Plus HQ expands to a Bricks & Mortar Store in Melbourne…

In April 2012 I had the pleasure of meeting Amanda, a vivacious and passionate woman with a dream to make a difference in plus-size fashion.

I assisted Amanda source plus-size brands for her online store and consulted to her business on all things plus-size.  Amanda came to me with a dream, and in a little over a year the impact she has made is incredible!

Plus HQ the website has been up and running since May 2012, it quickly gathered momentum and fostered a loyal following. Feedback was always positive on the great customer service and quality of the products received. Amanda was frequently asked about opening her own store, and it became clear that there was a big need for another bricks & mortar store catering to sizes 14+.

Now I know personally with my styling & shopping services how frustrating it is to gallivant across the city from suburb to suburb to cover all bases when it comes to building a wardrobe, sometimes the majority of the day is taken up in the car getting from place to place, This is especially true when I’m dealing with customers in the north-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, but now no longer!

On April 24th I was thrilled to be invited to the VIP Opening of the Plus HQ bricks & mortar store in Eltham.  The evening was wet and rainy as I set my GPS to Eltham (a mere 1 hour drive!). From south-east to north-east I navigated my way through peak hour traffic to arrive for the 7pm start. When I arrived the car park was jam packed. When I finally secured a park, I opened my umbrella and bolted across the car park to the store with the lights on – low and behold I discovered at least 60 women milling around excitedly!  WOW what an incredible turn-out. It was clear from the onset that the location of this store was very welcome indeed.

The store is beautifully fitted out with grey/metallic fittings, the bursts of colour come from the incredible accessories (hosiery, scarves, costume jewellery galore and to-die-for handbags & clutches), and racks and racks of fashion clothing ALL in sizes 14+ – a treasure trove for the curvy girl. I was in heaven!

I was welcomed with a glass of bubbly and a tray of sushi was soon coming my way. I squeezed my way in through the crowds and was happy to see lots of familiar faces.

The room was abuzz and Amanda (who looked stunning as always) was radiating “dream come true”!

The inspirational and beautiful Julie Parker from Beautiful You was MC for the night and after a welcome speech from Amanda, Julie took over the microphone for an incredibly empowering speech on Positive Body Image. The room was still as we all listened and identified with Julie’s message.  At the end, the silence was broken as a thunderous round of applause filled the air. Congratulations to Amanda for ensuring such a strong message went hand in hand with her dream of bringing curvy fashion to the Melbourne masses.

“I’m everything that I want, I’m everything that I need, I am enough”,

Julie Parker, Beautiful You.

Then it was on to the fashion parade, four beautiful ladies, not models, just curvy girls of different ages and sizes paraded up and down the packed store wearing labels represented in the store including 17 Sundays and Harlow Fashion.  It was wonderful to see the garments on real bodies, not just hanging on a rack, really identifiable and certainly got everyone talking and oohing and aahing.  It was also fantastic to see that the two Australian Plus-size designer labels, 17 Sundays and Harlow Fashion were present to mingle with the crowds. The level of support is telling as to how passionate these girls are about their product and their designs. I was especially excited to see the girls from 17 Sundays wearing a selection of current stock and a few “sneak peeks” of what’s to come!! Nice one girls!

With the fashion show over, the guests were really keen to get at the racks and have a good look and try. The store was hectic, I took the opportunity to mingle outside the store with a lot of guests. The cash register was ringing away and lots of happy customers were happily showing other guests their stash of beautiful garments.

I love the selection of garments Amanda has on offer, the styles, colours and selection are impeccable, great labels with an accent on supporting Australian plus-size fashion designer labels, and the most amazing selection of gorgeous accessories.

I encourage you all to make the trip to Plus HQ at 9 Dudley Street, Eltham Vic at your earliest opportunity.

Amanda’s online store is also available 24/7 here and it’s $10 flat rate postage Australia wide.

NEWSFLASH: Hope&Harvest are now available in-store at Plus HQ… get on it!

Please tell Amanda I sent you.

Love your shape!

Janine x 

Size acceptance and having a good time…

A very dear friend of mine, let’s call her “M” for the purposes of this post, is in her late 30’s and single. She’s gorgeous, funny and very successful in her life. “M” is always busy, but is always doing something for someone else. She’s actually one of my favourite people 🙂 We enjoy regular catch-ups, usually over dinner and coffee and chats on the phone.

A few years ago I started to gently suggest that she might start thinking about doing more for herself, and perhaps think about dating.  After a bad experience earlier in her 20’s she’d shied away from the dating scene. Recently, I was telling her about a new night that I’d heard about called “Pounce” and she completely took me by surprise and said “let’s go!”.

I can’t say for sure if it was just timing, or if it was the lure of a night that is aimed at plus-size women, but whatever it was, we had a blast and I’m happy to say we’ll be doing it again.

Being engaged, a mum and running a business, I haven’t had to think about going out or how to meet people for a long time. I outgrew nightclubs, bars and parties a long time ago! I can completely understand how entering a disco or sleezy bar can be overwhelming and very confronting, it’s not my scene at all.

When I heard about Pounce I was curious. Not only is it hosted in a “Bar”, but it was also touted to be BBW friendly.   Now this sparked my interest as often over the years I’ve felt uncomfortable in a “meat market” type feel of a venue.

“M” and I agreed to check it out and the 19th March 2013 was the next event.

On the day I’ll admit I was kind of nervous, we arrived at the venue to find that there was a McDonalds immediately opposite. We thought ourselves very clever to park the car directly across from the entrance of the bar aptly named “Whole Lotta Love” in Lygon Street, East Brunswick – so we could scope out the place first! We sat giggling like teenagers, checked our make-up, sprayed our perfume and waited. Slowly but surely we started to feel comfortable, we watched people arrive, couples, singles, groups of girls, groups of guys. What to expect? Tonight’s advertised “theme” is “Chubbyoke!” – mmm should we be offended or excited? Did we dare enter? How would it feel?

After 15 minutes of scoping things out, we took a deep breath and walked across the street and entered the bar.

Immediate impression – relaxed, welcoming environment

Second reaction – OH, I’m one of the smaller women in the bar!?

Third reaction – this feels good

And so the evening progressed, we ordered a drink and within minutes we were chatting and mingling with an array of people – female, male, couples, big, small, tall, short, happy, funny, friendly, straight, gay and everything in between. It was an incredible mix of people and SO MUCH FUN.

The chubbyoke was hilarious, we listened to many brave souls who took the mike and belted out a tune (some even belted out two or more!), there were prizes and lots of clapping, cheering and encouragement.

The feel of the entire evening was relaxed, no pressure, no sleeze, just ease.  Now that’s a great start to re-entering the dating scene!

I highly recommend this night to all of you and I know “M” and I plan to visit again sometime soon.

What made this evening so special? I can’t answer that, was it that it was advertised as a BBW night and I was in a room full of women of all different shapes and sizes? Was it that I didn’t stand out because I was larger? I don’t know. I just know that I would do it again.

I had the pleasure of meeting Julie Ramsay who is the founder of this Pounce BBW Night, and I asked Julie if she’d mind sharing with us a little about her inspiration, here’s what she had to say…

Who is Julie Ramsay?

Wow, I see you are getting the hard questions out right off the bat! LOL. I am simply me. I’m a plus-size powerhouse. I am a SSBBW pin-up web model (the first one in Australia actually).  A philosopher in some ways and an airhead in others. I’m clumsy and always loosing things, but I’m also a complete and utter high-class fashion diva. I love cats, sappy romance novels and plays, old movies and car singing. I hoard lingerie and headbands. I’m frivolous and decadent but also a bargain hound. I live with my boyfriend and have a fondness for vintage Scotch, tattoos and music.

Due to degenerative illness and a severe car accident, I am disabled and suffer from immense pain on a daily basis, but you wouldn’t know it to see me. I stand tall and proud and I’m very loud!

Not that any of that can define someone entirely, but it’s part of me. I stand for what’s right but I sit when I’m tired. I ask for help when I need it but I feel invincible. Simply, I am a contradiction. But aren’t we all? 🙂

What inspired you to found Pounce?

It’s sad that there’s so much prejudice against plus-size people in society. It’s everywhere, and it’s running rampant. Being very large myself, I experience this unfounded hatred quite frequently. But I’m an old hat at ignoring it.

That is until I went to a nightclub (that I use to be considered a regular at when I was smaller) and was treated so poorly that it put me off wanting to venture out in to the club scene ever again. Not only were the intoxicated patrons being horrible to me, but the bar staff ignored me. I made a complaint to one barman that I was being harassed and was told by the barman that I should “waddle off and leave if I don’t like people stating the obvious”.

That made me so mad, I honestly felt like a second-class citizen.

So I started approaching bars attempting to find one that would allow me to host a size-positive club night and I’m sad to say I couldn’t find any that were interested. I just wanted there to be an environment where big women, well big people in general, could party it up. Somewhere they could wear what they wanted and feel sexy and safe and, most of all, free from judgement.

A year or so later my friend Rob announced he was opening his own bar, Whole Lotta Love. He had always been a big fan of the BBW events in the USA when he visited, and was keen to host his own version here. So we thought we would combine forces and we created ‘POUNCE’.

What is the concept of Pounce?

Pounce is quite simply about size acceptance and having a good time. You don’t need to be a plus-size lady or gent to come along, but you do have to be accepting of plus-size people. It’s a safe haven for anyone to come along and have a great night out free from judgement. We have quite a lot of people bring their smaller-sized friends and family along to party with them. It’s great to see a whole spectrum of happy people varying in size, ability, age, colour, gender and sexual orientation dance the night away.

Rob and I run Pounce as a profit-free event. The only cost to our patrons are their own drinks, although we always seem to hand out quite a few free ones. Sure, it has cost us a fair few pretty pennies, but we do it for love. We do it because Australia needs this.  We need to make size acceptance a hot topic.

The last Pounce event was a PJ party, sounds fun! What else is on the agenda?

The pyjama party was awesome, everyone got dressed up and had a great time! We always have a photographer on hand to capture all of our crazy fun events. Make sure you check out the Facebook page to not only find out about upcoming events, but to see how wild our previous events were.

Pounce has some brilliant events coming up. In June we’ve got an 80s party that’s shaping up to be truly epic, the playlist is amazing and so many people are planning to dress up in their glamest 80s attire. Later in the year we’ll be having another round of our hugely successful karaoke – or ‘chubbyaoke’ as we call it. We have a Halloween party on the books, which is always hugely entertaining. And a Traffic Light party – lots of singles ready to mingle at these events.

And I’m planning a second-hand plus-size fashion stall to be held at the bar, with a gold coin donation entry to raise funds for Pounce.  But the best thing to do is keep an eye on the Facebook page to keep abreast of all things Pounce.

Thanks so much Julie, look forward to seeing you again soon – and maybe a few of my curvy readers too?

Love your shape!

Janine x