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This unpleasant incident, however, later spurred Lerato Huma to open her own fashion label for curvier girls.
Huma, a 31-year-old fashion designer from Vosloorus on the East Rand, says that she grew up pretty naïve about different body shapes and sizes, and it wasn't until several years ago on Guy Fawkes' Day that she realised she was one of those considered "plus size".
"We had dressed up for Guy Fawkes, and wore silly clothes and stuffed them just to celebrate the day. So one guy approached me, touched my bum and asked me if I had stuffed anything in there as part of the comical costumes we wore, and I told him that I hadn't stuffed anything in there. He may have been joking, but that really left me feeling bad about myself," she recalls.
From that day forward, she felt very self-conscious about her body, and started dressing to hide her body.
"I was never a skinny girl growing up, and there never really was anything on the market that catered to my specific body shape. My mom used to buy me jeans and tops, but they would either not fit well, or not showcase my body in the most flattering way, especially my bum. So when this guy remarked about what a big booty I have, I started wearing clothes to cover up this body that I perceived to be out of the ordinary, and not attractive."
After studying fashion design years later, Huma went on to create the HL brand that caters to the needs of plus-sized women as she understands their needs on a deeper level. Her shop is in the Johannesburg CBD.
"I think that is what makes me unique as a designer, because I have been there. I have experienced the frustration of not being comfortable in one's skin, not understanding your body and having the urge to cover it up, because it was outside of the scope of what was considered beautiful. Most fashion designers claim to design clothes for plus-sized women, but tend to make clothes for skinny women, just in an extended size, and that is guaranteed to not be flattering on a curvy girl.
"Plus size comes in different shapes, and the designer has to take all of that into consideration. I had to first study different physiques and body shapes, and can confidently say that I make clothes for women that align to their body shape perfectly. Some women like to show off their hips, some like to cover their arms, . or some want to show off their waists, and I cater to those women effortlessly, because I know exactly what they are talking about."
Huma also strives to break the mindset that plus-sized women cannot show off their bodies.
"Plus-sized women also want to show off their shoulders, their waists and their cleavage, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The clothes that I make are not only about stitching you into a dress and you walking out the door, but an education of how a plus-size woman can look sexy . Also, a lot of plus-sized women think that showing off your body equals to showing a lot of skin, having things hanging out and just being ratchet in your style of dress . It's either too covered, or too exposed, and they need to realise that it is not about dressing for your body, but your shape."
Huma's prices range between R400 and R15000, the cheapest item being a peplum top and the more pricy being her wedding gown collection, from R8500 to R15000.
She describes her aesthetic as Afrocentric, and buys a lot of her tribal prints from the Oriental Plaza, and from shops in Pretoria and the Vaal.
Huma says a perfect example of a plus-sized woman she would like to get her hands on and style is Idols winner Noma Khumalo, who she says is a typical example of plus-sized women being stuffed into clothes that does not enhance her beauty. "They keep putting her in skinny girl's clothes, just because her size is available in them. She deserves good fitting clothes to match her amazing voice."
PLUS SIZE TOP SHOP SPOTS
Other local labels catering for plus-sized women:
1. Captive8 House of Fashion: Although claiming to be fashion forward and edgy, this label caters for sizes 16 to 24 and focuses more on comfort and the right fit.
2. Donna Claire: Whether it's for beachwear, corporate sass or a night out with the girls, this retail label is a favourite among women with curves.
3. Curvolutions: For drop dead, sexy lingerie in all things lace and satin.
4. Plus-Fab online store: specialises in custom-made glamorous pieces.