Like it or not, plus-size individuals very much exist. Fat-shaming and fatphobia are real and not just in Pakistan but across the world as well. People look down upon those who don’t fit the society’s standard of what a person should look like. ‘Thin-ess’ is equated to beauty and fat is considered ugly, no matter what.
For instance, award-winning singer Adele recently lost 10 kgs following her divorce and people cannot stop praising her for hitting back at her estranged husband by losing weight. Any other reason is irrelevant.
Closer to home, across the border, Bollywood actor Sonakshi Sinha recently released a powerful video in which she recounted being fat-shamed and shared all the names which were used to describe her. They ranged from ‘Fatso’ and ‘Aunty’ to harsher ones like ‘Motakshi Sinha’. Just reading such terms should be enough to make you uncomfortable.
Despite all this, the world is making efforts to tackle body shaming. You visit any international clothing brand and you’ll find a section dedicated to plus-sized outfits. However, in Pakistan, this is not the case.
Last month, comedian and actor, Faiza Saleem, who is one of the leading ambassadors of plus-sized women in our country, did a campaign with Lulusar for plus-sized clothing. While on one hand people appreciated the campaign for being inclusive, there was a large population of people who wrote degrading comments on social media posts.
Speaking exclusively to The Current about the collection and backlash, Lulusar said: “Initially, this collection was never intended to become a body positivity statement. From our end, ‘Faiza Saleem x LULUSAR’ was just another collaboration in our series. We did introduce a new size-set so that Faiza could be represented accurately and fully.”
“However, the comments and messages we received on the campaign were a shock. We debated on deleting disparaging & hateful comments in the beginning, but they multiplied every hour,” they stated.
“After this, we did release a statement with Faiza standing up for our values and our philosophy, highlighting the fact that Lulusar is for all. As a brand, we realised we have the platform to ignite change and breakthrough social barriers that all of us are bound by in this society,” added Lulusar.
Speaking further, the brand said, “We began to see comments from women talking about how they regained confidence, how they wanted to dress in bright colors and patterns and never thought they could until this campaign, and the overwhelming support that poured in helped us realise the impact we had made.”
On whether plus-sized fashion has made its way to Pakistan, Lulusar said, “We think that there is definitely a dialogue that has started about the concept of inclusivity, but it hasn’t reached the masses yet.”
“Major brands still don’t have options for women of all shapes and sizes and, if they do, they’re not advertised or they are extremely limited. Plus-sized women are not invited to take part in the newest trends, prints or designs and still have to resort to unstitched dresses. There’s a long way to go in local fashion when it comes to making sure it’s available for all women,” they added.
On the other hand, Khadijah Shah, who is the brains behind one of Pakistan’s most successful fashion brands, Élan said that plus-sized fashion has not yet made its way to Pakistan as it should have.
“I don’t think it has as [of] yet. But, I feel like I see the winds of change,” said Khadijah in her interview with The Current.
In the past, Generation has experimented with plus-size clothing and has even received a positive response for it, but apart from a few campaigns here and there, no one has really carried forward the idea or made it a permanent feature.
On why most Pakistani brands resist from making plus-size clothing, Lulusar remarked, “Cost could definitely be a factor since this is a very niche market and the lower return on investment when compared to conventional campaigns wouldn’t be preferable.”
“However, more than that, it’s the fact that our general society is more receptive towards conventional campaigns, models and fashion. Fear of backlash is probably a greater reason why most brands haven’t taken a step towards inclusivity. For most brands, the negative response is just not worth it.”