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Fashion: Is there room for the plus size in designer stores?

As a leading Indian designer launches a plus size collection, we ask contemporaries on designing for the big and the beautiful

'Size zero models sashay down the ramp.'
This sentence reappears whenever a fashion week is in progress. But when commerce calls, every rule in the book turns on its head. Recently, fashion designer Kiran Uttam Ghosh announced the launch of her Big Beautiful Women Line on designer shopping portal Exclusively.com. While India has no standard sizing, Ghosh's line offers dresses, kurtas, jackets, kaftans and saris for women in the bracket of size 12 to 18.

Models stand as window displays as part of the UK Plus Size Fashion Week in 2015. Pic/Getty Images
Models stand as window displays as part of the UK Plus Size Fashion Week in 2015. Pic/Getty Images

"I have realised that there was less sale of sizes 8 to 10 and the demand for sizes 14 to 18 was higher. Six-foot models that fit into size 8 garments make everything look beautiful. But honestly, how many size 8 ensembles do I sell?" reveals Ghosh. She feels that the designs available are predictable. "For a trial, I added stocks between sizes 14 and 18 at a store, and they were sold out. We didn't do any publicity. Why would I say no to a buyer?" asks the Kolkata-based designer.

(From left) Capes by Hemant & Nandita are their bestsellers; A Kiran Uttam Ghosh outfit; Sonam and Paras Modi’s ethnic floor length jackets are preferred in larger sizes
(From left) Capes by Hemant & Nandita are their bestsellers; A Kiran Uttam Ghosh outfit; Sonam and Paras Modi’s ethnic floor length jackets are preferred in larger sizes

Need of the hour
"Apparel chains make it easier to buy trendy clothes in bigger sizes. Though finding the right dress is still a problem," shares 24-year-old city-resident and plus size buyer Pallavi Shah. Pamela Bubber, a plus size designer tells us, "I realised that there is a gap in the market in the city for plus size clothing and started designing only for the bigger sizes. I consciously don't make salwar kameezes as when women come to me I encourage them to get out of the rut and try something new and contemporary." Designers Hemant & Nandita, explain the current scene, "Every woman has this innate desire to dress well and indulge in the latest trends. An increasing number of women are getting more comfortable with their bodies. It is about time that designers address this largely ignored demographic."

American model Ashley Graham who has been named as plus sized model of the hour. Pic/AFP
American model Ashley Graham who has been named as plus sized model of the hour. Pic/AFP

The challenge is to accentuate the natural figure while camouflaging the problem areas.

Fashion designer Payal Singhal tells us that online sales statistics pointed that 80% of their custom orders on the web were for sizes 14 or above. "When we realised that there is a demand for bigger sizes, we needed to have them on the rack in our stores too. The key is to balance the numbers. So, if we have 10 medium and 6 large, we would have about 4 XL. Tunics sell the most. I wear plus sizes, and I feel while picking your outfits, you should understand your body and not just become a fashion victim," says Singhal.

Kiran Uttam Ghosh; Payal Singhal
Kiran Uttam Ghosh; Payal Singhal

High seller
For designers, Sonam and Paras Modi of SVA, floor-length jackets are their highest selling pieces. The challenge lies in convincing the customer to try something new. "We are extremely sensitive towards the plus size market. We love to make clothes for the plus size segment, since they do not have access to designs that would flatter curves. Regular consumers want to look slimmer in their ensembles too. So we work towards creating silhouettes that make people look taller and slimmer and flatter all body types," the couple tells us.

And as in the case of every size, personal attention is also an important factor. "Multi-brand stores have made it easier to buy workwear like kurtis and leggings. Trousers remain a problem, so, I stick to my local tailor who knows what kind of fits I prefer. A trusted tailor is your best bet," says 29-year-old Reshma Iyer, who is another plus size apparel shopper.

Stockist speak
"The movement towards body positivity, no matter one's size, has grown remarkably within the last year. These days, women are far more comfortable and confident of their bodies. The intent is to offer customers a space where there are enough styles, sizes and price points," says Amit Maheshwari, CEO, Exclusively.com.

Khar-based fashion store, Atosa, stocks a variety of designers like Wendell Rodricks, Savio Jon, Stephany D'Souza and James Ferreira who create garments for bigger sizes. "Indian women are heavy on the chest and hips.

You can't do anything about genetics! Stocking small sizes is a risk. Designers understand this market and you have names such as Anamika Khanna, Kallol Datta and Anand Kabra offering high fashion clothes for every body type," assures Aparna Badlani, co-owner. In contrast, fashion store Le Mill stocks no plus sizes, as international labels stocked by them don't offer any.

Get it right

>> Understand your body.
>> Once you know what style suits you best, play with fabrics and colours. Viscose is a soft fabric that highlights the curves without making one look unshapely. Matte satins and soft cottons work too.
>> The fight one needs to win is fabric vs occasion vs girth.
>> Wear your waist higher at the point where it is the slimmest. Don’t be afraid to show your arms, sleeveless outfits in the right colour tones can help reduce the weight.
>> Wear prints in the areas you are confident to show off.

Looking glass, hourglass
Internationally, the fashion industry might be going gaga over plus size models, what with Ashley Graham recently being the cover girl for Sports Illustrated. Though most of the so-called ‘plus size models’ you see have hourglass figures with no muffin tops and waists in proportion with their hips. And to conclude, none of the designers we spoke to had product pictures shot with plus size models.

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