Plus size shopping in the Middle East has yet to hit its stride and we just can’t wait!
The UAE is setting all kinds of records and has been known to be a trailblazer in very many domains and businesses; however, the plus-size market is still woefully behind. Globally, the plus-size fashion market is over USD 400 million and it is slated to grow to over USD 600 million by 2026. There are plus-size-focused brands and accessory labels in most mature markets but while there is a distinct market and wallets of every size here in the Middle East, we still have a long way to go. Most plus-size people in the Middle East are still getting their clothes tailored to fit especially since most brands available here don’t go above a size L. Most desirable brands in fact don’t even go beyond M. Size disparity in clothing is a global issue all its own but plus-size clothing is described as sizes XL and up.
Many international brands go up to 6xl but going up to 4xl is the most common. Locally, however, we aren’t quite as spoiled for choice. The few options we have are based on luck and persistence of going through racks and racks of clothing at Brands4less and keeping an eye out for deals on H&M+ and ASOS online. It is quite tempting to turn to Shein and its limitless and cheap offerings of all kinds of clothes in all kinds of sizes, but being aware of the brand’s terrible human rights record and the huge environmental damage they are responsible for makes that a no-go scenario. Dima Maaytah, a sustainability consultant says “Our shopping choices become virtually nil if you choose to be eco-friendly. Most of the options available are either fast fashion or bespoke designer wear. One isn’t ecologically sustainable and the other isn’t economically sustainable.”
This is not just true for the biggest sizes but also for the L and XL category or the mid-level plus sizes. And it is not due to a lack of market size. Elizabeth Cama, a legal secretary says, ”In most sales, bigger sizes are always the first to go. So many shop assistants have told me that there is a big demand for bigger sizes but they just don’t get enough stock! If you ask me where I like to go shopping, the simple answer is nowhere!”
So if there is a significant market, there are no issues with logistics because Dubai is very well connected and there is definitely no dearth of clothing suppliers; why is the demand not being met? Rania Al Shamekh, a shipping network manager, “I genuinely think most fashion distributors and resellers are all waiting for someone else to make the first move. They should be taking the chance and being the first ones in order to be able to monopolise the market instead.”
So we’ll wait here on the sidelines and try to order clothes through shop and ship and find designs on Instagram ads and get them replicated by local tailors just like our trailblazing moms did before us.
But we’ll keep shouting out into the void, “We’re here, We’re big, sell us awesome clothes too!”