Growing market for fat couture

Fashion issues: Boublil exports his unique style of flashy clothes for the 'rounder woman' to satisfy ample Britons
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The Independent Online
EDMOND BOUBLIL, founder of the Ronde de Nuit line of couture for the "round" Parisienne, has been hailed as the liberator of much of France's female population, purveyor of joy to the unfortunate and neglected, a man who has transformed a society's prejudices by the strokes of his pen and the creations in his mind.

Mr Boublil has, over the past few years, caused a near-revolution in attitudes toward the larger members of France's appearance-obsessed society.

And now, he is coming to Britain.

The founder of the highly successful Ronde boutique chain, which sells daring, flashy, flowing and extremely confident pret a porter and made- to-measure clothes across France, is planning a fashion show in a London nightclub at the end of the year, and is opening his first British boutique in London next spring.

"London is probably the best market in Europe for my clothes", the 32- year-old designer said yesterday.

"There are plenty of round English women and they dare to dress like no other round people dress."

Women who lunch and just can't stop lunching should take note: Boublil is no ordinary retail entrepreneur.

Shunning tradition, which in France stated that fat women had to "dress in sacks and hide themselves", he has, in the last nine years, produced clothes that have broken all the rules about staying trim and staying glamourous, or getting fat and giving up.

"The most important thing is to get round people out of the ghetto, to dress them like anyone else, with pride and daring," he said yesterday.

"For sure we have changed attitudes in France," he said. "Before, round women were made to feel inadequate or ashamed of themselves, closed in by the rest of society. Now people come to me - people who aren't even my customers, who perhaps can't afford the clothes - and thank me for everything I've done for them."

Boublil's annual fashion shows on the Champs lysees are daring, to say the least. They feature models weighing 18 stone competing for the title of Miss Ronde and the accolade of becoming Boublil's supermodel for the next 12 months.

His move to Britain - he is looking at premises in Regent Street and Covent Garden - has been prompted by a combination of business expediency and, it seems, a desire to free expansive British women from a different type of shackle than that in which their counterparts across the Channel were, until know, confined.

"Round British women are already very daring in how much they show," he says. "Before, in France, large women never showed their arms, for example, while in Britain they are happy to do that.

"But my designs will be a total step away from those which already exist in high-street chains like Evans.

"They will have nothing to do with them."

Existing designers have their market, he said, but they lack flair. "We have to get away from the notion that there is one fashion for the thin, and something else for the large", he said. "I make clothes that large people can wear as comfortably and proudly as thin people."

Boublil, a graduate of the elite Esmod fashion school in Paris, never intended to become a designer for the fat. After an operation when he was 21, he took medication that made his waistline expand and consequently designed and made clothes for himself. He was stopped repeatedly by large Parisian ladies who wanted to admire his outfit.

He started his first line soon afterwards, and has never looked back. Ronde de Nuit lines set their own haute couture trends; tight clothes, bright colours, short skirts and revealing dresses all shoot out of his workshop in suburban Paris, on to the shelves and into the conversation of the chattering classes.

Apart from his main label, where blouses and skirts cost between pounds 100 and pounds 200, he now has a cheaper line and even a (highly successful) wedding dress service.

"It was very different before, I felt ashamed and judged whenever I went out," said Marianne de Carignan, a 28-year-old, amply proportioned Parisian lawyer at one of his shops yesterday. "His designs are so eccentric, you feel like you can go out and be yourself."

A spokeswoman for 1647, the London-based large-sized label owned jointly by Dawn French, said she was unaware of Boublil's impending arrival.