Making a case for plus size fashion: MULU

May 26, 2023 | By Rupkatha B

Making a case for plus size fashion: MULU

“My business arose out of the need to solve a problem. I used to go to the gym five times a week and loved powerlifting,” said Kanessa Muluneh, Founder and CEO of plus size activewear brand MULU. A segment within fashion that’s estimated to be worth $696,712.1 million by 2027, according to Allied Market Research.

How engaging in fitness activities can be an impediment – I wondered. What was the problem?

Pat came Muluneh’s response, “I was plus size.” [For understanding, plus size in fashion refers to garments size 16 and above, or sizes stretching from 1X-7X.]

“Weightlifters are usually bulky. The problem was finding the right clothes so that my underpants would not be visible when I lifted weight. Five-six years ago after giving birth to my first child I gained a significant amount of weight. The struggle to find clothes that I could fit into was real. The largest clothes I found in Europe was XL (extra-large). So, during my maternity leave I decided to make my own clothes,” she recollected.

On receiving positive feedback and request to source similar garments, Muluneh realised there could be a business case eventually leading to the launch MULU in the Netherlands as an e-commerce platform in 2018. Offering clothes ranging from size M (medium) to size 7XL MULU empowers women to dress the way they feel comfortable as opposed to “fitting in.”

After gaining resonance in the European and North American markets, MULU has recently opened an office in Dubai to meet the increasing demand for plus-size fashion across the Middle East and Africa region.

Data indicates that 31% of women in the UAE are now either plus size or above size L (large), which stands at 42% in Saudi Arabia. Yet, finding clothes that fit plus-sized women well is still a challenge. MULU is keen to solve this problem in the region.

“The Middle East is a large market. Our reason for choosing to open an office is the UAE is strategic that will help us to expand within the region while opening doors in new markets including India, Pakistan and African countries,” Muluneh shared.

While currently the brand is operating online, the founder is in conversation with local distributors to get into retail stores. “By the end of 2023 I aspire to open a flagship store in the UAE. We are also keen to expand to Saudi Arabia,” she added.

However, beyond the fitness conscious, gym going cohort is there really a growing demand for plus size apparels making the business model viable?

“It’s actually a huge market,” Muluneh said. “While I didn’t have much knowledge about the fashion industry before starting MULU, what I observed [a few years ago] was jerseys that women wore at my gym were sizes medium and above. By now it must be sizes large and above, as 50% of the global population is heading towards size large and above. In the US, almost 70% of the population is plus size, while it is growing in the Asian and African markets.”

Yet, plus size remains a largely overlooked category within fashion, even in the US market that has been ahead of geographies like Europe and the Middle East. So, there is huge growth opportunity.

On the other hand, if 50% of the global population is really plus size it’s a growing concern.

“When I started the brand, I often got asked if I support obesity. The short answer is ‘no’. One of the reasons why plus size people don’t feel confident to work out in the gym is because they usually don’t have proper clothes. I stopped powerlifting because I didn’t have proper clothes. Psychologically it has been seen that when people start gaining weight, they find it hard to accept it. There is often denial despite a lot of effort towards raising awareness about body positivity.

Yet only 1% of brands from the fashion industry offer plus size clothes. What is keeping brands away from offering plus size collections?

Citing a few reasons Muluneh said, “The rate of return for regular size fashion wear is around 30% whereas plus size can go up to 80%. A reason for that is lack of understanding that body shapes of people who wear plus size isn’t similar to one another. It can actually be very different. It has made me realise how difficult it would be to work with non-stretchy fabric to support different body types. The only other alternative is couture.”

Having built a community of likeminded people, over the past five years MULU has grown although the founder emphasised how she has consciously steered away from using traditional promotional methods.

“It’s conversation after conversation with a focused group of audience that helped me perfect my product. Community has played a big role for my business. For example, by speaking with people I understood that if I launch something colourful the range won’t sell as much as black and other dark hues. As opposed to popular perception, slimming effect has nothing to do with colour as much as the fabric of the clothes that people wear. So, when I launch something colourful, I create content around it with suggestions to encourage my audience to try it out,” Muluneh explained.

“In fact, having gone through my own weight loss journey and having lost 70 kilos in a couple of years, whenever I wore my products and people saw me losing weight my sales skyrocketed. There is a huge psychological piece to the plus size market that we must try to understand and support as opposed to manipulate,” she concluded. 

Previous Article Next Article



Elmoataz Obada, Co-Founder, Monkey Distribution

The power of pop

From butter beer to brooms. Dobby themed coffee mugs and keychains to 

Continue Reading

May 6, 2024 | By Rupkatha B
Malina Ngai, Group Chief Executive Officer, AS Watson Group

Watsons to open 20 new stores in the GCC

In 2020, global health & beauty retailer AS Watson Group signed its 

Continue Reading

April 29, 2024 | By Rupkatha B


Spinneys has announced the launch of The Kitchen by Spinneys, its first-ever 

Continue Reading

May 20, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau

In a move set to redefine the landscape of the Fast Moving 

Continue Reading

May 16, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau
Sunil Kumar and Ali Saeed Juma Albwardy, Spinneys

One of UAE’s leading fresh food retailers, Spinneys has announced its intention 

Continue Reading

April 19, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau
Laura Manning, Managing Director & Founder, BRW Society

Launched in 2019 by Laura Manning, UAE-based homegrown brand BRW Society completes 

Continue Reading

April 5, 2024 | By Rupkatha B
Rajiv Warrier, Chief Executive Officer, Choithrams

Since the launch of its first store in the UAE five decades 

Continue Reading

March 20, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau
Dr. Dhananjay Datar Chairman & Managing Director ADIL Trading Co. LLC

Dr. Dhananjay Datar Chairman & Managing Director ADIL Trading Co. LLC holds 

Continue Reading

February 29, 2024 | By Rupkatha B
Hani Weiss, Chief Executive Officer, Majid Al Futtaim Retail

In 1995 regional retail conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim introduced Carrefour to the 

Continue Reading

February 26, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau
Prashant Parameswaran, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Tata Consumer Soulfull

Tata Soulfull, a leading name in the ‘good-for-you’ snacks and breakfast cereals 

Continue Reading

February 22, 2024 | By Rupkatha B
Jean-Luc Graziato, Chief Commercial Officer of Majid Al Futtaim – Retail and Alia Al Harmoodi, Acting CEO of the Environment, Health and Safety Agency

Majid Al Futtaim – Retail, which holds the exclusive franchise to operate 

Continue Reading

February 20, 2024 | By RetailME Bureau
Krishna Dhanak, Managing Director, Alpen Capital

In an exclusive interview Krishna Dhanak, Managing Director, Alpen Capital shared insights 

Continue Reading

February 19, 2024 | By Rupkatha B
Majed M. Al-Tahan, Co-founder & Managing Director, Danube Online

As digital transformation across the retail industry continues to accelerate, the expectations 

Continue Reading

December 19, 2023 | By RetailME Bureau
Frederic Levy-Perrault, CEO, Al Raya Supermarket

Saudi Arabia-based grocery retail chain Al Raya Supermarket serves over 100,000 customers 

Continue Reading

December 15, 2023 | By RetailME Bureau

Download Images RetailME Magazine