Sustainable Fashion Label Founder Lora Gene on Why Size Inclusivity Matters

"Our mission is to leave women empowered and ready to create global change."
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Credit: Zsuzsana Palmai

I’ve spent over a decade educating the masses on sustainable fashion and the many social intersections affected by the fashion industry.

As the founder of a business that centres on responsible living and a mindful and reflective lifestyle, Lora GENE is much more than a brand. It is a lifestyle concept, combining womanhood and community. The mission is to leave women empowered and ready to create global change.

READ MORE: The Sustainable Drop: This Month’s Most Exciting Eco-Friendly Fashion Launches

My women, the women I serve, are very strong characters in very different ways. Leading their own life for sure; free from prejudice and frames and perhaps free from the societal pressure to be something she doesn’t see herself being. The gene woman doesn’t embody a social norm, and will, always look beyond what’s in front of her.

Lora Gene size inclusivity
Credit: Zsuzsana Palmai

Uma Dress in Royal Blue, £115, Lora Gene – buy now (available up to size 28)

I recognise without reservation that the power of my position means I have a duty to speak on matters that concern women and the inequalities that can damage and disarm us.

I often receive messages of gratitude from people who say what a relief it is to find their size with ease or just feel like someone actually sees them as they are and has no demands. That someone is a trained dressmaker, that is supposed to objectively recognise that women bodies (and men’s too) evolve and change.

How damaging is it to have to navigate the structural violence and the internal dialogue, anxiety and trauma that can come with the shopping experience? When we live in a society with its strong, burdensome, social narrative that tells us we’re just not the right fit.

Why Are We Still Talking About Size Inclusivity? 

The reality is that not all clothing lines are inclusive.

When I posted an image on Instagram on the 29th of July about inclusive fashion, I had imagined it would cause some interaction and debate.

It wasn’t particularly controversial in my opinion, but the topic of size inclusivity is still drawing in such oppositional perspectives in the fashion world, and I won’t avoid addressing it.

The post simply said: “If you are trying to make an inclusive range but you keep on explaining why it costs you more to dress bigger women then even if you get the garments right, your message is not. ( Not sure which is worse).

“If you don’t know how to do it, you are not prepared, you can’t afford it, you don’t want to…whatever your reason is, don’t justify it with women, please.

“Perhaps be honest about your own limitations?

“Petite women don’t cost less, bigger women don’t cost more, all of them require the same attention and care if you want to have an inclusive clothing line.

“So stop.

“Not cool, don’t do it.

“Thank you!”

I find it ludicrous that there is still an argument about whether people deserve to be considered and respected enough in fashion and design to expect a trauma-free shopping experience.

We get a lot of messages from customers that are happy to have found our clothing, which definitely shouldn’t be as niche and exclusive.

Garment making is before all else to serve the wearer, isn’t it ? There is no second-guessing when it comes to what you’ll get at Lora GENE- quality, consideration and inclusivity are part of our makeup and our origin story. 

We didn’t jump on a trend with our range of sizing, nor do we expect praise for it. It simply shouldn’t be that someone wearing a bigger size is penalised by reflecting that cost in the price of that product.

READ MORE: 9 Sustainable Fashion Brands That Make Beautiful Clothes To Order

Aja Barber wearing Lora Gene black dress
Credit: Stephen Max

The Black Umi Dress in Organic Cotton, £109, Lora Gene – buy now (available up to size 28)

Why We Can’t Let Brands Explain Their Poor Choices Away 

Some designers argue that because a garment requires more fabric, the cost should be accounted for by the person needing to buy a larger size. But why?

If you truly invented yourself and your brand identity with women in mind; to uphold women, respect them and promote equity and womanhood, how can you discriminate from one woman to another?

Not to mention the average costs of materials, because let’s be honest – brands don’t calculate costs per pieces, but per unit.

There are perhaps people that will argue that it takes more work, because the garment is bigger. I say this argument is audacious, but mostly not true. Our main technologist is a UK size 20 woman and we are both prepared to have that debate in public.

People need to recognise the power in the collective. You’re within your rights to ask questions and challenge businesses to do better, but the responsibility of asking brands for inclusion shouldn’t all fall to the consumer either.

Businesses must hold each other accountable as well, which comes with transparency between brands. There will always be some things that are created in a more sustainable and environmentally conscious way and in order to work towards a global shift, it really is imperative for us to review what we make and how.

THE MIDI SLIP SILK DRESS
Credit: Marta Literska 

The Midi Slip Silk Dress, £110, Lora Gene – buy now (available up to size 28)

Plus-Size/Inclusivity, What’s The Difference?

The idea of plus-size clothing is a discriminative one, in my opinion.

To say that something is plus-size normally begins and ends with the three standalone designs a company adds to their clothing range, as though people requiring a bigger size were an afterthought.

It completely causes a divide – not togetherness. One becomes the exception, and the exclusion of that group sadly becomes the norm.

The fast-fashion industry has caused so many problems, and the justification of charging more for a bigger size is one of them. It’s simply not true!

Inclusivity, on the other hand, is something that is a natural occurrence for people and businesses that respect and live by it; not running to include it as a poor PR attempt.

Several smaller and up and coming fashion designers reached out to me regarding this, and I have to say, for bespoke pieces from designers that are “one-person bands,” being transparent about how your processes affect your price is completely valid.

However, for bigger brands and as smaller businesses grow – we really need to reflect on our approach to design and consider the opportunity we have to change the face of fashion.

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So, What’s The Call To Action?

As a company with B Corp certification, we value environmentally friendly approaches to our practice, but that doesn’t mean excluding groups to save costs. It means using my integrity and being transparent about what it is we do well and what we can do differently.

Aja Barber wearing Lora Gene
Credit: Stephen Max

The White Forest Coat, £219, Lora Gene – buy now (available up to size 28)

Any small business in the fashion world – or any industry for that matter, will probably tell you – it’s a fight every day to keep up with big corps. 

In the fashion industry, the core strategy of everything is to have a major season because, at the end of the day, seasons do change.

The human element in what we do, however, that connects people with a face, not just a name, is the way we advocate for people.

When we released a capsule collection earlier this year with Aja Barber, the partnership evolved from a discussion addressing the same things – the lack of inclusivity in the fashion industry, the way we consume, and the lack of diversity as a whole.

People are tired and frustrated with coming up empty-handed in the search for sustainable fashion in plus-size ranges.

The conversation goes beyond size; there are historical and oppressive patriarchal systems of power that still dictate a lot of what we see today in fashion and influence our buying habits.

If there was one thing I could tell you to keep in mind the next time you’re questioning a company’s ethics it would be this – there is power in the pound and where you choose to spend it.

Lora Gene is the founder of sustainable fashion brand Lora Gene. Shop Lora Gene at loragene.com

Lora Gene is teaming up with Give Your Best UK for the #PowerOfGifting campaign. Their pay it forward initiative invites customers to gift unused clothing directly to women in less fortunate situations. All women who gift clothing to the platform will receive a 20% discount on any item in the Lora GENE collection and a complementary Lora Gene Beauty gift box. Read more about the campaign here.