She’s been called the plus-size answer to Kim Kardashian. Girls creator Lena Dunham is “obsessed”. And she helped online retailer Boohoo turn around its fortunes: 26-year-old Nadia Aboulhosn is a plus-size fashion blogger who posts photos of herself modelling size 16 clothes on her website and on Instagram, to demonstrate that fashion doesn’t have to be just for the stick thin.
She told Business Insider: “I think [my fans] see me as relatable. People through social media sometimes try to glamorise their lives to make it seem like they have more than what they have, or they’re happy when they’re not. I try not to do that.
“I’m human just like my followers, I have emotions just like them. I want people to come to my page and be inspired with what ever journey I’m on. I want them to laugh and fully be themselves just like I try to do.”
Most of her fans are young females, a valuable audience for advertisers, and Aboulhosn’s reach hasn’t gone unnoticed.UK online fashion retailer Boohoo last year signed her up to design a plus-sized collection, just as the company was reeling from a profit warning.
Boohoo shares collapsed 40% last January after the company admitted that despite increasing advertising spend by 25% in the run up to Christmas, sales growth had fallen from 47% to 25%. The company warned as a result that it wouldn’t make the £17.6 million ($US26.9 million) profit analysts had forecast for the year.
Aboulhosn — with her vast army of online fans who don’t care about billboards — offered Boohoo a different way to pitch to customers through her social media accounts. She posts pictures and links to her Boohoo range across her social media accounts, driving sales.
Boohoo also signed up hugely popular UK YouTube beauty blogger Zoella to market its products in a similar way.
The bets paid off. Ranges like BoohooPLUS and its Petite range helped revenue grow 27% last year and Boohoo hit its revised profit target. It ended up making £11 million ($US16.81 million). BoohooPLUS, which Aboulhosn designs for, now accounts for 2.8% of sales, despite launching just last March. Kane said the company is spending more and more on partnerships with social media stars and celebs after the success with Aboulhosn and Zoella.
Aboulhosn, who has been blogging since 2010, is now working with Canadian retailer Addition Elle and has also worked with UK plus-sized retailer Evans on a jewellery range.
Her success is part of a wider moment for the so-called plus-sized fashion industry, as brands rush to book more unconventional models. In the US, Tess Holliday (size 24) recently became the first woman of her size to sign to a major modelling agency, Milk Management. Holliday has modelled for the likes of Benefit Cosmetics and appeared in Vogue Italia in 2013.
Ashley Graham, size 16, models lingerie for plus-sized store Lane Bryant, and recently appeared in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue in an ad for plus-sized retailer Swimsuits for All.
There has also been a mini backlash against adland’s obsession with skinny models. Adverts across London for Protein World, asking women if they are “beach body ready”, and featuring an unusually slim model, provoked outrage online and protests.
Carol Kane, Boohoo’s co-founder and co-CEO, told Business Insider: “Nadia has a unique style that’s very much her and it’s very Boohoo. It really elevated what we’ve done. She’s got a huge following and of course that’s a great help.”