The power of being bold

Self-care has become a hot topic as of late, but what about self-love? Loving yourself is just as important as looking after yourself, and with frequently unreasonable expectations and concepts of perfection, it can be very hard to love yourself for who you are.

Each person is unique with their own strengths and weaknesses, but what matters most is that you love yourself for who you are, regardless of how you fit society’s mould. This is the message that entrepreneur, business strategist, and body positivity advocate Ranjula Herath is trying to emphasise, both through her body positivity platform Flabulous, as well as by being her most authentic self in all aspects of her life.

Herath’s educational background lies in marketing and management, having previously worked in the education and fashion retail industries. As a child, Herath developed a unique sense of style and a strong sense of self. This combined with a passion for inspiring through positivity, empowerment, and style, led Herath to develop Flabulous.

The importance of body positivity

Ranjula Herath

Growing up, Herath was never petite. She was born overweight and has been big made all her life. Herath’s appearance and size would frequently be discussed at social gatherings, with relatives and friends intrusively weighing in. As a child and teenager, Herath was never sure how to respond to such situations and credits her parents for always supporting her, taking her side, and making her feel comfortable and loved. Despite such support, which many growing children – especially young girls – don’t always have, these moments and the negativity associated with it always stuck in Herath’s mind.

The vibe from these social settings and even in other settings, like walking on the road or going to classes, made Herath feel unaccepted and uncomfortable, sometimes severely undermining her confidence.

As Herath grew, her height and size started evolving, becoming a plus point and drawing positive comments because her lively, open personality was made all the more powerful by her strong physical presence. Embracing this, Herath realised the limitless power and potential which can be unlocked by just embracing and loving oneself.

The path to this realisation made Herath even stronger and in the end, led her not only to becoming a formidable marketer and business strategist, but also an advocate for body positivity and the power of embracing and loving yourself.

Building Flabulous

As a teenager and young adult with a keen sense of style, Herath noticed a clear lack of options in fashion for clothes and style that fit her larger-than-life personality. The options available did little to inspire or empower her, and she would need to alter them, making them shorter, sassier, and more distinctive. This expression of her own style regardless of being “size appropriate”, garnered attention from people like her who also wanted fun, inspiring, and empowering clothing for any shape or size.

The presence of role models like Ashley Graham in the global market also greatly inspired Herath. She identified that most global brands, from Fashion Nova to Elle, were accepting diversity and changing norms in a relatable way. These brands inspired their customers and built confidence, something that Sri Lankan brands weren’t effectively doing.

At the age of 19, Herath primarily launched the concept of Flabulous as a Facebook page on which she talked about body positivity. Driven by just passion, Herath realised she would also need the right skill set and capital to succeed; putting Flabulous on hold, she focused on building skills and gaining experience to take the Flabulous dream where it needed to go in the long term.

Working in education and fashion retail until 2019, Herath decided the time was right and made the move to officially launch the platform in April 2019.

What sets Flabulous apart?

Flabulous is a body-positive label or platform which helps build confidence, and this is really what makes it stand out from the crowd. Herath commented: “Our story and what we stand for is to empower people to build more confident versions of themselves and that’s what makes our products and services special.”

As a brand, Flabulous’ values are being bold and different. Their tagline is “Be the change”, and Flabulous wants its community to be the change in whatever magnitude they can, holding the firm belief that everyone on Earth has a purpose and can absolutely have it all.

The main way Flabulous does this is through fashion, which is the core Flabulous product, with Flabulous’ offerings building more representation and inclusivity in fashion with wider size, free-size, and unisex product ranges. In addition to its core product, Flabulous also focuses on creating powerful and empowering content on the themes of body positivity, self-acceptance, and self-worth.

Flabulous looks to represent more people, and make them feel included and real. As an example, Herath shared that many brands in the global marketplace go up to size 18 and sometimes even beyond, but almost none of the brands that do this talk about it. They focus instead on marketing the “socially accepted, airbrushed model”, ignoring the fact that people are different and don’t always connect with this idealised visual, and that sometimes this visual can alienate and undermine people’s confidence and perpetuate negative stereotypes.

The challenges of being a body-positive brand and platform

Speaking on the biggest challenges for platforms like Flabulous, Herath explained that one main challenge is that the industry is scared of genuinely accepting, representing, and talking more about body positivity. Herath stressed that this isn’t because the industry is not excited about the concept of body positivity, but that those in the industry don’t do it for the correct reasons.

For example, they will never put a size 18 model on their promotional campaigns even if they have the size and it is one of their bestselling sizes. This non-representation damages the true meaning of body positivity and acceptance, reducing it to just a little more than lip service. Body positivity is about accepting everyone, being more diverse and inclusive, and representing more.

Another challenge Herath shared is the way the media portrays body positivity and people’s perceptions of it. People tend to view body-positive platforms as simply plus-sized brands promoting unhealthy living and obesity in the name of acceptance.

This is where the content of Flabulous comes in, to help change this perception. All Flabulous’ photo shoots include diverse heights, sizes, colours, and styles of its models. Photographs are never edited or retouched in any way. There is no dilution. Flabulous keeps it 100% real.

Flabulous as more than just clothing

In addition to the core fashion product, Flabulous has recently launched its own digital content platform known as My Flabulous Life, all the content of which is written, conceptualised, and executed by Flabulous.

My Flabulous Life is a private subscription-based platform that focuses on creating the best version of yourself, bringing in different people who carry credibility when it comes to effecting change in the world. It helps subscribers figure out who they are and what their purpose in life is.

The content on My Flabulous Life is very genuine and real, and unlike other motivational platforms that only speak of success, My Flabulous Life also talks about failures. Herath explained that this is very positively received by subscribers because “people get it when you’re real; it’s the truth, all of it”.

Herath launched My Flabulous Life as an innovative response to Covid-19 and the lockdown in order to help fight loneliness and panic, and also inspire during this troubling time, with strategic exercises and webinars that fuel self-reflection and self-discovery, helping subscribers achieve a greater sense of purpose and self.

The lockdown hit Flabulous hard the first few weeks, which gave Herath a sense of helplessness, particularly as a start-up entrepreneur who needed to effectively cease operations temporarily. This led Herath to focus more on creating content to keep her customers engaged, reaching new audiences, and just keeping people sane.

On the whole, Flabulous has emerged from the pandemic with the ability to be more adaptive, innovative, and reactive to the market.

Speaking to Herath on her most inspiring moments leading a body-positivity platform, she explained that feedback – good or bad – always inspires her, because it is either evidence of a job well done or a lesson in what needs to be improved. A particularly inspiring and powerful moment for Herath came when she was at a low point and had the chance to meet a customer who was paralysed following an accident, who told her that she had the confidence to sit up for the first time in a long while after wearing a Flabulous piece.

Always being positive and carrying on

As a young start-up entrepreneur, keeping a business working and making an impact while defining your identity and values is a struggle.

In business, Herath always harks back to the best pieces of advice she has received to date. One, from her father, was on the importance of never giving up, and that the hard situations are phases and will pass. The other, from her former boss and mentor, was on the importance of making yourself comfortable with turmoil and uncertainty in a turbulent world, as this is the only real way to grow; doing so over the course of last year, with the Easter attacks and now Covid-19, hasn’t made it an easy journey, but Herath urges all young entrepreneurs to not give up.