For plus size fashionistas, shopping in GCC can sometimes be a challenge. Hanane Fathallah started her blog in KSA and has taken it to UAE. Now, she has brought together plus size bloggers to show Middle Eastern women how it’s done. She took a break from breaking boundaries to tell us about plus size fashion in the region.
When did you realize that fashion was your calling?
Hanane Fathallah: I have always been into fashion, it’s just fashion wasn't always into us – the bigger, curvier, taller and plus size women. Luckily, things have changed for the past 7 or so years. And I have witnessed that change, through following plus size bloggers, models, fashion entrepreneurs who were all revolutionizing the fashion industry. I was feeding off this positivity that was never available before. This sense of belonging gave me the chance to embrace fashion again, like I always wanted to.
Why is it important to write about plus size fashion in the region?
HF: It is important to give – Arab, Middle Eastern and Gulf - plus size women a voice, platforms, inspiration, communities, a market. The only problem is that local and regional society embed two types of ideologies. The most popular Arabic comment you could possibly hear is, “your face is so pretty, why don't you loose a couple of kilos?"
There are misconceptions people have about plus size women. For instance, bigger women are not couch potatoes; they work out too, they want to stay healthy but their body shapes are just different. At the same time, not all thin women are healthy. Stereotyping cancels out the possibility for discussion, curiosity and acceptance. Society has a hard time tolerating differences.
What's the plus size fashion scene like in the Gulf?
HF: The plus size fashion scene in the Gulf is small. We depend only on a handful of international plus size brands to cater to our fashion needs. My problem with the scene is the silence. We need a community, one that is constituted of more plus size bloggers, fashion designers, entrepreneurs, spokeswomen, influencers, and more. From the moment I started my blog, I had this goal in mind, to create a community where women like me could find inspiration, fashion tips, shopping destinations, and where they can voice out their needs.
Do you think Middle Eastern culture affects the way plus size women are treated?
HF: We have such a rich culture that it makes me sad not to see any light shed on plus size women and fashion. Women are generally fiercely preoccupied with their looks, weight and physical appearance. The majority is obsessed with the perfect figure, which in reality does not exist. Perfection, like beauty, is subjective. When you say, “this woman is perfect”, what does that mean? Is there a sacred document somewhere that describes the perfect body, in exact centimeters, a special body shape perhaps?
Fat is not a curse word, but society thinks it is. It is obscene to have stretch marks, fat or love handles in their view. You get looks from head to toe and they wonder how can you wake up, dress up and step out of the house, the way I look. In my early twenties, looks and comments would be make me rush home crying. Now my confidence is with me, like my own shadow. Confidence – especially when you are plus size – scares people.
Describe your blog in three words.
HF: Nounzilicious: sanctuary, fashion platform, body positive.
You recently created the Middle East Plus Size Fashion Bloggers community. What was it like to assemble that squad, and why did you decide to do it?
HF: The Middle East Plus Size Fashion Bloggers is an online fashion community and a collective of 10 plus size bloggers who are of Arab and/or Middle Eastern origins. The first keyword that comes to mind when they see us is diversity. We showcase the different faces of Arab and Middle Eastern women within our team.
My concern was that Arab/Middle Eastern plus size women were not represented in the region. In the West, there are so many online communities and initiatives that are catalysts for the confidence level in women. That's exactly what we need. It is all in the aim to reflect an image of a healthy, confident, curvy plus size Arab and Middle Eastern woman.
What tips would you give to aspiring plus size bloggers in the region?
HF: Be 100 percent you! It works every time. As long as you are true to yourself, your vision is clear. We are millions of plus size women in the world, but what makes you unique, what makes you stand out? Personalizing your blog, creating a solid brand name or identity, having a specific mission are initial steps. So be you, don't copy paste, create new content and be original. Stick to your sense of style and let it grow!