Meet Lydia Okello: Vancouver’s most vibrant plus-size fashion blogger!


Meet Lydia in person on November 1st!

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Lydia Okello’s fashion-focused Instagram, Style is Style, ate me whole with its delicious colours and tasteful aesthetic. A quick peruse of Vancouver fashion bloggers can leave one yearning for more colour, dynamism and diversity. Lydia provides an invigorating escape from size zeros and nude chinos. She shares her beauty, jewellery and apparel looks on multiple platforms, showcasing fearless body-confidence and uniquely styled looks. It’s no secret that the fashion industry isn’t kind to plus-size women so I was curious to learn more about Lydia’s experience with modelling and working with different Vancouver brands. She answered my questions over coffee on The Drive (while I tried to subdue the fan-girling).

photo by Kristyna Archer

Cicely: What inspired you to start writing about fashion?

Lydia: I actually just had my ten year anniversary of Style is Style (which is really weird and makes me feel super old)! When I started blogging, I lived in Abbotsford - a suburban Bible Belt city, not a huge Black population and pretty conservative - that’s where I had my formative years. I was always really interested in clothes, fashion and visual media but very few people around me felt the same.

C: Yeah, I don’t imagine Abbotsford being the height of fashion!

L: Ha! No, not at all. I remember going to the States and going to Urban Outfitters and being like… finally! Fashion! At that point, that was my extent of deviating from the norm. I used to post on Flikr, back in the day, and became connected to communities of other fashion-focused people. I just wanted to have a place to chat with my friends, locally and online, about fashion and style. It just grew from there!

“What draws me to fashion is the fantasy of it; the ability to push beyond your everyday reality.”

C: Do you work as a fashion creative full-time?

L: No, I wish! I have a normal day job... It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Like, looking at the ‘top’ or ‘elite’ fashion bloggers and who that actually represents. There’s a huge lack of representation of a lot of minority groups, especially people who are not white or not thin. It’s interesting and also frustrating that platforms like Flickr, Instagram and Tumblr actually came from people who felt unseen and wanted to see themselves represented, but now those who get to make money conform to societal beauty standards.

C: You bring up some really interesting points; do you feel like you face challenges as a black, queer person in the fashion industry and in Vancouver?

Meet Lydia in person on November 1st!

GET TICKETS NOW!

L: Yes. Haha!

[30 seconds of awkward laughter as we both reflect on The Struggle]

L: When I started out, I shopped around, looking for different brands to work with and wear but I quickly got a sense of disillusionment. I knew a lot of people who were really interesting, unique and creative but weren’t getting the attention that like, a blond, thin person would get it. This was a hard realization for me, so I stepped away from fashion for a bit. But seeing an increase of really badass plus size folks create their own clothing ranges like Gabi Gregg and Nicolette Mason’s Premme, made me feel more encouraged and seen. I’ve often felt like a novelty to people in Vancouver, because there aren’t many Black people. Nowadays, I have a greater sense of self and a low tolerance for bullshit but when I first moved here I felt like I had to be acceptable and palatable, to avoid being perceived as ‘The Angry Black Person’.


Photo by Helen Anna

“In fashion, you have to get in the door to break down the walls.”

C: You recently did a photoshoot with Lunapads, modelling some of their sustainable menstrual health products. Why did you choose to work with that brand?

L: The brand felt like a great intersection of things that I’m passionate about - they have a social conscience and create products that have meaning. They care about their customers and the environment. I was also just excited to hang out in my underwear and get paid for it! I’d had a couple of bad experiences and now I’m much more intentional about who I work with; I see that as a space for agency and advocacy.

C: Do you ever feel tokenized by companies looking to diversify their brand?

L: Yes and no. I think I just have to weigh the impact versus my personal discomfort. For example, I may be approached by a company that doesn’t necessarily share my political views, but having my image there could do good for someone. In fashion, you have to get in the door to break down the walls. Once you’re in there and have some good connections, you have the opportunity to make changes and uplift more people who you want to see represented.

C: You have a pretty impressive portfolio of modelling and styling projects, what’s your favourite collaboration you’ve worked on?

L: Oooh! I recently shot a jewellery lookbook for WastedEffort. This was my first time modelling commercially, so I was really nervous but it was great! We had a small group and we got to make our own world for the day. That’s my favourite element of creative collaboration; being able to escape reality in a sense. What draws me to fashion is the fantasy of it; the ability to push beyond your everyday reality.

C: And what would be your dream project or collaboration?

L: I’m really into a publication called Them. It’s a digital magazine that is directed towards queer folks but it’s not just a DIY zine or something… I think I struggle with a lack of visual representation and media that gets to be at the same level as everyone else. Knowing how much creativity there is in the queer community, it’s amazing to see a publication like that exist and thrive and catch the attention of a huge audience, queer and non-queer. It helps legitimize us and show we’re not just an insular community. That’s how we change culturally; we add more and more narratives to something bigger as opposed to having a singular story!

Meet Lydia in person on November 1st!

GET TICKETS NOW!


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