Body-shaming is a curse that has been killing dreams and confidence of people world over for quite some time. Unrealistic body images projected by the media and fashion industry have added to this issue. Fitness is a great trend to follow but just being a certain body type should not be encouraged. Unfortunately, most of the fashion brands also cater to a specific body type. This leaves plus size people with not many choices to explore.
Very recently we came across a unique project ‘Pear Perfect’ started by Nuddrat Khawaja and her sisters. This brand focuses on plus size fashion and aims to defy the unreal body image built by media. The aim is to empower them through fashion and establish how beautiful every body type is.
1.Pear Perfect is a unique name. Tell us something about the idea behind it.
Nudrrat: This has an interesting story. During my teen years I used to read Mills & Boon romance novels–lots of them–and when the writer was not using explicit adjectives for a full bodied woman as opposed to a ‘normal-sized’, they would describe her as pear shaped. And in all these stories, the rather large woman is shown battling with her self esteem issues all her life unless the protagonist of the story–of, course a handsome knight in shining armour would rescue the ‘damsel in distress’ and give her the validity of being beautiful. I wanted to dispel that idea. I want to tell our women that they do not need a man to make her feel secure and confident of her body. A woman, no matter how she chooses to look–is beautiful, strong, sexy and ready to take charge of her life. She is perfect in every so-called imperfections that the society tells her. Hence, Pear Perfect.
2. Tell us something about yourself. How did you venture into fashion?
Nudrrat: My sisters and I have different professions. I am media and marketing professional. One of my sister teaches Psychology and the other is trying to figure out the life of an immigrant in Denmark. This venture has been started by me and my sisters out of our own pockets. We belong to the plus size family. Since childhood we have been taught to take care of our weight otherwise “log kya kahain gai.” And they were right! We were bullied in schools by popular, pretty, perfect shaped girls, even teachers would put us down in favour of those girls. Basically we understood the superficial beauty standards of our society at an early age. So, the idea has been a living reality for us! We just needed a push to materialise the idea. And the rude awakening came when my sisters went to a famous brand’s outlet to buy pret clothing as a gift for someone. There were only small sized kurtas on the rack, so my sister asked them if they had any medium size. The salesperson looked at my sister with a suggestive smile and said,
“We don’t keep medium size because we promote healthy lifestyle and fitness.”
Although the brand apologised later, but it was then we decided we’ve had enough and it’s time to take matters in our own hands.
3. You are defying the pre-conceived notions in the fashion industry. How is the response so far?
Nudrrat: I think we, as fat individuals, living fulfilling lives with jobs, social activism, travel and friends have already been breaking stereotypes about body shaming. However, starting this venture was like taking our struggle to a whole new level–making a statement against the existing norms of the fashion industry. Fat is not negative. Fat is not a derogatory term. The world has opened up to the idea of body positivity–that people belonging to different body size cannot be muted for comfort of those that fit the popular narrative. It’s high time that Pakistan industry realises this reality and catches up with the modern, progressive world. And this is where Pear Perfect comes in. Because we like it or not, an idea can only be streamlined in a society when its given a commercial acceptance.
To be honest, we were not anticipating the support that we have received since we made the announcement on social media. Women are sending us messages in inbox, sharing their trauma and suffering of being a plus size woman in this society. The reviews have been really encouraging so far and we realise that this brings in more responsibility. I hope we are able to create a dent in the prevalent culture of body shaming and meet people’s expectations.
4. How do you plan to take your venture forward in the next five years?
Baby steps. Right now, we need to focus on introducing more designs, moving into casual and office wear and then maybe move into lingerie. The idea is not just to make clothes for plus size women. The purpose of Pear Perfect is to introduce designs, cuts, materials that women of other sizes have the luxury to wear. This is going to take some time, as we have no funding and every rupee gone into making this dream possible has come from our salaries. But we will continue with our mission and hope to create a significant change in Pakistan’s fashion industry and our society’s culture
5. Any thoughts and tips for people who have difficulties with their body image?
Nudrrat: Actually there’s this quote by Cheri K. Erdman, author of “Nothing to Lose: A Guide to Sane Living in a Larger Body” that sums up the idea behind Pear Perfect.
“Even the models we see in magazines wish they could look like their own images.”
If you are not happy with the body you have, no matter how much you try to change and conform to society’s body ideals, you will still be unhappy.
We wish Pear Perfect all the best in their future ventures and hope Pakistani fashion takes a positive turn with this revolutionary project.