How I launched an inclusive fashion brand with help from The Prince’s Trust

Jazmin Lee is a young ambassador for The Prince’s Trust and owner and designer of Plus Equals, an inclusive fashion brand based in Brighton.

Ever have the feeling that “I could definitely do a better job?”. Yes? Same. That’s pretty much how my business was born.

Coming out of a long few years of trauma, loss and upset, I realised in 2015 it was time to make serious change in my life.

A passion for fashion

My passion in life had always been creativity and it manifested through fashion.

As a plus-size woman, it was incredibly hard to live my best Lady Gaga-David Bowie fashion lovechild life. I often found it hard to get my hands on bright, beautiful clothing and having it *actually* fit.

I often found myself sifting through charity shops and car boot sales. But at a size 24, it was still a struggle.

As a child, we didn’t have a lot of money, so my grandma always made me think outside the box when it came to funky clothing. We would craft, epicycle and make our own pieces.

All of the hurt and pain in my life led me to realise that there really was nothing left to lose by setting up my own business. So that’s exactly what I did.

Jazmin Lee is a young ambassador for The Prince’s Trust and owner and designer of Plus Equals, an inclusive fashion brand based in Brighton.

Reconnecting with sewing

When I left university with a BA in Fashion Promotion, I had long left my sewing machine up in the loft. It was collecting dust because reconnecting with that part of my childhood brought back a lot of pain and memories. Memories of when my mum was still alive and my grandmother was still well and not needing my care.

I believed so hard at the time that my route into fashion was through styling and that was the horse I was placing all my bets on until my grandmother passed away.

I had shut myself off from the world for about three months and that was when my brain was in overdrive.

My aunty said to me: “You need a bread and butter career, why not use your style and start selling plus size clothes?”

And the other one said to me: “Contact The Prince’s Trust.”

Which is exactly what I did.

The Prince’s Trust

I took part in the Explore Enterprise course which helped me realise that all the ideas I had in my brain weren’t just ideas. They were feasible ideas that could become an actual business.

Throughout the course I learnt about self-employment, the practicalities of it, figures, accounting, branding, marketing and most importantly, how to believe in myself.

It was when I was assigned an incredible mentor, Mary, that I truly began to see that my future was in my hands.

In 2016 I launched Plus Equals, a vintage and upcycled plus-size fashion line catering to bodies sizes 14 to 26.

Things didn’t take off as quickly as I’d hoped initially. We all have this dream that we’ll be the ones to go viral and we will sell out in two days. But that’s not how it worked out for me.

It took a couple of months to get my first sale and even then that was a friend of mine supporting my business.

Things slowly took off. I was scared I had spent a year of my life bringing a business to launch and spending all my money being ripped off by website designers for nothing. But then I had my *aha* moment.

A new direction

I thought my confidence had built, but it was when I was with Mary and finally plucked up the courage to say: “I want to release my own line of designs, my own clothes for more sizes.”

Mary has always had unequivocal belief in me. There was never a shred of doubt in her mind that me releasing my own pieces would be a success.

So in November 2016, six months after launching my vintage and upcycled line I released my own designs.

Throwing myself into the industry was terrifying but when I was fearless, I found true success.

Since that launch, my business has skyrocketed. I was finally able to release work that saw my vision come to life.

This is the thing about business that people don’t always make you aware of. Things change and ideas grow, you can grow.

Adaptability is one of the most important factors of being in business.

Made to measure

I saw my following growing and asking “can I get this in x size?” and as inclusive as I thought I was being, I realised it wasn’t enough.

I extended my range to 14 to 42 and Made to Measure.

I had always seen my fashion as genderless and non-binary, but I realised others didn’t. So I shouted this from the rooftops and started to reflect this in my marketing.

Plus Equals, an inclusive fashion brand based in Brighton.

Be loud, be proud

This is the beauty of self-employment is that you can do these things. You can make it as loud and proud as you want. 

Sitting here, writing this now, I am proud to say that almost three years on from launching my own line, my business has grown so much.

I am shipping and selling internationally.

I’ve seen my designs on runways, worn by people I have admired for years, featured in magazines and papers that I’ve read for years like Cosmopolitan, The Guardian, The Independent and Stylecaster.

I have launched a collaboration line with one of my icons, Sofie Hagen and met so many incredible life-long friends. I have won both the Regional and National Prince’s Trust Enterprise Award and met Prince Charles *twice!*.

I honestly didn’t think I could dream this big, and overcoming depression and anxiety is still a daily practice, but I want anyone reading this to know that you too can overcome anything.

Jazmin Lee set up an inclusive fashion brand

Believe

It’s important to believe that we have the power to change things. And it’s okay to ask for help, in fact, we need it.

We may be working solo, but a support network is so important.

No matter how wild your dreams or visions may seem, just know that someone, somewhere wants it.

Someone, somewhere needs you. You are worthy of making your dreams a reality and you deserve success. 

To find out more about Plus Equals, click here.

Read more: I didn’t know what I wanted to do – but now I travel the world with my work

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