Colors entice, cuts seduce, trends beckon; it’s hard not to be tempted by the chic stores and glittering malls scattered across our capital. However, for some, even a pocketful of cash and a resolve to shop lead to a dead end. “Sorry, we don’t have your size.” It’s perhaps the most dreaded phrase that can be uttered in a store. Yet many are subjected to it every single day.
Our town stores are notorious for rather inconveniently shunning the curvier, heavier clientele. Over the years, we have heard our friends complain about it, our cousin stress over it, many might have experienced it themselves and it is absurd. When stores aboard sell clothes up to 6XLs or higher, it doesn’t make sense that we are limited to only a couple of size options, if any.
Bothra shares her own experience. “Studying and living in Bangalore gave me access to many sizes but when I moved to Kathmandu, it seemed impossible to locate a 32 size pants anywhere. Size 32 isn’t even considered that much of a plus size range abroad, it was ridiculous,” she says.
She further adds that the influence of the Korean style and the Chinese measurement is apparent in the Nepali market. She wasn’t the only one suffering either. Turns out, many of her relatives (who wear bigger sizes than she does) had been going through the same problem. In fact, they had no other option than to wait for acquaintances from abroad to bring them clothes that would fit them right.
It’s true the fashion industry is only just starting to pay attention to plus size women. Most of the designers and even retailers considered plus size segments to be high risk and when asked many trendy shops around Durbar Marg and other malls also shared similar belief. According to them, one of the biggest reason they choose not to stock more size options is that normal sizes always out sell the plus size clothes. Most of the clients tend to fit within the normal size categories and stocking plus sizes doesn’t always result in sales.
But Bothra argues that even though they are in the minority, they feel the pinch. She started Womaniya in July 2016. The outlets are at City Center, Kamaladi and the United World Trade Center, Tripureshwor and she agrees 80% of the people who visit these malls aren’t Womaniya’s target customers. She misses out on them but the remaining 20% is worth something. You can’t underestimate their demand. The sales are going strong. In fact, she shares that after some months of advertising on Facebook when she finally opened the first official outlet, there were around 2,000 visitors on the first day itself.
“When you open a plus size clothing store, turns out, you are not only providing your customers with some stylish garb, you are also giving them their confidence,” starts Bothra. She clearly feels very strongly about this. She insists that just because you are overweight doesn’t mean you have to wear baggy, plain clothes, or jus stick to the color black. When stores don’t provide size options many are forced to make do with just that, but with Womaniya the idea is to help them explore new styles and give them ways to express their personalities.
Many may not realize this but, regardless of your weight, you can stay up to date with the fashion trends. Bothra explains, “If the cold shoulder or the crop tops are trending, the plus-size clienteles should be able to get it too. I am happy when our customers come in expecting to get it here. Sweatshirts are rarely anybody’s first choice. Even though they are plus size, they want a nice fitting white shirt to go with their leather jackets for the coming winters.”
The customers also share their reactions. Bothra talks about how uncertain and shy the women and the girls initially tend to be while revealing their sizes. But when the shop assistants, bring out the required size as well as ones slightly bigger for trial, the faces have been known to always instantly light up. “There have been girls who have actually expressed how nice it felt to finally feel normal and not be ridiculed while shopping,” adds Bothra. It’s not unusual for many shoppers to make it a point to stop by and thank Bothra or the staff after finishing their shopping at Womaniya.
While the sizes at the shop starts at waist size 28 for pants, they go up to sizes 60-68 whereas for tops, the largest are of chest size 56-58. And these sizes are actually bought by people. They aren’t just for show. Bothra reveals that with time, she has decided to focus more on adding bigger sizes because they tend to sell more. She confesses that when she initially opened the store, she thought it would be best to have a section for normal size clothing as well.
This was to avoid risking the investments that she had put in the store. She admits she wasn’t certain whether an exclusive plus size store would be a hit. But, in the past year, all her doubts have been erased. She tells us that at the end of the month the remaining stock tends to be the normal sized clothes.
Boosted by this, she has even started ordering some custom designs into her clothes. While she mostly gets her products from prominent plus size brands in India, she has started collaborating with tailors to add certain tweaks for better fit. She gives examples of some of her pants.
Apparently, she had elastic bands sewed on them so that they can cinch in the belly and make it appear smoother.