On June 16th, a plus-sized model runway contest hosted by “J Style,” an online shopping mall for women’s clothing, was held in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul. It was to single out one of the final eight plus-sized models with a chance of signing a contract with the online shopping mall which hosted the contest. Until narrowed down to these eight participants, more than 150 people applied for the plus-sized model of the online mall. With this blaze of publicity, a new wave of plus-sized models has been rising in Korea.
How the plus-sized model industry was formed and developed
As the word itself describes obviously, a plus-sized model is a model who wears plus-sized clothes, usually starting from the size of XXL and above. The plus-sized clothing industry first started off in the United States where obesity has been an increasing problem. According to the NPD, a market research company, the industry is earning more than 200 billion dollars a year.
Therefore, companies began hiring plus-sized models to promote their products, and the related industry got bigger every year in the States. Nowadays, it is one of the main streams in America. For instance, the American sports brand “Nike” employed Claire Fountain and Paloma Elsesser as its plus-sized models in 2016. However, the boom of plus-sized models did not just end up selling products. Rather, it is spreading “Body Positivity” among people by showing their overweight bodies with confidence.
Plus-sized model industry in Korea
While it is a well-known and developed concept in America, it is quite an unfamiliar occupation in Korea. The very first plus-sized model magazine in Korea, “66100,” published by the first plus-sized model, was only established in 2013. Moreover, the related industry in Korea has just started to develop. The motto of the magazine “66100” is “No Matter What, You Are Beautiful.” As seen from the motto, the plus-sized model is not only about selling products but also about awakening people’s concealed self-esteem.
Making its initial step in Korea’s society
Following the move that “66100” made, the plus-sized model industry is making its rise in Korea. “J Style,” one of the online shopping malls where plus-sized models work, recently came under the spotlight of posting a job opening for plus-sized models.
Bae Gyo-hyun (Left) and Yeom Yun-hye (Right) are the plus-sized models of the shopping mall "J Style."
/Photography from J Style
Yeom Yun-hye, who got the chance of working as J style’s plus-sized model, said that “I believe shopping malls with plus-sized models could help consumers who are overweight make better consumptions. First, they can check a realistic fit before buying since the plus-sized models wear the clothes.” She continued, “Furthermore, since they are the major consumer group, the online review section among plus-sized consumers is vitalized, which eventually leads to a better consumption environment.”
Like the case of the United States, the appearance of the plus-sized model is inspiring people to have more self-confidence. Kook Jeong-won, a customer who made several purchases at online shopping malls with plus-sized models commented, “I was quite slim before, but once I realized I had gained some weight, I was intimidated a lot. But seeing these plus-sized models shining with confidence really got me looking back on my days, and gave me courage to even think about applying for the plus-sized model contest.” She also added, “Purchasing clothes from general shopping malls without any plus-sized models is definitely a hard thing for someone like me. Most of the times, those malls only have sizes for small and medium.”
Efforts to fill the insufficiency of the plus-sized industry comes out
Regarding the lack of plus-sized clothes, efforts to activate the plus-sized industry are being made. The Korean Women’s Environmental Network (KWEN) conducted an investigation on 31 different garment brands and found out that only one brand offered clothes for various body types from small to large sizes, bigger than XL. The KWEN also gave a press conference to stress the need for mannequins of various body types and did a performance of exhibiting “customized mannequins” of diverse sizes.
Choi Yu-na (Freshman, College of Police Administration) said, “As for me, I never had any interest in the plus-sized clothes and got a chance to think about the plus-sized people’s hardships. But with such a performance, I could get to know about it.” She additionally commented, “When you consider that there might be other people like me, this kind of actions will eventually add up to the big wave of an activated plus-sized industry.
The diffusion of the plus-sized model industry brings valuable significances
One of the implications regarding the spread of the plus-sized model industry is that it gives the chance of pointing out the “lookism” prevalent in society. Jo Dong-gi, the professor of the Department of Sociology, stressed, “The growth of the plus-sized model industry alleviates the absolute standard for an ideal beauty. However more efforts will be necessary to overcome the lookism since many discriminative systems are still actively remaining.”
More importantly, the movement of the plus-sized models gives people courage to live with confidence and to love their body the way it looks. Professor Jo added, “Plus-sized model industry has a relation with improving the self-esteem of people who are in the range of overweight.”
Kim Seung-hye firstname.lastname@example.org
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