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‘Nobody trains plus size models like me’

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Temi Aboderin-Alao

Before now, western fashion trends tend to alienate the plus sized African woman, almost to the point of stigmatising her body size.

But in a bid to bridge this gap and put the real needs of the average African woman on the runway, Temi Aboderin-Alao launched JP Kingdom in 2012, offering styling service, image consulting, and training of plus-size models under Golden Curvy agency.

Later in 2013, she established a fashion line called JP Kouture by Hadassah, a brand dedicated to designing and producing fabulous pieces using African prints with modern and sultry twist.

The outfit specialises in creating beautiful couture pieces with blend of ankara, sequin, lace and other fabric, with each piece carefully designed to enhance the curves and create elegant silhouette for full figured ladies, making her feel beautiful and flawless.

Just last year, the graduate of London College of Fashion, launched the Plussize Fashion Week Africa with designers attending from the United States and United Kingdom.

The event, which created a platform for standard size designers to embrace the new fashion market for plus size women, was also an opportunity for the designer to be on the runway dedicated to plus size models for the first time.

The idea behind the project, which will be retraining for its second edition later in the year, is to ensure that every plus size lady is beautiful, hence building the confidence of a curvy lady.

“When I started in 2012, there was almost nothing about plus-size. We kept going, even when we got laughed at,” Temi recalled at a media briefing held recently in Lagos to herald the new edition of the runway show.

“At shows, you’ll hear people saying, ‘what are these people going to do? They’re going to fall.’ So, at first when we started, there was the hostility because people will think, ‘oh, you’re promoting obesity.’ That’s the primary thing you will always hear,” she said.

Not deterred by the negative feedback and challenges encountered, Temi, who is also a plus size, kept on pushing in a bid to change the narrative. And with supportive and stylish parents, it didn’t take long before she turned her passion into a business.

“I’ve always grown up being plus-size and my father James Olubunmi Aboderin used to call us princess.

So, that was what gave birth to my initial brand, James Princess Kingdom. Prior to that, my mum has also been quite fashionable.

So, I’ve always had that stylish feel. Obviously, growing older and becoming a mum, I haven’t really kept up with the way I used to be excessive with fashion. But I’ve always had that love for fashion.

It was one of my friends in England that told me that, ‘you need to show people that they can be stylish and plus-size’. That was what gave birth to the JP Kingdom; I was still very much UK-based then,” she recalled.

On the challenges of being plus size, she said, ‘When I was in secondary school in Nigeria, I remember that I could never buy anything from here. I would have to find something from abroad and even then, it was still limited. It really isn’t that case now. Now, it’s everywhere; almost every high street store abroad has a plus-size section now,” she said.

Though some notable fashion promoters in Nigeria claim to have pioneered plus-size fashion in Nigeria, available information shows that Temitope actually set the tone in 2012 when she stage the first plus-size runway show during the launch of JP Kingdom at the Silverbird Galleria, Victoria island, Lagos.

“I’m an introvert; I’m not a person that goes out and networks. I’m also very reserved. Permit me to say, in Nigeria, we brag a lot; people brag a lot and even those that don’t have brag.

I don’t believe in that; I believe that substance is quiet. I’ve been in England all my life, and having that upbringing is very different to how things are here. In the UK, nine out of 10 times, your work will speak for itself; end of story.

But in Nigeria, one out of 10 times, your work speaks for itself. The rest of it is noise and plagiarism. I believe that what I do speaks for itself,” she said.

However, when it comes to designs, almost all Temi’s pieces are trademarked.

“I’m British; I trademark my pieces, but only the ones that are popular. You can tell a design that is popular; a design that gets an interest the most. Then, you go ahead and trademark. You can’t do it for every single piece that you have; it will be too expensive,” she said.

Though not restricted to women only, as male apparels and models also participate, the Plussize Fashion Week is poised to celebrate the African woman’s body, while not excluding zero sized and other sized models and apparels as well.

“There are so many plus-size designers, who don’t have a platform of visibility, so, that’s what Plus-size Fashion Week Africa is. Both designers here and even the ones internationally that want to expand their brand can come and showcase. So, it is for both international and designers, who would not be known if they didn’t have this platform.”

The aim of the platform, she said, is to inspire a new generation of plus-size designers.

“Designers, who do normal standard sizes — when they saw Plus-size Fashion Week Africa — were excited and they extended their range to the plus-size market. It is important because it is not just about my brand; it’s about the plus-size community. It is about everyone and that is why at the beginning of everybody’s runway show, you have a video of the designer talking.”

She continued: “A lot of standard size designers are also opening their doorway into the plus-size market. Another standard size designer, who just travelled was saying that someone in the US ordered her piece off the runway at Plus-Size Fashion Week Africa.

So, the truth is, it’s working. Even if some plus-size people want to be petty and do whatever they are doing, the truth is, it’s going to open the doorway for all the standard size people who want to expand,” she said.

When it comes to training plus size models, Temitope’s Golden Curvy agency is a force to reckon with, having trained a good number of models, who are currently doing well in the business.

“I’ll try and say this with all humility, nobody trains plus size models like me; that’s a fact. Take it and pay into an account, I’m the best when it comes to training plus size models because, it was something I wanted to do myself; I’m a perfectionist.

At a recent plus-size fashion show, it was only the models trained by my agency that the crowd clapped for on the runway.

Not my show, this is another show. There is a difference in how we train our models and how other people do,” she said.


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