It’s quite a common perception that fashion is only intended for those with a perfect body, and because of this mindset there are many people who think that they don’t belong to the fashion world. Fact of the matter is, this isn’t a Barbie world we live in, where everyone is perfect. In reality, people come in different sizes, shapes and looks. How they choose to cover their body, now that’s fashion.
As a plus-size man, I can speak from personal experience and observation on this issue. Like any other people out there, plus-sized men too are always on the look for ways to look fashionable and presentable. Many of us have succumbed to the challenge of having to shop for clothes at regular retail stores—an experience that almost always leaves us feeling self-conscious. From mass fashion brands such as Zara and Mark & Spencers to department stores such as Metro and Sogo, the only available sizes for my kind of people are usually either Large or Extra Large. When the size options stop there, especially for fitted cuts, it gets a bit tricky.
That’s why I have decided to ignore the ‘ready to wear’ market and switch to custom-made clothes instead.
In a metropolitan city like Jakarta, fashion shouldn’t be limited to what is sold on the racks, and thank God it isn’t. Depending on your budget, you can actually make fitted clothes that will definitely make you look better and give you a boost of confidence. The choice is yours, from famous fashion designers to the tailors at Mayestik fabric market, who can make a bespoke shirt ready in only two days’ time. Add to that little accents such as scarves, pocket squares, bowties or hats, and you’re ready to go.
To all the big men of Indonesia out there, fret not. A little savvy dressing is all you need to look sharp. To find out just how to do that, I spoke with three prominent fashion designers from SKY.inc, Arturro and Iwan Tirta Private Collection.
Founded by Andrea Risjad and Amot Sjamsuri, SKY.inc is a hip fashion brand with bold and urban characteristics. Whether through simple T-shirts or head-turning jackets, SKY.inc always projects an aura of originality and masculinity.
When it comes to fashion for plus-size men, Sjamsuri says, it’s best to start by doing some soul search.
“It’s all about one’s personality. Darker colors might work better for plus size men but it doesn’t mean we should be afraid of bright colors, as long as it is suitable with the personality. No matter the size of a person, as long as you feel good and comfortable about yourself, then you will be at your best! It is important to be yourself and not to try too hard. What we do as a designer is to help a person look their best. In our experience dressing plus-size customers, it is important to first understand what they like and want before interpreting this into the design process,” says Sjamsuri.
I personally agree with Sjamsuri’s notion of finding authenticity and uniqueness. Fat or skinny is just a matter of physical difference. The case of looking good has nothing to do with it. Instead, it is about personality and our comfort level.
It’s something Arturro agrees with. “First and foremost, I want to make my client feel comfortable! If he’s comfortable in what he’s wearing, then it will bring out confidence. Each person has his or her own lifestyle, which I take into consideration before I start designing. From there on, I will choose the right fabric with color and/or prints that are in line with my design philosophy,” he says.
As one of the most celebrated designers in Bali, Arturro has always instilled in his creations a sense of confidence and boldness, evident through his use of strong prints and colors.
Having launched women’s beachwear and evening gowns, the Indonesian-born fashion designer then ventured into men’s fashion world with his iconic print pants and suave blazers. Fans have sworn by the comfort of his designs—wrinkle-free light fabrics for summer and fluid wool or silk-mixed fabrics for winter.
Preppy looks work for plus-size men, says Arturro. Why not pair fitted shirts with high waisted trousers and accentuate the look with suspenders? Other details such as belly button positioning, large lapels for jackets, dark and monochromatic colors, as well as spread collars for the shirt are elements that can spike up one’s looks.
“It’s better not to tuck your shirt in if you’re not wearing any jacket. Wear fitted clothes and avoid saggy clothes. Do wear large lapels and avoid stripes or colors that are too bright. For blazers, it’s better to go with two or three buttons with fitted sleeves, to give a shade of shape and diagonal slit pockets. Finally, a pair of noticeable shoes is crucial to finalize your overall look,” says Arturro.
Last but not least, plus-size men also need to master the secret of looking good in formal attire, which for Indonesians, leads us to none other than batik.
“A big batik motif is always good for plus-size men to convey a bold look. In my opinion, men in fashion are quite simple. They don’t need much variation of styling, but rather, meticulous details. Vertical lines often help to camouflage the less flattering parts of the body. On the other hand, choosing the right color helps to emphasize your best features. In batik, we have many ways to do this by choosing the right color and pattern,” says Era Soekamto, the principal designer of Iwan Tirta Private Collection, a high-end batik fashion house that focuses mostly on men’s collection.
Indeed, at Iwan Tirta Private Collection, patterns are a big part of design. The bigger a batik pattern, the higher the status of the person wearing it. Paying homage to ancient royal Javanese heritage, every pattern in this fashion house is highly unique and has been around for centuries.
While the choice of patterns help, it’s also just as important not to overlook the importance of one’s mindset. In order to look good, Sukamto says, we have to feel good about ourselves. “Regardless of the patterns, in the end it all comes back to one’s character. In this case, it’s very important to find balance in design and styling,” she says.
And she’s right. In the end, the attire is only a means. It all comes down to how we perceive our personality and act on it. Skinny World, get ready for some serious fashion invasion!
Erza S.T. is a plus-size man known for his personal sense of fashion. He is also one of the few plus-size men in Indonesia who often walk on the fashion runway for major brands such as Jean Paul Gaultier, SKY.inc and Iwan Tirta Private Collection. To find out more about his personal fashion style, you can follow him on Instagram: @madame_exotique