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On the plus side: Jade Campbell fills an XXL gap in the menswear market

Disappointed by the lack of options for people his size, plus-size Campbell took his sartorial needs into his own hands by creating his own brand

19 June 2022 - 00:00
The brains behind the brand, Jade Campbell.
The brains behind the brand, Jade Campbell.
Image: David Cannan Photography

While many might love a trip to the mall or filling up their cart in the name of retail therapy, the experience can be a nightmare for others. Not everyone is represented in fashion, especially  plus-size shoppers. 

As more designer brands and retailers try to accommodate the needs of shoppers who aren’t featherweights, the world is opening up to creating clothing for all sizes. While it might be exciting for some to enjoy the varied yet cheap options from Shein, many other plus-size designers are also coming to the fore.

One of these is Jade Campbell, the founder of his eponymous brand.  Campbell started his business as a way to revitalise menswear for the plus-size market.

It was the combination of a healthy lifestyle and exercise that birthed his design dream. After losing 22kg Campbell found that he had limited options, especially because he still had a heavy build.

“I always knew that I was gonna be a big boy,” says the designer, “it’s just in my genes and it's not from eating unhealthy because I am an active person.”

A 22kg weight loss is no small affair so naturally the drastic shift in his appearance was worth celebrating. But there was a disappointing lack of options for people his size in menswear.

“I love to express myself by the way that I dress,” says Campbell, who credits his confidence as a big role player to feeling confident in his own skin.

Activist and model, TJ Ngoma, models for Campbell by Jade Campbell.
Activist and model, TJ Ngoma, models for Campbell by Jade Campbell.
Image: Supplied by Jade Campbell
Model wears design from recent collection.
Model wears design from recent collection.
Image: Supplied by Jade Campbell

“But when I went shopping I was limited to tracksuit pants or joggers – there was just nothing for my body type.”

That’s Campbell took his sartorial needs into his own hands by creating his own brand. Noticing how “the South African fashion industry does not consider plus-size fashion” he sought to fill in the gap with more appealing options. Campbell’s designs range from colourful to minimalist and have a unisex appeal. His items include popular staples like leather jackets, on-trend pieces like logomania two-piece sets that have often resonated with the Gen Z crowd as well as custom pieces that buyers can add their own spin to.

As SA’s “first plus size-model” Campbell has first-person knowledge of how clothes maketh the plus-size man. Something he found validating with the many plus-size male models he worked with.

“It’s nice to know that it’s not just me who feels this way. The assumption was that it’s more of a thing for plus-size women while plus-size men were forgotten completely,” says Campbell.

During the hard lockdown Campbell resurged into the fashion space with a bag collection that would help introduce the brand to newer audiences. While they’re still in development phase, the accessories will take on a classy approach while still retaining the Jade Campbell edge.

Plus size male model and designer, Jade Campbell.
Plus size male model and designer, Jade Campbell.
Image: David Cannan Photography

“Fashion isn’t about what you wear but how you wear it. I have created this label because I want people to feel included and that they matter. I want it to feel like a form of armour for them and to no longer feel they are excluded.”

But he doesn’t stop at just making clothes for plus-size men. His campaign, Plus Is Equal, aims to encourage societal views on plus-size people. With almost no bigger bodied models on billboards or fashion geared towards them Campbell hopes he can encourage more people to change their mindset through this campaign, which is being run in collaboration with Radison Red in Cape Town and PR Agency 20 Across.

This is especially important for Campbell, who in discussions with his models found they are often judged by an unsympathetic society that assumes their shape is a result of  overeating and ignoring other reasons why a person can pack on a lot of weight.

“It takes you back to so much trauma for people who are not included because of how they look,” says Campbell. “So I’m going to be the game changer because fashion is for everyone. Everyone should be able to express themselves in the way and form they want. If I can be a part of creating that it will be a job well done.”

Campbell will launch an online shop soon that will also offer his brand’s shoes.


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