By Sonya Rehman
Fed up with looking for clothes that fit, two thirty-something best friends from Lahore, Zenab Ali and Maryam Yousaf, launched their plus size clothing brand, The Rack Couture, in April (this year), in a bid to introduce body positive fashion to Pakistan’s thriving fashion industry.
From semi-formal, formal and casual apparel, The Rack Couture caters to all shapes and sizes, all the while adopting a fierce anti-body shaming policy.
“We’re brainwashed into thinking that wearing black or vertical lines will make us look slim,” mentions Ali, “But the aim of our brand is not that a woman looks thin, but that she looks and feels beautiful.”
Stating that she finds it surprising that some of the country’s biggest fashion brands haven’t yet tapped into the plus size market, Ali says; “Common sense dictates that if there’s a demand for a product, intelligent market leaders will try to capture that market. It’s baffling that body positive clothing hasn’t been given much thought in Pakistan when it has been embraced the world over! The Pakistani woman is curvy and bootylicious! Forget brands that have introduced size 14 and 16; those are average sizes. By plus size I mean 18, 20, 22 and even 24.”
“We’ve been inspired by women just like us; from our friends to our family,” Yousaf adds, “Every body is a good body – in our advertising campaigns we make it a point to feature average, curvy and slim physiques. We don’t use professional models; they’re ordinary women. It’s sad that local designers have this misconception that people don’t want to see curvy women modeling their clothes – they think it won’t sell. But they couldn’t be more wrong.”
Initially worried about being trolled online and facing body-shaming comments immediately after their launch, Ali and Yousaf reveal that the feedback since April has been nothing short of encouraging and positive.
“When our Facebook page went live, we started getting emails from women who were thrilled to find a clothing line which catered to their sizes,” Ali says, “That’s when we knew we were doing the right thing.”
“It’s very easy to work with a silhouette which is thin and slender, but it’s harder to understand what flatters a woman with a fuller physique to enhance her assets and not to make her look thin. I’ve actually seen changes in personalities and body language before trying on the dress and after trying it on. It’s like magic,” states Ali.
While plus size fashion and the body positivity movement has continued to enjoy an unwavering footing in the global arena, the critics state that it promotes a damaging, unhealthy lifestyle (primarily giving rise to medical conditions such as obesity). Just this year for instance, plus size model, Tess Holliday, came under fire for posing on the cover of a popular fashion glossy’s UK edition.
“Body positive fashion is about embracing and loving yourself the way you are, there’s no rocket science to it,” Ali retorts, “The individuals who oppose body positivity are not enlightened enough to realize that plus size fashion does not support a lifestyle that leads to ill-health! We’re supporting a state of mind. All we’re saying is this; you’re unique just the way you are and feeling good about yourself is your fundamental right.”