‘In fashion you aren’t taken seriously if you are fat’, explains Jazmin Lee the founder and owner of Plus Equals.
Set up in 2016 it is an inclusive, non-binary plus size brand catering for sizes 14 to 42.
It started with Jazmin upcycling vintage clothes but she felt this restricted the sizes she could go up to, so she decided to make her own.
Through Plus Equals she makes jumpsuits, skirts, dresses and leggings.
She said: “I come from a family of Jewish tailors, very working class with no money so we would mend and make clothes and as the fat kid I had to be creative with my clothing.”
Jazmin’s mum died when she was seven, and her nan passed away four years ago.
“I had been her carer and my nan dying brought a lot of emotions back to me. Grief gives you clarity about what you want to do and I just thought ‘I’m going to do it’.
“My ‘aunties’, my female support network who feel like family, told me about The Prince’s Trust so I applied online.”
Jazmin was matched with a mentor called Mary who gave her the confidence to do whatever she set her mind to.
She also learnt the basics of business from accounting to branding to how to build your business.
“I felt anxious about some things like accounting and pitching but The Prince’s Trust is a great support network and there is no judgement.”
Through The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme in March she won the NatWest Enterprise Award at The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & HomeSense Awards national final.
On meeting Prince Wales she said: “It was surreal.
“He has a wicked sense of humour. He is just a lovely and really has time for people.”
Winning the award was just one of the many ‘pinch me’ moments Jazmin has had. She was encouraged to enter the awards and won the regional finals which automatically put her into the nationals.
“I didn’t want it to be like I was sharing my X-Factor sob story.
“They don’t tell you when you have won so I got a call asking if a camera crew could do some filming on female entrepreneurs. I thought why not, then my mentor Mary came and as they were about to start filming she just said ‘oh by the way you have won the national award’.
“I just couldn’t believe it.”
Jazmin is now a young ambassador for the charity.
“It is great that I can now help others.
“Somebody will have faith in you even if you don’t have any in yourself.”
All of Plus Equals items are made to order so can take from five days to two weeks depending on the order and what fabric Jazmin has.
The models Jazmin uses are usually a size 20, and she makes sure they don’t wear Spanx or that the images are photoshopped.
“I was made to feel growing up that it was wrong to have stretch marks, a belly, be fat or have cellulite and it really isn’t. Plus Equals is about diversity and acceptance.”
Jazmin adds that when she uses the word fat she doesn’t see it in a negative or derogatory way.
“When I say it I am just using the word,” she explained.
“I see myself as a fat activist.”
Plus Equals has recently launched a new line with comedian Sofie Hagan.
“I saw on Instagram that she wanted a jumpsuit so I messaged her and designed one and now we have a new collection.
“It has been amazing, you just have to have faith.”
For more information, visit www.plusequals.co.uk