The thing about a blog, dear readers, is that it generally only reflects your own experiences. When it comes to fashion, my experiences are narrow: I conform to many of the expectations that the industry has and I have plenty of money and other privilege that allows me to have “I do what I want” as my dressing up motto. However, for many women – the vast majority, in fact – my narrow experience is a bit irrelevant. There’s lots of reasons that my style experience is irrelevant but let’s start with this statistic: I’m informed that approximately 60% of New Zealanders are over a size 14. Considering that the high street and most designers go up to a size 16, there is clearly an issue here.
Luckily for us, Joanna McLeod got rightfully pissed off about this and has created her own clothing label for women sized between 16 and 30...House of Boom! I went to meet with her to ask her a few questions about her label (and to admire her very handsome kitty, Sebastian). It was an eye-opening conversation, and one that I hope signals the beginning of learning much more about what fashion is outside my own experience.
I always ask designers why they started their label, and it often comes down to wanting to make something they’d actually wear, but with Joanna it was more like: wanting to make something I actually can wear. Have you ever noticed that sometimes life gives you a series of prods? So it seems it was for Joanna, who watched with rising frustration as well-meaning people kept excluding a huge group of people from the experience of fashion. After a series of particularly annoying experiences in close proximity, as well as a lifetime of not-so-micro-aggressions, Joanna said “FINE I’LL DO IT THEN”.
The result is a range of clothes for people who like bright colours, rainbow print, this amazing fabric with gold foil cats on it, pockets, and the comforting knowledge that the person who made your rainbow skirt also got paid properly for it. Joanna is admirably focused on making sure that the clothes are as sustainable as possible (with a focus on design and manufacturing now, and a focus on fabric sourcing a goal) and she’s used natural fibres to make sure the clothes are comfortable and breathable. She explains that many of the options for people over a size 16 are cheap clothes in cheap fabrics (or not-so-cheap clothes in cheap fabrics, let’s be real) and so making sure that you could buy a skirt in actual cotton was a priority.
House of Boom is based on customer research, starting with a survey Joanna used right at the start to help define what people wanted, and that’s reflected in the longer lengths (also handy for people who are tall as well as, say, a size 20. You can always hem a skirt but I bet it’s annoying as a tall person to constantly try on things that are shorter than you’re comfortable with). Joanna has thought about her brand and what she’s trying to do on a level that inspires me. The integrity of her intentions is beyond question, which is vital when you’re dealing with a customer that’s been, frankly, treated like shit for a long time. And for what? Wearing a dress in a size that’s bigger than some other sizes? Since fat is just a feature like height or hair colour, and in a world where we know size is no indicator of health, it’s just unquestioned and lazy prejudice that is creating this disgusting outcome.
Joanna has worked her butt off over the past year to make House of Boom come to life (just a reminder kids, starting your own business while working full time is an insane amount of work). She’s dealt with business decisions, fabric decisions, creating events, setbacks both practical and psychological (her accountant, who seems like a “cruel to be kind” type of dude, forbade her from opening a bricks and mortar store right out of the gate) all so that she could put her hand on her heart and say “I tried to solve this problem”. Plus, it’s a great excuse for a party, so Joanna’s holding her own pop up for House of Boom on 15 and 16 December so that you can try on her designs in real life! Someone buy that kitty dress. Joanna’s also stocking high quality pre-loved clothing in the same plus-size range (which she has named, delightfully, Reboomed), as a further act of sustainability and in a nod to the pay gap for plus size women. Head along, put on that dress with gold kitty-cats on it, feel like an effing queen. If you can’t make it to the pop up, keep an eye out online for stock on the House of Boom site!
House of Boom pop up details:
10am to 4pm on 15 and 16 December at 189a Grant Road, Thorndon
Check out House of Boom, Reboomed, Fancy Lady jewellery, Twigg jewellery, Throwing Feathers jewellery and Fanny Adams underwear
Please bring EFTPOS or credit cards on the day, no cash many thanks!
Event details are on Facebook