It’s rare when you find a company that sells truly brilliant clothing for plus sizes. Quite often they will dip their toe into the latest trends, or give their audience a fraction of what they want. Me, personally, I love a bit of glitter, a bit of glam and a LOT of sequins. I understand it’s not for everyone, but it frustrated me that clothing in general, and not just plus size clothing, was becoming too safe. Too plain. Dare I say it, too boring? That’s where the lovely Jazmin Lee of Plus Equals comes in. If you love colour, attitude and sequins, her brand is everything you’d ever want! That is why she’s my latest #BossBabe.
Hey! Tell me a little bit more about yourself?
I’m a Brighton based fatshionista, I studied Fashion Promotion at University for the Creative Arts and I was taught to sew by Nana who was a seamstress, as was her mum. For me, fashion has been everything to me since a young age. I was raised in a very creative household, with artists, writers, and it’s always been my form of expression in the bestest and hardest of times.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your talents. What inspired you to start up?
I was struggling with a deep depression in 2015, and I wasn’t enjoying my normal 9-5 (not that I ever have haha). Freelance Styling wasn’t paying me anything, and there was no hope of it ever doing so. I’ve been fat since a young age, I’ve fluctuated and gone down over the years and always remained fashion forward – so I started to try and find my way into Plus size fashion, something I always wanted to shake up, and that’s when Plus Equals was founded.
I’d worked on various projects over the years, I majored in menswear styling, I worked for many years with Brighton Fashion Week, and I adored it. I knew that fashion was going to be my career, but finding my path was a little harder until I started to have a bit of self belief. I do truly believe that harder times lead to sweeter successes and now, I wake up happy and full of hope daily now that I have Plus Equals. I’ve met some of the most amazing and inspirational women in the industry, and I feel I’m doing a job worthwhile.
What’s the best thing about your job, and why?
There’s a few things – firstly the people I get to meet and work with. I’ve made some amazing friends over the last year and it’s lifted me so much. But mainly, I get to push the boundaries of plus size fashion. It’s always been something I’d sit and complain about, I always wanted to make changes and put forth my creative vision, and now I can, and am!
What’s the most difficult part about your job, and why?
The hours are long, I can never really sign off mentally, my brain is in constant overdrive and I suffer with anxiety a lot. When everything depends on you, it’s hard but it’s very rewarding. I have forsaken a lot of my social life, but thankfully I have very understanding and supportive friends and family. I’ve also recently been plagiarised by a big brand; that hurt. A lot. I think it’s always a risk, and I wasn’t prepared for it – so being a one woman show, it’s hard to be a small business vs. A big business.
What do you think sets you aside from your competition?
Everything is designed, cut and made by hand at Plus Equals by me; I think that’s a niche in plus size fashion – I don’t do fast fashion. I try to keep things as sustainable as possible for us and our environment. My designs are meant to last and are real statement pieces, I don’t see many other plus size brands doing things that I do, I want to give people confidence through my designs, I think that’s different from a lot of other labels.
Who or what inspires you?
I’ve always been inspired by the amazing women around me, those here and those that have passed away. My mother, grandmother, aunties, friends. Their strength and courage in life gives me so much, and I’ve grown so much from amazing conversations that came from bad situations. Also pop culture has always been a big part of my life for many years. I’m a huge fan of 80s pop icons – David Bowie, Madonna, Blondie, Kate Bush, they’ve been big parts of my growing up (yes, even in the 90s!) and more recently, with all my soul and being, I love Lady Gaga. She gave me so much hope as a young, fat, depressed teenager and I feel I owe so much of my confidence to her. She made me realise it’s ok to be weird, it’s ok to be me. I’m very inspired by artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Yayoi Kusama. The list goes on!
If you could impart some wisdom to your fifteen year old self, what would you say?
Relax a bit, stop caring what people think sooner, trust in yourself, love yourself and take care of you. Patience is so importantly and everything will fall into place.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you, and who gave it to you?
My Grandpa is constantly trying to help me learn when to say no, I’m a yes woman. I want to please everyone. His advice has always been invaluable to me but sometimes, for our own sanity, we need to learn when to say no.
One of my best friends who runs an amazing, ethical babywear business called Peacheyboo was a huge help in me setting up PE, and still is today, she taught me the value of patience – these things take time! She is and was so very right. On a more public note, every day I try to remember Angela Davis who said ‘I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept’.
If someone wanted to follow in your career path, what advice would you give to them?
Be prepared. For anything and everything! This isn’t an overnight process – it took me in excess of a year to get Plus Equals to launch, and there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. But trust in yourself and your creativity. I truly believe if it’s meant to be, it will be, but don’t get disheartened by the small hiccups, relish in the good and make sure you look after yourself.
Describe to me your perfect work day!
A manageable list of things to do, a rainy day (as strange as that sounds!) and new episodes of some of my top podcasts if I’m at my desk sewing, or if it’s a shoot day – then an amazing team, everyone on time, a good schedule and a banging playlist! I love working on photo shoots, being around fellow creatives is so inspiring.
When you’re not busy working, how do you relax?
Haha I’m not sure I actually do. I have a cat and a dog, so I love taking Harry, my little pup out for a long country walk. I love to swim and do yoga, I don’t get a lot of time for that though, and I love to go for meals with my friends and family to a good pub quiz!
What’s your favourite drink/cocktail?
I love me a Strawberry Daiquiri or a Bombay & Orange Juice!
What music do you listen to when you really need to get stuff done!?
Mainly R&B & Hip Hop, I love breaking out the old tunes from Outkast, Ja Rule, currently I’m obsessed with Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q, but I’m eclectic in my taste, some days it’s all about Dolly Parton & David Bowie, sometimes it’s a true crime Podcast! It all depends on my mood.
Who would you like to work with, if anyone, and why?
Wow I would absolutely LOVE to dress Beth Ditto and Missy Elliott, working with both or either of those inspirational women would make my life!
What’s coming up for you/your company?
I’m currently about to work on the new collection, I’m hoping next year will see me do a few things I’ve really wanted to do since day 1. I would love to do my own show, I’ve worked in production for a long time so I know what I’m doing! I’d also love to do a short film and well, I’ve been talking about that menswear collection for a while too…
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Lookbook: Fizzel Castro Photography
Size Ain’t Nothin But A Number: Elle Martin