Jada Sezer: 'I don't want to be a model. I want to be a role model'
This Friday, a comfortable size 16-18 fronts the first plus-size alternative to London Fashion Week's skinny-fest
Susie Mesure writes interviews, news and features for the Independent on Sunday, Independent and i, and has done for the last ten years or so give or take two lengthy maternity leaves. She is interested in just about any topic, especially anything Scandinavian, food, or consumer-orientated, and used to be the Independent’s Retail Correspondent
Sunday 10 February 2013
The mere mention of "plus-size" fashion is enough to trigger an avalanche of images from Evans shop windows. But the reality is that on Planet Fashion, anyone bigger than a size 8 – yes, really – is dubbed "plus-sized", an anomaly that the start of London Fashion Week on Friday will only serve to underline.
Which makes it all the more refreshing to meet Jada Sezer, one of fashion's fastest-rising stars. She greets me fresh from a test shoot with the retailer ASOS, has designers queuing up to get her to wear their clothes, and will spend this weekend fronting Britain's first "plus-size" alternative to LFW.
But you can forget about calling her a model. "I don't want to be one," she insists. "I want to be a role model." That's not something you often hear from someone involved in an industry criticised for the negative messages it sends out to young girls, yet Ms Sezer is talking sense.
A curvy size 16 to 18 – her words, not mine – she is determined to use her body to show the world that what are, after all, just average-sized women look as good in clothes as the whippet-thin girls so notoriously favoured by the likes of Karl Lagerfeld.
"There is a huge public demand for cool, funky, fresh clothes that a bigger-sized woman can wear. People associate plus-sized in a negative way, as something that is frumpy, old, outdated. But I want to get people thinking outside the box and portray plus-sized women in a certain light."
The 23-year-old psychology graduate will get her chance on Friday and Saturday, at the British Plus Size Fashion Weekend, in Shoreditch, east London. It's been timed to coincide with LFW to highlight the absurdity that top designers ignore the vast majority of the world's population.
Ms Sezer is the face of the event, which will showcase the latest plus-size collections from brands including Simply Be, Carolyn de la Drapiere, Curvissa and Pauline et Julie. She'd rather not be: she'd prefer to be walking the same catwalks as, say, the current Vogue darling, Cara Delevingne.
"Ultimately I'd want to be on a catwalk with straight-size models rather than do something exclusive," she admits. But for now, she's just happy that the plus-size industry is gaining momentum here. "Growing up, I never saw women like this," she says, referring to herself. "People clap for Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez being curvy women, but they're size 8 to 10, and they have personal trainers. I've never seen good, cool, curvy women. Sometimes magazines throw in a plus-size model as a goodwill gesture, but they're not taken seriously."
She says her nine-year-old niece already idolises her, but admits that's unusual. "What would help? Seeing more images of what I do. If she sees someone my age looking as cool as Rihanna, rather than modelling for Matalan, that would appeal to her."
Although agencies exist to represent curvier girls, and brands such as H&M and ASOS are leading the way with ranges for larger figures, Ms Sezer says modelling jobs are "limited" for anyone much bigger than a 12 or 14. Debenhams is planning a new campaign to try to change things but progress is slow.
Ms Sezer adds: "For a lot of people, it's frustrating when you can't find clothes to fit." Top Shop is particularly bad. "Even their size 16 for me fits more like a size 12. Whoever their fitting model is can't possibly be a size 16. That's the brand I'd love to be the face of one day. That, for me, would represent real change."
The Plus Size Fashion Weekend was dreamt up by the 25-year-old designer and entrepreneur Remi Ray. "If I can just build confidence in one lady then that's my job done," she said yesterday. "Plus-size is always seen in a negative light as standing for obesity and for people being unhappy. But millions of women are plus-size and feel comfortable."
Caryn Franklin, the fashion commentator and body-shape campaigner, yesterday welcomed the event, but added: "I'd like to see this integrated into London Fashion Week itself."
There are parallels with the ethical fashion movement, which started on the fringes but is now something that the British Fashion Council, which runs LFW, pushes through its Estethica initiative. No one from the BFC was available to comment on whether the same thing might happen with the plus-size event.
Ms Sezer had her own message for Lagerfeld, who has provoked controversy with his jibes against larger women, which include calling the singer Adele "too fat". She said: "That's just so ignorant. You never know [if you can design plus-sizes] until you try. There are some beautiful plus-sized women out there who are toned and in proportion."
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