Plus sizes in Europe are at a crossroads. Once solely the territory of the over 40 crowd, a younger generation of fuller figured women are demanding clothes that reflect current runway and streetwear trends. European plus size power houses like Gerry Weber and Ulla Popken are slow to change, keeping with the shapeless tunic and polyester pant formula that has worked for them for decades. Keeping big ladies from looking dumpy has become a mission of some Nordic businesses. Two trendsetters come from Finland.
In 2012, Suvi Asamoa, the creator of a Finnish plus size fashion brand The Beauty of Lovehandles, took her desire to get plus size women out of sacks and dark colors to India and met with the makers of Bollywood costumes. What came out of that meeting was the label for her brand and what came out of the factory were tunics, dresses, jackets and leggings that oozed the love of color and embellishment that India imbues with Finnish wearability. Rarely are plus size clothes constructed of natural fibers and hand detailing is a rarity but Lovehandles has both.
Asamoa encourages her customers to “express themselves [through clothes] and not to hide but highlight.” Wearing Lovehandles is not for the shrinking violet. Last December at a Finnish plus size event in Espoo (Bring Curvy Back), I saw Asamoa wearing one of her favorite pieces: a bubblegum pink tunic with a hand stitched rhinestone detailing at the neckline. Gorgeous!
While beads and sequins are absent, “Excuse My BonBon,” the brainchild of Sari Hirvonen, another famous Finnish clothes designer, has the same commitment to quality plus size apparel that Suvi Asamoa’s Lovehandles has. Each piece is lovingly made and designed in Finland and the pieces ooze style and quality.
American style setter Tim Gunn put the idea of the need for beautiful pieces of clothes for all sizes into Hirvonen’s head a year and a half ago and she has been unstoppable ever since. High-quality basics, the heavy hitters in one’s wardrobe that one just keeps going back to season after season are missing in plus size fashion, but are found with Excuse My BonBon. Her dresses are far from boring as puffed sleeves, lace, and polka dots punctuate the simple but elegant shapes.
I learned at the Bring Curvy back event in Espoo that the plus size community in Finland is small but growing. Two popular large women’s size fashion bloggers Joanna and Mimmi summed up the event concisely: “The plus size community in Helsinki is quite small, we have to stick together and support each other.”