"These are the clothes you want to wear when you walk down the street and want to make heads turn," Brooks tells PeopleStyle

By Sharon Kanter
Updated April 20, 2016 04:20 PM

Color looks good on Danielle Brooks! Designer Christian Siriano hand-picked the
Orange Is the New Black
actress and current star of Broadway’s The Color Purple to star as the face of his campaign for his new colorful collection for Lane Bryant, which hits stores this month. In this exclusive first look at the images, Brooks is doted on by a gaggle of gorgeous men as she shows off Siriano’s vibrant designs.

“It was fun to be surrounded by all these sexy men holding my dress and tying my shoes,” Brooks tells PeopleStyle with a laugh when we caught up with her and Siriano to discuss the collaboration. “Plus, the clothes helped me to embody the way in which we did the photo shoot—they make you feel sexy, like everyone has their eyes on you. It’s like these are the clothes you want to wear when you walk down the street and want to make heads turn.”

Courtesy of Lane Bryant

That was exactly Siriano’s goal when he went to create the collection. “I wanted it to be a lot of color,” he explains of the line, which features tops, dresses, skirts and even a full-length gown, all for sizes 14 to 28. “We took a lot of inspiration from 1950s ice cream parlors. I wanted there to be a lot of prints and stripes and textures, but still feel modern, with a little vintage feeling as well. I think the clothes are really great, wearable, fun and fresh, and that’s what we wanted to see.”

As a fan of Siriano’s designs—Brooks wore his tri-color gown to the Emmys in 2015 (above)—she’s thrilled with every opportunity she gets to wear the clothes, both in the campaign and beyond. “Being plus-size, it’s very easy to put a woman in black or navy dress,” she says, “but to get to show color on my chocolate skin is really fun for me, and it’s not an option that always comes around.”

“And for plus-size women to feel confident in what they’re wearing, Christian hits it on the nail with that,” she continues. “I really appreciate a designer of his stature saying ‘I’m going to design for every woman.’ There is such a huge market. The plus-size industry is huge.”

Courtesy of Lane Bryant

The release of this plus-size collection comes at a time when the term plus-size is being heavily debated—Amy Schumer came out saying “these labels are unnecessary and reserved for women,” Lena Dunham says women should not be segregated “based on the shape of their bodies,” Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue cover girl Ashley Graham thinks the term is “outdated” and Melissa McCarthy says she doesn’t understand “the obsession with pointing it out.”

Courtesy of Lane Bryant

Brooks actually doesn’t mind the term that much. “Right now, I’m embracing it and learning to love my size where I am, and not be ashamed of being plus-size,” she says. “What is there to be ashamed of? I’m sexy. I’m fine. It’s just a number that we’ve given it. I wear a size 14. That number, I could change it to 0, it won’t matter. I’m embracing where I am and trying to stay fit and healthy in the midst of that.”

Courtesy of Lane Bryant

As a designer, Siriano has a more practical approach to the term. “I don’t think the terminology—if it’s plus-size or if it’s full-figured—is as intense as it’s becoming,” he says. “It just is the category, like petite, and long, and tall, it’s just another terminology thing. The women that I work with who have more body, they’re all pretty aware of themselves, and they know and they love their shape and figures and we celebrate that and highlight it.”

Courtesy of Lane Bryant

“It just depends on the person,” he continues. “Some people are more confident than others—but that’s with every size. That’s any woman. Every woman has those things about their bodies that they don’t love. When you sign up to be a designer, and be a creator, the goal at the end of the day is to sell clothes that women can wear. We’ve always dressed women of all shapes and sizes since I’ve started. So I’ve never understood not having something for every woman. It’s like, why would you do that?”

The Christian Siriano for Lane Bryant collection hits stores April 28th.

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—Sharon Clott Kanter