What does it take to make fashion inclusive of every body shape and size? How can we celebrate individual style—and the diverse women who rock it? To explore these questions, we partnered with Joe Fresh to create Fashion For All, a brave space that reflects the shifting norms in the industry, and what still needs to be done to make it accessible for everyone. Here, we chat with some boss Canadian women who are redefining fashion for themselves, and inspiring the rest of us to do the same. This is what they had to say.
Musemo Handahu—a.k.a. the Lion Hunter, her lifestyle blog—is undeniably the East Coast queen of fierce look-at-me fashion. But that wasn’t always the case. “It’s been a journey of realizing certain things,” says the Halifax-based style expert and content creator. “And I think it all really started when one of my friends said to me years ago, ‘It’s okay to want to change how you look. It’s okay to feel that maybe you’re not at your best right now. But wherever you are, you have to learn to love yourself at that stage. And when you are ready to change, you’ll do so.’ And it was literally like a light bulb went off in my head.”
These days, Handahu proudly wears many hats—literally—to inspire her followers on her popular and relatable Instagram feed. Here, she opens up about why finding personal style comes from within, and offers tips for dressing for your inner #queen.
1. Draw style inspiration from the world around you
Handahu traces her love of vibrant hues and bold prints to her African roots. “Maybe, subconsciously, my culture sort of infused its love of colour into me without me actually realizing it,” she says. “In African culture, a lot of the prints that we use, the fabrics we wear, [are inspired by] nature, the animals and the trees, the fruits and the flowers. They all feed into you as you grow up. I think it’s really ingrained in me.”
“When I see something and my gut is just bubbling with so much excitement, that’s my telltale sign that that’s going to look good on me.”
2. Let your mood dictate your #OOTD
This means it’s perfectly acceptable to scrap the outfit you laid out the night before if you’re no longer feeling it. “When it comes to colour, I find that it’s based on my moods,” says Handahu. “Currently, I’m in a green phase.”
3. Confidence is key to wearing prints—and not letting them wear you!
Her rule of thumb for rocking a bold print: “Accessorize it carefully and keep everything else at a minimum,” she explains. “There are prints that I will wear, and people will say to me, ‘I could never wear that! But on you, it’s working.’ It’s the confidence.” And also instinct: “When I see something and my gut is just bubbling with so much excitement, that’s my telltale sign that that’s going to look good on me.”
4. It’s not actually about the clothes at all
Ultimately, feeling good about how you look is really about being comfortable in your own skin, says Handahu. “I am who I am when I’m naked. I am who I am when I’m dressed. The common link is the freedom to be who I am. I’m not trying to be somebody else, I dress for me. I feel beautiful in both of those two forms because it’s still me, and I’m not faking it for anybody.”
5. Be inspired by people with totally different styles than yours
As always, look to the ’gram. “There’s no way that you can be on Instagram and not feel some kind of kinship to someone else’s style or just something about them,” she says. “My style has always been inspired by other people—and they don’t even necessarily have to be people that look like me or dress the way that I do. It could even be somebody that wears all black, which, I am in awe of, to be honest.”
6. Find new ways to wear classic pieces
“Right now, I’m obsessed with putting skirts over dresses,” she shares. “For some reason, it just seems to work. It could be that whole confidence thing, where I put something on and my gut tells me that it feels good, so I roll with it.”
7. Don’t think that your body type prevents you from trying a certain style
For Handahu, this means not being afraid to layer different pieces. “It’s one of those things where you have to be aware of your body and how certain things fit. I think that’s why sometimes people, especially plus-size women, are scared of it, because they’re adding more fabric to their bodies. They think, ‘Why would I make myself look bigger?’ But it’s just a question of knowing the pleats and the slits and whatever else is a feature on the [piece], and tweaking it so that it goes with the rest of what you’re wearing.”
8. Remember: a queen always dresses for herself
Fashion isn’t meant to be taken so seriously. “I know that sometimes when it comes to taking risks, it can be scary, because we’re sharing looks where everybody has access to them and people can say mean things on the Internet. But if you know who you are and what you’re about, and you love who you are and what you do, whatever you wear will shine bright.”
9. Start shopping your own closet
“You literally have to play dress-up,” she says. “That’s how I found out that I have a lot of outfits that could work with a skirt. I was in front of my mirror, just trying things on, and suddenly I was like, ‘Am I on to something right now?’”
10. …but, do invest in a striped button-down dress
It’s Handahu’s go-to staple. “You can do so much with it: you can wear it as a coat, button it to your belly and then leave it open with a skirt underneath, or wear it with pants or shorts underneath. You can even wear a turtleneck underneath. [The possibilities] are endless.”