The push for plus-size fashion has been a slow and steady one over the past few years. Yet a majority of the brands which offer an extended size range — including brands like BooHoo and Pretty Little Thing — promote fast fashion, relying on the terrible working conditions of unkempt labor factories, as well as adding onto today's severe waste problem. According to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, the fashion industry is responsible for 92 million tons of waste deposited into landfills every single year.
This presents a heavy dilemma to environmentally-conscious plus consumers: How can you support sustainable fashion when, most of the time, your only option is fast fashion? That conundrum is precisely what Hours — a new plus label that launched on June 18 — wants to fix.
"Because the climate is changing so rapidly [and] fashion is such a large contributor to the world's pollution, we wanted to make sure we were being responsible in everything we were designing and in every area of our supply chain, from the manufacturing at the fabric level to every single button that goes on, the suppliers that we work with, how we're shipping the goods, what we're shipping the goods in, the packaging — everything," explains Naaz Gulati, creative director and co-founder of Hours. "Every decision we make, sustainability is always the main factor in that decision."
Gulati has worked in fashion for over 10 years now, starting off in menswear before joining Ralph Lauren as an associate product manager working on both men's and women's clothing in 2013. Early last year, she and Hours co-founder Harroop Gulati Kaur — who is new to fashion, coming from a background of management and consulting work with major corporations — began discussing the lack of diversity in fashion, particularly when it came to body inclusivity. The two are sisters-in-law (Kaur is married to Gulati's brother) and come from a fashion heritage with many family members working in the business. "There was a complete disconnect from what I saw in design rooms than what you would see just walking outside the office," says Gulati. "We do live in New York and it's so diverse [here], so it is sort of second nature to us."
After surveying the plus community and researching the market for luxury plus womenswear, they were certain that creating Hours was the next project they wanted to work on. First, they decided to make it plus exclusive; then, they vowed to make it sustainable.
The meaning of the name of the label is twofold: On one end, it aims to represent the brand's mission to give the plus community something that is theirs, something that is (h)ours. On the other, it serves as a nod to the hourglass figure. The brand's initial collection ranges from a size 14 to 28. "We really want to be able to provide our one hundred percent attention on the plus-size women and their body," says Kaur. "Really being able to focus on these women and give them what they need instead of just extending sizes and having them be a sort of afterthought...was [really vital to us]."
The collection is filled with minimalist clothing basics for any wardrobe. "We really just wanted to cover all the bases, but still make it with high quality, beautiful, sustainable and luxury fabrics," says Gulati. Dresses, coats, sweaters (all with pockets), as well as blouses, tees and more in mostly neutral colors ranging from $38 to $178 fill the debut collection. Gulati and Kaur chose to focus on crafting designs for their launch that could be easily worn in many different scenarios.
Every piece from Hours is made using upcycled fabrics in order to reduce waste. Production is held in factories that do not use child labor and that comply with all local labor laws. "A lot of the waste that is produced from the fashion community comes from the fabric level, so just using upcycled fabric alone, that reduces the amount of waste that is produced significantly," says Gulati.
The feedback they've received so far has been overwhelmingly positive. "These women are smart, they're educated. They want to make the right decision and to have those options, and unfortunately they don't have that available to them,” says Kaur.
Until now. The designing duo are already working on their fall collection and planning for many more to come. They hope to expand to a size 40 going forward, as well as to explore ways to further their dedication to sustainability. Gulati and Kaur hope to set a precedent for future plus brands, showing them that ethically-made clothing is more than just possible: It's vital to the future of fashion.