‘One One Three’ is not your typical clothing company. Founder and creative director, Najma Ali, launched the brand after deciding that enough was enough -‘plus-size women deserve to feel as great and confident as any straight size woman.’ In September 2015, Conlumino reported that the UK plus-size fashion market was worth £5.4bn. This might sound like a lot but when you consider that this accounts for a mere 12.4% of the overall clothing industry you can see where Najma’s exasperation came from. Spotting the obvious gap in the market she decided that if she couldn’t find what she wanted, she would make it herself.
Founded in 2012, the company want women to celebrate their size, not shy away from it. They want to create what is not currently available for plus-sized women and bridge the gap between the two very separate fashion industries but most importantly, they want to break down the norm and prove that 1+1 doesn’t always have to equal 2 when there’s a little bit extra involved. Sometimes, 1+1=3.
Speaking exclusively to SANT magazine, we caught up with creative director Najma Ali to learn a little bit more about the exciting new brand and the plus-sized industry as a whole.
Where did the brand name and idea come from? How did it develop?
‘Our society view a straight shape as being normal and fat as being wrong. We wanted to change this. In a normal world, 1+1 = 2 but in our world, when you have a little bit extra, 1+1=3! We like to celebrate plus-sized women. For us it isn’t about ‘being fat.’ You are who you are. Embrace it. For us it’s about being confident and feeling great in your own skin. We aren’t trying to make clothes bigger to fit plus-sized women. What we’re doing is taking certain elements of trends and adapting them to suit and flatter our bodies. We aren’t going to look good in the same clothes that a straight sized woman will, and we’re acknowledging that and moving with it.’
What inspires you?
‘Anything and everything! We want to create what is not currently available for plus-size women and to do this we are constantly thinking outside the box. We are obviously very trend focused, but we also just create clothes that we would want to wear!’
What was your background before starting the company – Did you have any previous knowledge of the fashion world?
‘I was a business student and always knew I wanted to run my own company. I found it hard originally. No one wanted to make our clothes at the production level of a new business, so eventually I decided to start working in our own factory. It just went from there really! Now we produce clothes for a lot of really cool brands, like Urban Outfitters and Ragged Priest, as well as producing our own collections. Having a skilled tailor working with me alongside my business background meant that we understood that there was a great business opportunity here to produce great clothes for these companies, as well as boosting our own collection.’
Do you feel that the plus sized fashion industry is completely separate to the fashion industry?
‘Yes absolutely. I think plus-size clothing is viewed as very dated. Mainly because it is! It hasn’t caught up with straight sizing clothes yet, in terms of both the quality and quantity. What we want to do is bridge this gap. We want plus-size women to be able to wear fashionable, on trend pieces and to find them easily! We don’t see the separation between plus-size and straight as a bad thing though, we view it as an opportunity. We believe plus-sized women deserve to feel as great and confident as any straight sized woman. Being plus size is not a bad thing. We embrace it at One One Three, and this is how we want women to feel when they put on our clothes!’
Do you think there are enough plus-sized companies in the UK and do you think there is enough being done to make companies such as yourselves known?
‘No. There aren’t enough companies and I don’t believe that enough is being done for our market. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing and trying to make an impact on the industry!’
It seems that the high-street has improved a lot in recent years in the way of accommodating all sizes. Are luxury retailers and brands being left behind?
‘As a whole high-end luxury retailers tend to promote a woman who has a near to unimaginably unrealistic figure for most women, so of course they’re neglecting plus sizes. Although, recently a lot more brands have started to accommodate the plus-size industry.’
Where do you see yourselves as a company in five years time?
‘First and foremost I would love for us to have multiple concession stores. But I would also like to see us expanding to have a global reach, as we’re providing something that isn’t out there at the moment. We all see this company as a game changer for us, but a life changer for women. We want women of all sizes to be able to express their style and individuality through our clothing. We want to be the one stop shop for plus-size girls – the store that they immediately think of when they need a new outfit, whether it’s for a birthday or a wedding. We want to provide everything from clothes to accessories.’
Can you talk us through your design process? What goes into each item of clothing?
‘We start with our concept boards. All our initial designs are developed from there. We then look at our consumers and think about what they’re looking for and what they need, and take this into consideration before going any further. Once we have done this, we move onto the fabrication and colour schemes, creating a mock-up of the product. Further adjustments will then be made after the model has come in for fittings. This process can go on for quite a while, until we feel like we have created the perfect product.’
Every season we put out four core collections – two per season – however, we also do two or three smaller seasonal collections. For example this summer we have our swimwear and festival collections. Because of the timescale you have to work to in fashion, we’re already in the middle of producing our Christmas collection, as well as designing our SS17 collection!’
Describe your clothes in five words.
‘Confident, fun, fashion forward and sassy.’
Who is your ultimate fashion icon?
‘I have two. Solange Knowles and Rihanna. Both these women are definitive style icons for me; however, I wouldn’t say that my brand necessarily reflects this. Sportsluxe trends have been a big influence for me this season, but what I really want to do is make our clothes as iconic as these women are.’
Finally, if you were not designing clothes, what would be your alternative dream job?
‘A restaurant owner! I love food. I really enjoy cooking, so if I wasn’t making clothes then I would definitely love to do that.’
One One Three’s SS16 collection is available now at oneonethreeonline.com
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Words: Charlie Robertson
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All images from PR at oneonethreeonline.com