Plus Equals by UK designer Jazmin Lee is about diversity and acceptance

  • United Kingdom

Whether it’s expressing our personalities or shaping our confidence, our personal style is the ultimate form of self-expression. However, what if the clothes that speak to you don’t come in your size? This is a problem that many plus size women face — one that the $2.5 trillion global fashion industry is still learning to solve (or, in some cases, recognize). But, as the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” So when 27-year-old Jazmin Lee couldn’t find clothes that made her feel good about herself, she decided to take matters into her own hands and create them herself — and the plus size brand Plus Equals was born.

When Jazmin Lee couldn’t find clothes that made her feel good about herself, she decided to take matters into her own hands and create them herself — and the plus size brand Plus Equals was born. She had some royal help along the way, as she received the National NatWest Enterprise Award from The Prince’s Trust just last year.

“It was surreal,” said Jazmin on about her meeting with the Prince of Wales. “It is wonderful how he makes time for the people.”

Lee’s flair for fashion can be credited to her family, as her grandmother and great-grandmother were both seamstresses. When the British designer couldn’t get clothes that suited both her dramatic sense of style and size, her grandmother taught her how to make her own at a very young age. Her knack for resourcing later found its way to thrift stores, as she started combining unique pieces she’d discover with basic plus size ones to construct clothing that was true to her identity.

It wasn’t until her mid-twenties that Lee reached her true turning point in the fashion industry. After losing her grandmother and realizing her creative purpose, she built Plus Equals. The fashion brand pushes the boundaries in so many ways — the eighties inspired clothes are distinctly bright and bold. Jazmin is a big fan of the eighties icons like David Bowie, Prince, Blondie and Grace Jones.

The sizes range from ten to thirty-eight; and all pieces are modeled by plus size women and men (because the clothes are gender-neutral). No matter your pro-nouns, Plus Equals welcome shoppers of all genders & will always proudly do so.

“I wanted my brand to reflect that. I made the entire line non-binary about a year ago because being as inclusive as possible is the most important thing to me.”

The models Jazmin uses are usually a size twenty and she makes sure they don’t wear Spanx or that the images are not photoshopped.

“When I was growing up, I was made to feel that it was wrong to have stretch marks, a belly or have cellulite and it really isn’t.”

Plus size fashion is finally having its moment, as more and more people are becoming mindful about the importance of diversity on the world’s runways and racks. The fashion industry is slowly embracing the idea that style does not come in a certain size or shape, and that all women must feel recognized in the clothes they wear.

Plus sizes used to be an outlier in the industry, but today, more brands are providing stylish, everyday wear that fit women, instead of going at it backwards and forcing them to fit in smaller clothes. This has opened up a new and exciting array of options for today’s practical and stylish fashionista. For its part, Woman Within has come up with chic outerwear options for this spring, with a lightweight jacket that’s great for transitional weather. With various colorways and so many other styles to choose from, brands like this have made their way into the closets of real women — not just cookie-cutter figures.

The plus size fashion game is not only reaching everyday women, but catering to their everyday activities, too. Brands are broadening their scope, as plus sizes are finding their way into different categories like swimwear and active wear, for instance, the sustainable sports bras from Girlfriend Collective go up to size XXXL. Meanwhile, many swimsuits now come in sizes in the 30+ range.

The truth is, there are still many walls that need to be broken down in the industry. Nevertheless, the courage and creativity of plus size women like Lee show that there’s still hope for radical change in the fashion industry.

“My end goal for my brand is to create local jobs for young creators who have struggled, and pay them a fair wage. I want to create social change around how we’re seeing bodies, and not just plus-sized women. People of color, LGTBQ+ communities as well.”