Sixty-seven percent of American women wear a size 14, a number that nears the top of the size charts at most stores. A couple of plus-size retail giants exist, but the clothing options remain limited for much of the female population.
Erin Cavanaugh, BA’00, is creating another option for these women with her budding plus-size fashion brand, See Rose Go, in New York City.
“We found a white space out there that the fashion industry in not addressing,” says Cavanaugh, who, with her partner, Yi Zhou, formed the brand nearly two years ago. “We knew we could be change agents and instigate change within the industry.”
An artist throughout her childhood in Northern California, Cavanaugh decided on Creighton for her undergrad degree, in part, to fulfill her curiosity. Her sister, Elizabeth Cavanaugh, graduated in 1995, but it was the recruiting by other California alumni that pushed her to “yes.”
“I kept getting calls, and I was wondering,” she says, “there must be something about this school. And I’m glad I did [attend]. Through that connection I met my husband, made good friends, got a great education.”
In 2000, with her just-earned degree in interpersonal communications and fine arts, Cavanaugh launched her fashion career on the East Coast. Intent on being a buyer, a position she says “could combine my education; my left brain and right brain,” she found the right fit at Nordstrom. She worked her way up, starting on the sales floor and taking classes in the company’s management training program.
A statement from the training book still resonates. “‘Use good judgement.’ And that was really empowering,” she says. “For me going through my Catholic, Jesuit education, where you’re respecting where people are coming from and who they are, that worked for me. They set me up to look at my career holistically. Looking at how you want to be treated and how you want to treat people.”
Later, she left Nordstrom in Washington, D.C., for Converse in New York City, most recently working as the global merchandising director for women’s product.
That consumer-focused attitude is the backbone of her career. While working at Converse, Cavanaugh’s close bond with the design director blossomed into plans to start their own fashion brand. “But we knew that you don’t want to create more white noise,” she says. “You want something of value and offer a solution to the world.”
During a coffee date when a mutual friend, who wears a size 16, expressed her shopping woes, Cavanaugh and Zhou knew they were facing a problem, but one they could help solve with their professional experience in design, merchandising and customer service.
“Our friend was like, ‘You have no idea what it’s like to shop for me,’” says Cavanaugh. “It led us down this really emotional conversation.”
It was the catalyst to more conversations with other women. Cavanaugh asked one woman where she shops, and her response, “Where do I shop? Or where do I want to shop?” made an impact.
“We found that women were settling for good enough, which was not good enough,” she says.
In focus groups and one-on-one conversations with hundreds of women, they noticed a commonality: Women balance multiple roles in their lives. They want clothes that fit their bodies and their lives—without disregarding style.
“We found ourselves cheering for these women and really impressed by them. It became a rally cry,” says Cavanaugh. “Wow, look at these women go.”
See Rose Go, launched in 2016, unites style with comfort in a line of plus-size clothing, including a trademarked collection called CoolRose, clothes crafted from a blend of cooling fiber and cotton knit. Each piece of the brand—from a coat to a cardigan—is intentionally designed to make each woman feel her best. From comfort, comes confidence.
“Being in fashion is a humbling thing. You’re not saving lives or creating cures,” says Cavanaugh. “But when you look at what it means for someone when they can find something that makes them feel great and confident and they can go out and achieve what they want to do, that can be life-changing for them.”