Leebex Lesego and business partner Rebecca.
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Fashion for the longest time has arguably been about exclusion. Those who didn't fit into the sample size were cast off like the material that falls from a seamstress's table. But that is no longer the case.

Women all over the world have started asking brands about their inclusivity across the beauty and fashion industry.

It's exciting to see that happening here at home as well, especially in the plus-size clothing industry, which has been largely ignored on the continent most known for curvaceous women.

Two women who've heeded the call and have opted to serve this often-underserved target market are the owners of LeeBex, Rebecca Garande and Lesego "Thick Leeyonce" Legobane.

The business partners launched their brick and mortar store in Melville this past Saturday. Sowetan caught up with Legobane, who is known for her photography, modelling and body positivity activism, fashion was not a business she thought about though she has always loved styling clothing. Finding items that fit became a problem for her as she grew older.

"I struggled a lot with putting together outfits; whenever I'd want something at the mall it wouldn't fit. I always say I've got mall anxiety, I can never go to the mall and have peace of mind, I hate going to the mall coz I know nothing ever fits. And that's how the whole LeeBex thing started, it was a matter of me making my own clothes and people always asking me where I got them," Legobane said.

The shop started off online but this changed as they realised that they wanted to give their customers that walk-in experience.

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"A lot of plus-size women have been indoctrinated to believe that they do not deserve to be fashionable. We wanted to have a physical space where women can feel safe and try on clothes and for those customers who are still shy about shopping online."

The effervescent Legobane has been the subject of hateful comments on social media due to her body size. She was catapulted to international recognition when an individual on Twitter posted a comparison of her and a model, disparaging her. She replied with a feisty comeback that was heard the world over, though sadly this was not the only incident of bullying she's encountered.

"One thing I've taken from people who are cruel is that it's a reflection of who they are and it's got nothing to do with me. I never take it personally; everybody's dealing with something and my mom always tells me that misery loves company and you don't entertain it. Miserable people want you to be miserable because they'll never understand why you're so content with your life."

Legobane acknowledges that being attacked on her physical appearance has also helped her in some ways. Without the attacks, she said, she would never have found out what body positivity meant. Saying that she knows how to stand up for herself in real life, she was shocked by the vehement sentiments on social media. She decided to use her platform for good.

LeeBex has opened a clothing store in Melville.
Image: Supplied

"There are people watching me, there are little girls watching me; how I react is going to play a big role.

"If I let them walk all over me, little girls out there who look like me are going to think it's a norm, that it's OK for people to treat you that way. So I thought I'm going to stand up for myself and promote body positivity and I'm going to educate people it's OK to be who you are and it's OK to love who you are."

At 26, she's achieved a lot such as working on a fragrance campaign with Calvin Klein, but her biggest achievement of all is self-love which she says will teach people how to treat you.

"My biggest achievement is loving myself, I feel like that is the biggest revolution, self-revolution. To love yourself, to accept yourself, for me there is nothing more important.

"If you're not OK with yourself, nothing will be right in your life." 

Silence not golden when it come to your locks

Constant pulling on the hair can cause damage.
Image: 123RF

The haircare industry is as strong as ever. Companies took the shift to natural in their strides, however it seems some customers still need a little help.

One of the things that customers don't do is ask questions. We all assume because someone is doing the work they know best.

Emelang Moyo of Talk of the Town beauty salon says customers should not be afraid to ask their stylists questions.

"I ask my stylist did you get formal training? How did you start braiding? When did you start braiding? Why did you start braiding? I'm actually getting an idea of who I'm dealing with. there's nothing wrong with asking a stylist questions."

These questions help you become comfortable and create a rapport between customer and stylist.

Another thing Moyo feels customers should be clued up on is alopecia, a medical condition that causes hair to fall out in patches. For most people, alopecia is hereditary, yet according to Moyo there is a second type of alopecia that she referrers to as traction alopecia, which is caused by excessive pulling of the hair.

"When your stylists plaits you a straight-back today and the following day, she keeps pulling your hair in the same direction without changing angles," she warns.

Moyo also says to be wary of stylists who plait your baby hairs. Another tip is for customers to be aware of the weight of the hair or hairpiece they purchase.

"On the pack of the weave that you want to put, look at the grammage and that grammage, weigh it with your hair. Does it match? Your hair has to be thicker than the extension."

She says there are stylists who can work with your hair without causing stress to it. Moyo also cautioned against contraceptives that can cause hair loss and hats and doeks that can cause hair breakage because the hair can't breathe.

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