navabi and the Era of the Curvy Woman

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Bigger women have never had it easy. Shunned by the society at large, denigrated by the media, and labelled an epidemic by the medical community, they don’t even have fashionable options when it comes to clothing. The notoriously curve hating fashion industry has always treated larger women as invisible or occasionally as grotesqueries, existing only to add an outre touch to runway shows and editorials. Then, in late 2009, Glamour published a tiny photo of plus model Lizzie Miller posing nude, and the world exploded.

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Spread after spread followed, in publications like V, French Elle, and French Vogue – all three of which devoted an entire edition each to curvy models; designer Mark Fast even sent size 12 and 14 models down the runway during London Fashion Week. The plus sized woman had finally arrived. Since then, even though the high fashion industry’s sudden love for larger women has cooled down somewhat, fashion retailers have realized the buying power of the market, with brands and stores catering to the segment popping up everywhere, offering trend-led and stylish options, and straight size brands expanding their size ranges. However, a commonly held gripe about plus fashion has always been the lack of quality – most of what is available on the High Street is designed to be “fast”, or in other words, not last for more than a season. Enter navabi.

Outstanding women in equally outstanding designer fashion

navabi started off as a brick-and-mortar boutique in Aachen, Germany way back in 1999. Founded by Maryam navabi, it stocked fashionable options for women in sizes 12-28. Almost single handedly, Maryam helped countless plus sized women in Aachen dress fashionably in high end designer clothing. In 2008, a team of 6 people decided to take the concept online, fuelled by coffee and a dream to dress “outstanding women in equally outstanding designer fashion”, and so, navabi, as we know it, was born. navabi eschews the popular notion of cheap, fast fashion, and instead, focuses on high end designer pieces which are tailored to fit curvy bodies just right. They carry over 120 brands and designers, including the biggest names in plus size fashion today, such as Anna Scholz, Carmakoma and Elena Miro, as well as hard to find names like Roberto Cavalli White, and accessories from brands such as Fendi and M Missoni.

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Reconsidering the outdated ideal of beauty

In the past 4 years, navabi’s star has ascended spectacularly. A presence to reckon with in the European high end plus size market (including the UK), navabi has reached this far by providing the plus community with a positive, audience friendly and forward-looking experience, working with fashion bloggers for their Curvy Blog Awards, organizing conferences such as Curvision, and most famously, executing their “Finally navabi” campaign. During Berlin Fashion Week, 2012, when designers were sending size 0 models down the runway, navabi sent plus model Mariesther Venegas down the streets of the city, wearing nothing but a pair of high heels.

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Quoting from the German constitution which says, “No person is to be unfairly disadvantaged or favoured because of his gender, descent, race, his language, ethnic origin, and beliefs, his religious or political views,” navabi issued a statement which said that while the constitution makes no mention of size, women who wear larger sizes are rarely catered to by the fashion industry, detailing the extent of the discrimination. “This woman, wearing a size 20 (UK), exudes self-confidence and joie de Vivre,” they said. “It’s something to reconsider the completely outdated ideal of beauty.” The media and the plus fashion world went wild about the campaign, applauding navabi’s stance.

A market leader in high end plus fashion

navabi has not just wowed the plus size community, but the business world as well. In just one year after being founded, they had started making a profit, and in 2010, received the “Germany’s Startup Business of the Year” award from Internet World Business Idea, where they were judged not only by a panel of business experts, but by 3500 users as well. The same year also saw them raising $814k in seed funding from DuMont Venture, a subsidiary of German publishing company DuMont Schauberg, and business angel Klaus Wecken. In 2011, they were funded again in a Venture round of $2.8M by Parisian VC firm, Seventure Partners and DuMont Venture.

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Speaking about the investment, Dr. Wolfgang Krause of Seventure Partners said, “navabi has shown that it has implemented the business plan extraordinarily well, and it has also established itself as one of the leaders within this market in Europe.” navabi currently operates in about 30 countries worldwide, although they are still based out of Germany. With their philosophy of catering to the needs of women beyond a size 0, navabi has proved to be a positive and influential force in the words of both fashion and commerce. “Women with curves are beautiful,” they say, “and these women should have options.” Keeping their focus firmly on high end designer options, navabi has thrown open the doors to the most exclusive in plus fashion to curvy women worldwide.

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