Where Is Body Positivity and Plus-Size Fashion in the Middle East?
by Rana Elhawary
Over the past few years, the Middle East’s fashion scene has grown in diverse ways. Firstly, the number of designers that are actively present in the region increased and, consequently, the quality and range of available designs and styles produced by said designers.
Secondly, there is a growing number of trend-setting celebrities and fashion icons present in the region. Thirdly, there is an ever-growing number of local designers becoming international. Finally, there are events like Dubai Fashion Week that have placed the region on the fashion industry’s map.
Among these novel presences, however, there’s an equally noticeable absence: plus-size fashion, plus-size models, body activists, and/or people who utilize their presence in this scene to promote healthier body images.
This absence has come to surprise me for one main reason; a message of body positivity or plus-size fashion will highly resonate with Arab women.
I personally do not know of an Arab woman who does not undergo some sort of body-shaming at least once a week.
And when I say body-shaming, this does not just include being called out for being overweight, it really can be anything. It could be being too skinny, being skinny but note toned, being skinny and toned, but not having clear skin.
So we went out and asked some truly incredible and highly celebrated Egyptian fashion designers, who do design for all women, and we asked them why they think this absence exists? What are their biggest challenges with plus-size? What do they think of plus-size fashion themselves? And here is what they had to say.
“I don’t think zero is a size, I think what makes any woman a ‘woman’ is her curves. For me and Temraza, it’s all about confidence; if you make a woman confident, you will make her feel sexy, regardless of her dress size!
It’s not about following trends for the sake of it, it’s about knowing bodily proportions, skin tones, and hair colors. Then it comes down to practicing till you know what looks good on each body type.”
“I design for a lot of plus-size women, and I would have to say that the vast majority of them fall within the older age group.
It can be challenging at times because you have to produce a garment that your client feels comfortable and sexy in.”
From former super model’s like Tyra Banks openly discussing the pressures the fashion industry placed on her as a model; to plus-size models like Ashley Graham who has become a platform for discussing things like cellulite and love handles without shame; to an exponentially growing clan of fashion designers dedicated to producing plus-size fashion, it is very clear that plus-size is growing.
One thing is for sure, all women are openly body-shamed every single day by people in their lives and the media; and the platforms to change this lies within the one industry that takes appearance as its central target. It lies within the one industry that can actually put an end to this name and body-shame game.
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