make decisions without fear has really allowed me to become even more strategic and thoughtful through this process.”

As Williams Eke reminds The Glow Up, representation in the fashion industry extends well beyond race—but considering that a 2016 study by the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education found that the average size of Black women is an 18/20, it is also intrinsically linked to it.

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“I would like to see more representation in media, on runways, etc.,” she says. “It’s imperative that we see ourselves to truly believe that the industry sees us.”

Admittedly, the price point of 11 Honoré’s in-house collection (currently $98 to $498) is not accessible for all. However, in a corner of the industry historically concentrated on low-priced basics of questionable quality, an offering of high-end options is ironically what fashion equality looks like—and like the luxury fashion industry, it will hopefully compel the lower-priced end of the market to elevate its standards, as well.

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“11 Honoré will continue to be the authority for all things designer and contemporary plus size fashion, through our in-house brand and our designer partnerships,” says Williams Eke. “As I move forward and start to design for upcoming seasons my goal is to always think about our customer. I want to understand what her ‘new normal’ is and be the brand she looks to dress her for all aspects of her life.”

The first and second drops of 11 Honoré’s inaugural collection—along with their other designer offerings—are available to shop now. 

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, an avid eyeshadow enthusiast and always her own muse. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.

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