One couple’s entrepreneurial spirit and a woman’s drive to make fashion accessible to sizes 12 and up is the inspiration behind a unique Toronto store
“If you don’t like the way you look we just need to change the clothes, not you,” says Karen Ward, who runs the plus-sized clothing store, Your Big Sister’s Closet with her husband Peter Chiem.
The name of the store was inspired by Karen’s two petite sisters who swapped clothes because they were smaller than Karen, who wanted the same experience for herself.
Karen says she wants the store to be an accepting environment for plus-sized women. Both Peter and Karen say they want their store to embody their entrepreneurial spirits.
“I felt frustrated that there were a lack of options for plus-sized women in Canada specifically so I started a blog to document what was available, to put outfit posts to give women inspiration… it led to me organically opening up the store,” says Ward.
Karen started off as a blogger in 2011 with Curvy Canadian. The couple leased the store location at 3126 Dundas Street W. last September and started renovations by October. It was a whirlwind process for them. The couple did many of the renovations themselves and had to find fashionable and practical clothes that would work with women’s bodies while also having a good price point. The store has officially celebrated the one year anniversary of the store’s opening.
Karen recently auditioned to be on Dragon’s Den this year in hopes of receiving support with the store and her plans to open another store in Montreal or Ottawa. She also hope to start her own clothing line.
“We’re thinking Ottawa or Montreal if we do expand. We definitely don’t want to be a one mom and pop shop sort of thing, these are the first steps into growing [the stores] for us,” Chiem says.
Irene Kavita Gomes helped model some of the clothes for Karen and Peter for their Dragon’s Den audition. Gomes runs a blog, Petite Plus Meow, that caters to women who are both petite and plus-sized.
“It’s taken me a long time to really embrace who I am… personality flaws, waistline and all. Creating an environment where seeing different, larger, curvier body types in fashionable clothing living and loving life is something society needs to get used to. There’s no right way to have a body,” Gomes says.