Netflix released the fashion-forward comedy “Survival of the Thickest” on July 13. Michelle Buteau stars in the show as Mavis, a plus-sized stylist whose life has suddenly been turned upside down. The series is based on personal essays from Buteau’s life and brings up themes surrounding beauty, friendship and, of course, style.
Set in New York City, the cast, which also includes Tone Bell, Tasha Smith, Garcelle Beauvais and Peppermint, often showcases standout fashion moments that are a marriage between city-centered streetwear and maximalism.
“My personal aesthetic as a costume designer was to make sure it feels grounded and real. Even if it’s a fashion-type of show, it still should feel reachable,” Keia Bounds, the stylist for the series, told WWD.
Bounds has previously worked on other streaming series including “BMF” and Issa Rae’s “Rap Sh!t.” Here, WWD takes a closer look at the style from “Survival of the Thickest.”
Mavis is a stylist who works with plus-size clients, so it was central for her style to be big and bold to match her personality. “She was very fun and open to those ideas,” Bounds told WWD about dressing Buteau for the show, also adding that Buteau would shy away from the “normal plus-sized clothing things” that oftentimes make women look matronly. “It was about being big, bold and sexy.”
In this scene, which sees Mavis on a New York City walk, she’s wearing the Adidas Farm Rio pineapple flower mystery windbreaker and matching Adidas Farm Rio green stripe leggings. The Farm Rio collection is inspired by Brazil, incorporating tropical artwork and themes.
Since Mavis is also a Black woman with a Caribbean background, it was equally important to showcase Black designers in her fashion wardrobe. Here, Buteau’s character embraces mixed patterns in an orange-textured coat, a denim tunic and a Brandon Blackwood Kendrick trunk with cow-print pony hair.
Bounds also expressed the significance of working with Black designers for the series, noting Blackwood, who is of Jamaican descent, was very open to the styling process. “Brandon Blackwood was great. They sent me every bag, anytime,” she said, adding, “They were so on board with getting it out there.”
In addition to Mavis’ scene-stealing looks, Tone Bell’s character Khalil has a striking style.
“I got to play around in my imagination with what my version of a heterosexual artist may dress like,” Bounds said about dressing Bell, who portrays Mavis’ male best friend. “I think that was interesting about the whole show, not having one particular way of dressing define you,” she added.
Bounds explained how she diversified Khalil’s fashion to push the envelope on how heterosexual male characters can dress. As an artist, Khalil expressed his creativity through different fashion pieces, including scarves, hats and, in this scene, overalls.
Famed New York City drag performer Peppermint also stars in the series, portraying herself. “I hadn’t dressed a drag performer as a drag performer before, so that was amazing,” Bounds told WWD about styling looks for Peppermint. In real life, Peppermint has appeared in the ninth season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” where she became a fan favorite and the runner-up.
For episode eight, where the characters attend an alternative prom supporting LGBTQ high-schoolers, Peppermint wears a statement red gown with a structured neckpiece covered in sparkling embellishments.
Marley, played by Tasha Smith, is Mavis’ other best friend. Smith’s character is a powerful businesswoman, currently climbing the corporate ladder, but her style still incorporates colorful additions. In this scene, she reimagines officewear by wearing a forest green blazer and pants.
“Even though she was a businesswoman, she wasn’t wearing the power suit that was expected of her. She was in bold colors, showing up as her best and baddest self,” Bounds told WWD about Marley’s style.