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How I Shop: Denise Bidot

The model and body-positivity activist spills the tea on heel shopping with BFF and “Queer Eye” guru, Jonathan Van Ness.

Denise Bidot sits front row at the 11 Honoré fall 2019 runway show at New York Fashion Week. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows

We all buy clothes, but no two people shop the same. It can be a social experience, and a deeply personal one; at times, it can be impulsive and entertaining, at others, purpose-driven, a chore. Where do you shop? When do you shop? How do you decide what you need, how much to spend and what’s “you”? These are some of the questions we’re putting to prominent figures in our column “How I Shop.”

“Minimal chic with a little bit of fun,” says model and body-positivity activist Denise Bidot about the personal style she’s cultivated over a decade in the fashion industry.

Fashionista last spoke with the Miami-born stunner, who’s now based between New York and Los Angeles, about starring in the inclusive (and inspiring) Lane Bryant “Super Stretch Skinny” jeans campaign in 2017. Prior to that, Bidot broke boundaries — and made headlines — walking multiple Spring 2015 New York Fashion Week runways, including opening the Chromat show (below). She’s since racked up a stellar portfolio of campaigns, including Chromat Curve, the tech-meets-fashion brand’s swimwear line, in addition to Forever 21, Old Navy, Levi’s and Express.

Bidot, who originally moved to Los Angeles at age 18 to pursue acting, has also expanded her work into the TV realm — or revisited it, rather. She most recently served as a judge on Univision’s “Nuestra Belleza Latina” (translated as “Our Latin Beauty”) talent competition show celebrating her ethos with the tagline: “no sizes, no limits, no excuses.” 

In addition to being at the forefront of the body positivity movement, the proud Puerto Rican and Kuwaiti is also vocal about intersectionality, having debuted the lifestyle campaign, “There Is No Wrong Way to Be a Woman” in 2016. 

She’s also incredibly open and fun to chat with, and was happy to talk shopping, sharing her level of shopping addiction, her most recent — and obsessed-over — purchase (which she was wearing at that very moment) and her most memorable shopping experience at Saint Laurent with BFF Jonathan Van Ness of “Queer Eye.” It’s a good one.

Bidot opens the Chromat spring ’15 runway on September 4, 2014. Photo: JP Yim/Getty Images for Chromat

“I’m constantly shopping; I’m not going to lie. I’m constantly looking online. That’s what’s fun about it: You can stack your cart up and do a process of elimination later. I’m definitely more of an online girl just because, unfortunately, we have limitations of finding our sizes in stores. Even though sizing is available from certain brands, it’s not always the most fun experience to go to a store and find 10 things you love and never find your size.

I’ve learned through trial and error that online shopping offers the best peace of mind. You can buy three sizes, if you feel like it, and return. So it’s really easy to be like, ‘hey this didn’t work out’ and try it on in the luxury of your own home. I found the sites that have the things that I like. It’s easier now. You just keep checking in on new arrivals and get to shop wherever you want to shop and it’s painless.

I’m a big Net-a-Porter girl. I am obsessed. It’s funny because I used to think I couldn’t shop at that site and I was so mistaken because so many of the luxury brands have extra-larges, XXLs or 12 to 14 — even Brandon Maxwell, which I’m obsessed with. Also, because I live in New York City, Net-a-Porter is my biggest vice because they deliver the same day. Sometimes I’ll find out about an event night before and I’ll online shop all night and it’s there before 2 p.m. and I’m like, ‘this is magic!’ That one is definitely a top priority when I’m looking for anything, especially for a red-carpet event. 

Bidot walks the red carpet of the 19th annual Latin Grammy Awards on Nov. 15, 2018. Photo: David Becker/Getty Images for LARAS

I also just found out about Farfetch and I don’t know if I’m the last person in the world to discover this site, but it’s amazing; you can also find cool vintage items there. But also Zara. So many times, I’m on set and I ask the girls [working there]: ‘I love this piece. Where did you find it?’ They always turn around and say, ‘oh, Zara.’ So I made it a mission to, at least once a month, check out the Zara site. Whoever is their XL fit model must be my body shape because Zara clothes fit like magic and the affordability is insane. 

Oh my god yeah, I’m an impulse shopper. I’m very much a Gemini in every sense of the word. I will have a cart with everything in it, but there are certain pieces that touch my soul. There are certain items that, if you don’t buy, you know you’ll think about and I have learned that regret lives on indefinitely with me. So I’d much rather get the damn piece and then figure out if I’m going to wear it. 

If I don’t wear it in a week after I purchase it, I do return it. Because I have learned also my lesson in that you buy something a little too trendy, then it sits in your closet and a year later, it still has a tag on it. Also, I’ve learned that if I love something, the moment I get it — even if I have to make up a dinner — I’m going out to wear it. I’m dying to show the world my new item. So if I don’t feel an immediate reaction to wear it within this first week, then it needs to go back.

The most recent purchase that I’m obsessed with — I’m wearing it at this moment… My best friend is Jonathan Van Ness from ‘Queer Eye’ and so he took me Christmas shopping and we decided that we were going to split the cost of this amazing leather Balenciaga jacket. I’ve always wanted an insane leather jacket, but I’ve always thought, ‘oh my god, that’s too expensive… it doesn’t make any sense.’

Then I realized that all I want to do is live in a leather jacket, so he was like, ‘girl, you need to have this jacket and it fits you like a freakin’ glove.’ I was about to leave without buying it and I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I was like, ‘nope, nope, nope’ and we tried on about 30 leather jackets, and I kept going back to this one. And I was like, ‘you know what? You’re right. I need to have this’ and I haven’t stopped wearing it, which means we were both right. 

It is the jacket of this season and it’s also timeless. It’s one of those things that will eventually be vintage and I’ll pass it down to my daughter, Jocelyn, so there were a lot of ways I validated this impulse purchase. But it also, it came from the best place because there’s so much thought behind it.

Shopping with Jonathan is a lot of fun, I’ll tell you that one. That boy can shop. Jonathan knows all of these shoes. Anyone who’s been following him knows, in the last like year or so, he’s really gotten into heels and it’s been such a fun experience to devour the women’s heel sections with him. It’s one of those things we love to do together, so we went to the Saint Laurent store on Fifth Avenue in New York and we put on an entire runway show.

One of my good friends works there and I was telling Jonathan about these platform booties — and now he owns like three pairs, which is insane — but they’re the most comfortable booties on the planet. We got matching leopard print bestie booties and we had an entire champagne runway show at the Saint Laurent store. That might be my most fun shopping experience on the planet.

Bidot at the American Eagle Celebrates NYFW With Ne(X)t Level Fall Jeans Party on September 5, 2018. Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for American Eagle

I wouldn’t say I’m a fashion hoarder. I get rid of the stuff that is fast fashion. Those won’t live in the closet nor are they meant to live in the closet for long. The designer pieces, you don’t get rid of. I actually just had to get a storage unit. I didn’t realize that was a thing, but welcome to New York City. I had to get myself a little baby storage unit because there is only so much room in this city and I don’t want to start getting rid of pieces that I know in 20 years I’ll regret.

I started to stack up a beautiful collection of things that are near and dear to my heart and I do definitely passing those down to my daughter. That’s what’s so fun about it. I see some of my friends and they’ll throw on a Chanel necklace or a coat and they’re like, ‘oh it was my grandma’s.’ Fashion has that longevity that really can stand out.

I have this really beautiful Marc Bouwer vintage shirt and I wore it on “The Today Show.” His right hand person was like, ‘oh my god, I remember that. We made one for Jessica Simpson and we made one for Whitney Houston.’ He pulled up the runway picture of the model in that shirt and I’m like, ‘that was moment in time and history,’ so to own a piece of that is really special.”

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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