Local merchant hopes to ‘create a movement’ with size-inclusive boutique

‘Lots of happy tears. Our fitting room, I joke that it’s the energy of all the girls together in the bathroom at the bar,’ says BBM Next Door owner

The best business ideas are often born out of an attempt to solve a problem. 

And that’s exactly what happened for Heather Kennedy, who recently launched her second business in downtown Barrie.

Kennedy, who opened the doors of her “new-age general store” Blueberry Moon on Dunlop Street East in February 2021, recently expanded with BBM Next Door — a size-inclusive clothing store — literally right next door.

The idea for the store, she told BarrieToday, came from her own frustrations in trying to find well-made clothing that fit her properly.

“I joke with people that this was an anger-fuelled endeavour because I was noticing that when I was going to buy clothes for myself — I am a size 14/16 — that the stores I wanted to shop at I was just at the end of their size range or they weren’t carrying my size,” she said.

Heather Kennedy recently opened BBM Next Door, a size-inclusive clothing boutique, in downtown Barrie. Nikki Cole/BarrieToday

“The fashion industry doesn’t have standard sizing, so when you think about me … I am an XL, 2XL and there are people who are coming from a two, three … six XL that have actually never even been in a store to try on clothes because their size doesn’t exist in stores,” Kennedy added. 

Kennedy admits she initially got irritated about it, but said that anger then led to determination to do something about it. 

As Kennedy began to learn more about the issue, she quickly determined that she wasn’t the only one hitting that wall, and came to realize it was, in fact, a wide-spread issue within the fashion industry as a whole.

That also ultimately led her down the path of what she called “slow fashion” and introduced her to brands that create clothing that aren’t “sweatshop-produced.”

“We carry all slow fashion items. If there is a brand that has been made offshore … it is in a vetted facility where they are sure it’s ethical production,” said Kennedy, adding her goal to offer size inclusivity naturally aligned with the concept of slow fashion, as it kept with her key values. 

“We want to encourage people to look at where their clothes are made. For a lot of plus-sized people, they don’t want to look like what corporate fashion says they should look like,” she added. 

Another downside of “fast fashion”, she noted, is that sizes are not being graded properly, which is explained as the process of taking the initial sample pattern size and making the full range of sized patterns for production.

“In this store, all of the brands professionally grade their sizes so that they are made for an extended range plus-sized body. In a lot of brands, they will just add two inches to the side seam and that’s it,” Kennedy said. “Here, they account for the whole body. Here, people are trying things on and they are surprised because they haven’t tried on clothes that fit like that before. It’s really nice to see.”

Heather Kennedy has opened a size-inclusive clothing boutique in downtown Barrie. Nikki Cole/BarrieToday

Although Kennedy acknowledges that “slow fashion” does come with a higher price tag than clothing you would purchase at a chain store in a mall, she says there are also multiple benefits that come with making that kind of clothing investment.

“It’s been interesting to have people think about the way they buy clothes, too, (and) looking at it from an environmental aspect … I don’t want you to come out of here with a big bag of clothes,” she said. “I want you to have one or two pieces that you really love that you’re going to wear again and again.

“It’s OK to repeat outfits and wear things over and over again. If they are well made they’re going to serve you for years. It’s been neat to have those conversations.”

The store celebrated its official grand opening on April 5 and Kennedy said the response has been beyond what she could have expected.

“Lots of happy tears,” she said. “Our fitting room, I joke that it’s the energy of all the girls together in the bathroom at the bar. We are just really encouraging of each other and lots of compliments,” she said. “(There are) lots of people coming in who have never tried on clothes in a store before and know that they can come in and that all bodies are celebrated here.

“They know that when they come in they are going to be held with love, care and attention … and that this is a safe place for them to find clothes that make them feel really good about themselves,” Kennedy added. 

She also says that BBM Next Door is one of the only stores in Canada that is doing things in this way, and she hopes her own efforts will help create a movement among other boutiques — and designers — to follow suit.

“Now that I am in contact with these brands and these fashion houses, if they don’t carry larger than an extra large, I ask them why not!? I ask them if they would consider that,” Kennedy said. “I am a size-inclusive boutique and I will not carry (a) brand if (they) only carry up to an XL.

“These are the kinds of conversations that I am having,” she added. “I am not proud of the fact that I am the only one doing it. This should be the norm.”

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