Size matters. In fact, it’s fair to say that, in the ten years that I have been writing fashion stories for The Yorkshire Post, the most complained about aspect has been to do with size, usually the teeny size of the models featured, compared with the “normal sizes” of women in general and readers in particular. And, as many readers have, over the years, phoned or written in to point out, the larger the dress size you take, the harder it is to find fashionable clothes that fit, let alone suit.
A new Yorkshire-based brand aims to redress the balance by keeping it real. Based in Huddersfield, Lavitta launched in March with the goal of offering “real fashion for real women” at real value, with prices between £10 & £40. The clothes are fitted on real women not models and the ranges are designed with real occasions in mind, especially workwear, occasionwear and holidays. Lavitta offers clothing in 12 to 24, so it covers a broad range of sizes, by no means all of them known as “plus size”.
“We’re trying to steer clear of the plus-size terminology. We say ‘real’,” says Anand Chima, who co-owns Lavitta with his brother, Anil. “It’s got a stigma attached to it. The lady we are catering for is 40-plus. It’s fashion to fit and flatter, but catwalk inspired.”
There are quite a few companies catering for women size 16 and over, including Evans, Bonmarche, Simply Be, Marisota, Fashion World, Yours Clothing and Fifty Plus, to name a few, while High Street stores Next, M&S, Primark and New Look are among those retailers working hard to offer fashion-conscious clothing in larger sizes. So what will Lavitta bring to the table?
“I feel there’s a gap in the market at the moment for what we’re trying to achieve, which is catering for real women. It’s crying out for a new modern fashion brand. I’m trying to cater for an older demographic, 40-plus,” Anand says.
Huddersfield born and bred, Anand, 27, has a BSc in Management from Manchester University and an MSc in Strategic Management from Cass Business School in London, after which he worked at Clipper Logistics, working on e-commerce brands including F+F at Tesco and Trespass Clothing. Anil, soon to be 25, studied for a BA Management degree at Northumbria University then joined a graduate enterprise scheme before the pair decided to take the plunge and create Lavitta.
Eager to create a fashion-led brand at great value, they sought the expertise of Leeds-based strategic and creative brand consultancy Propaganda, which found that the target market was under-serviced, with more than 80 per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds having internet access, but only four per cent of them believing current brands are meeting their needs online. Meanwhile the over-50s fashion market is the fastest growing in the fashion sector and more than half of size 18 women feel shops don’t offer a range of choices for them.
Lavitta’s response is a launch collection of dresses and separates for this spring/summer, themed under sub-range headings including Tribal Tracks (animal and tribal print dresses, crop trousers and long print tops, broadly monochrome with flashes of red); Blush Crush (a floral print collection of pinks, corals and soft greys); Riviera Sun (vibrant in cobalt blues and turquoises, key pieces including maxis and shorter length dresses); plus Eastern Promise, and the Tropical Days and Fiesta sub-ranges.
There’s a strong print bias with maxis, loose tops and cropped trousers all holiday ready, plus kaftans, tees and knit cover-ups that make perfect companions. There are also some handy, smart, easywear, everyday separates (the £18 zip jersey treggings are an example). Gok Wan recently featured a Lavitta print dress on ITV’s This Morning.
The collection is spearheaded by Lavitta designer and buyer Clive Ovenden and the clothes are made by UK suppliers and also outsourced to suppliers in Vietnam, Bangladesh, China. “Clive’s got a very good relationship with the suppliers. He’s worked with them for a long time,” Anand says.
Our fashion shoot took place at The Mansion, Roundhay Park in Leeds. It’s a Grade II listed Palladian-style mansion house set in more than 700 acres of stunning lake, wood and parkland. The 19th-century building was restored between 2004 and 2009 for £8m, and it’s a favourite venue for weddings and special events, so it provided the perfect setting for our special occasion inspired shoot (with Julie, a professional model from Sheffield, hair and make-up by Anna Stephenson). So too did the quite mesmerising Roundhay Park, where you can find speciality gardens that have featured down the years at the Chelsea Flower Show (in case you’re missing the fabulous BBC coverage we’ve had this year). As Lavitta’s motto reminds us: “Life’s an occasion, dress it”.
All clothes from Lavitta at www.lavitta.co.uk
Photographs: Simon Hulme
Styling: Stephanie Smith
Hair & Make-up: Anna Stephenson at www.annastephenson.co.uk
Model: Julie Lowery at Boss in Manchester
Location: The Mansion, Roundhay Park in Leeds. Visit: www.dine.co.uk/venues/themansion or call 0345 450 4545.
To find out more about the speciality gardens, visit www.roundhaypark.org.uk.