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Plus Size Fashion

This Plus Size Fashion Brand is Catering to the Stylish, yet Underrepresented Woman

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Well known fashion brands and designers are slowly including plus size fashion options. It seems the fashion industry has finally realized that there are full figured women that want stylish clothing.

One plus size fashion brand that already understands the importance of representation and is reppin’ for these women is Maria Paulina. We chatted with founder, Ana Lombo to learn about her business and her thoughts on the plus size fashion industry.

SB: What inspired you to start Maria Paulina?

AI: About 6 years ago I was getting married and I wanted to wear something that was representative of my Angolan heritage to my rehearsal dinner. I wanted to honor the two strong women that I descended from, my grandmothers Maria and Paulina, by wearing prints that they wore.

plus size fashion
Founder: Ana Toomer
I went online and purchased an Ankara print dress. I waited three weeks for the garment to arrive (as it was made to order) and when it did I was so disappointed! The dress was a poor fit and of even poorer quality. It took me another three years of not being able to find quality, ready-to-wear African fashion before I launched my own brand.
Maria Paulina arose from my desire to provide plus sized women that are of African descent or just love bold prints with culturally relevant and modern styles that flatter their curves. 

SB: What have been the most challenging and most fulfilling experiences of your entrepreneurial journey so far?

AI: The most challenging has been learning the apparel manufacturing business and speaking that language. Manufacturing apparel is a highly involved, intricate process which coming from the consulting and finance world I underestimated.
In order to ensure the quality of each garment we have to be involved in each step of the process. The most fulfilling part of this journey has been seeing my garments on actual women! I love that our garments have been so well received and it makes all of the work and effort (and sleepless nights) worthwhile.

SB: What do you think is the most common misconception about plus-size women?

AI: The idea that we can’t wear what we want. A lot of brands feel like they have to craft this whole new line geared towards plus women. But what if they offered the crop top they already carry in a size two, in a size twenty four? Plus size women aren’t seeking to be unicorns we just want brands to recognize our existence.  

SB: What are your thoughts of the lack of representation of plus size women in the fashion/modeling industry? 

AI: I think it’s bad business. Everyday we hear about brands closing their doors and I think its because they aren’t adapting to the reality of the market.
Most American women are a size fourteen and up, and plus size apparel sales were $20 billion last year. Plus women want sexy on trend apparel just like their smaller counterparts.
Why are more designers not catering to this under-served market? Its confounding but the industry can’t afford to continue this way for much longer.

SB: If you could wake up tomorrow with any business skill, what would it be? 

AI: I would say marketing in this social media age is a skill that is crucial. I come from an Accounting & Finance background so its something I’m sharpening each day.
I’ve learned that to have a successful eCommerce business you have to devote about 30% to building a good product and about 70% to marketing.

SB: Where do you see your business in 5 years

AI: In five years our goal is to expand the brand into luxury brick and mortar retailers and bring our Afro-modern designs to a broader market. 

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

AI: Be persistent and be hungry. You will face every roadblock you can think of (i.e. money woes, lack of support, poor planning, embarrassing missteps) but push through.
Don’t get comfortable. Take the time to celebrate your wins but keep your eye on the next prize. Additionally, you can’t do it all. Don’t try. Some things have to be outsourced so that you can focus on what you do best.
Visit Maria Paulina here to see more!



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