Over the last few years, two buzz words have swept the internet and started a movement – a ‘body positivity’ movement. This initiative aims to change how society treats body image, encouraging everyone to love their bodies, regardless of skin colour, height and weight. Yet while the movement thrives internationally, here in Hong Kong little seems to have changed. Being thin is the beauty ideal, and plus-size clothing stores are almost non-existent. However, a group of people are quietly starting a revolution, hoping to provide more choices for our city’s bigger bodies.
“I probably know the most ‘fat’ people in Hong Kong”, John Wu, owner of XSXXL.com, remarks with a grin. A large man himself, Wu founded his men’s plus-size fashion shop back in 2007. Inspiration struck on a trip to Japan, where he was surprised to find Levis 505 jeans with a 42inch waist size – something he couldn’t find in Hong Kong.
It’s fair to say John is an expert on larger bodies and the shopping woes that come with them. For plus-size shoppers in Hong Kong, it can be hard to find clothing that fits, and what’s actually available on the rack often leaves much to be desired. Running XSXXL. com, John found that many big brands do offer larger sizes, just not in their Hong Kong branches.
In order to offer more choices to larger people, XSXXL.com searches for fashionable pieces from America and Japan that are available in bigger sizes, introducing more than 100 brands to local customers including One Piece, Adidas, Betty Boop and more. XSXXL.com puts their customers first in every way, carefully selecting designs that are tailored to the needs of bigger bodies. “The fabric should be flexible, slim, comfortable, and durable, at a reasonable price”, John goes on to list more clothing needs of larger people, even acting as a model himself to demonstrate.
Even after 14 years of running his shop, John is still as committed as he was on day one to offer new products every month. In the past decade, he’s seen many competitors enthusiastically start, only to give up halfway. “Honestly, plus-size isn’t the majority market”, said John. “So you won’t be earning big bucks in this business. You have to be thankful you’re not losing money”. Despite this, he has also seen successful up-and-coming talents making a name in plus-size women’s fashion. One such example is Fashion Corner Plus.
Established in 2014, Fashion Corner Plus started as an online store. The owner Makayla Ng has been on the larger side since childhood, and always struggled to find cool clothes in her size. The market caters to older women, so she decided to open a store to give ladies like herself more shopping options. Growing up in a family in the garment industry, Makayla is no stranger to fashion, and even went and got a diploma in fashion after starting her business. She wants Hongkongers to realise that plus-size women can be fashionable too.
The clothes at Fashion Corner Plus are minimalist in design and cater to a younger demographic. From off-the-shoulder tops to see-through fabrics and leather skirts, this is a place of à la mode plus-size fashion. “I never had a shirt that fit me properly. It would fit at the stomach but not the arms, or vice versa”. Even when plus-size women do find clothes in their size, it often doesn’t fit right, which is why Makayla strives to design clothes that are fashionable and flattering. Aside from being the model for her online store, every time there’s a new design Makayla invites other girls for fittings to make sure they look and feel great in her designs.
The Hong Kong market has always neglected plus- size fashion, and for some it’s taboo to even talk about it. Yet looking back on the last five years of running her store, Makayla thinks the situation has definitely started improving. “Nobody ever dared to post a plus-size #OOTD pic back then, but ever since terms like ‘slightly chubby’ and ‘marshmallow girl’ started appearing, people have begun to recognise plus-size fashion”. To encourage more plus-size girls, Makayla even travelled to Malaysia and Indonesia to interview local plus-size bloggers and exchange ideas. She wants everyone to feel they can pursue what they love, regardless of body size.
The big picture
Sadly, despite these incredible efforts, John and Makayla’s voices remain relatively unheard in Hong Kong, with this kind of progression still not at the forefront of many people’s thinking. While the body positivity movement has inspired countless people to be confident and love their bodies in other parts of the world, this isn’t yet the case in our city, as the idealised slim body still reigns supreme in the media.
“When I was in secondary school, my relatives would tell me that I won’t find a job and have no future if I’m fat”, Makayla recalled. She was unhappy for a while but she never allowed people’s comments to get the better of her. “Beauty comes from within, nobody is perfect”. John Wu voices similar sentiments: “It’s more important to have your own style rather than blindly following mainstream society. Whether the outfit looks good or not is a matter of personal preference, not a matter of fat or skinny...you can either cry for days about a harsh comment, or decide to not let it offend you and find the humour in it. ‘Body positivity’ is just a trend and our fickle-minded society can change their mind any time, but how you think and feel is entirely in your control. You can choose not to care about what people say and own your confidence”.
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