Pam Luk’s daughter Margot loves to dance. But as she shopped for leotards and leggings for Margot, who is a larger-bodied kid, Luk felt a familiar anger and sadness boil up inside of her. As a formerly larger-bodied kid herself, Luk had had trouble finding soccer gear, and ended up having to shop in the adult men’s section when she was a young teenager in the ’80s.
“I was just so frustrated, [thinking], How is this still a problem 30 years after it was a problem for me?” Luk reflects. “So I said, Well, this needs to be fixed, and it needs to be fixed now.”
In 2021, Luk left behind the world of tech product management to start a new athletic clothing line specifically for bigger-bodied kids. She thought about the way she wanted it to make these kids feel, and landed on the word “embrace,” which turned into the name of the brand, Ember & Ace.
One study has shown that one of the reasons kids quit sports is because their uniforms and athletic gear no longer fit them. Enabling kids to be able to comfortably run, jump, and dance no matter the body they’re in is one of the goals of Ember & Ace, as is “directly addressing this misconception that people in bigger bodies aren’t active.”
But Luk also wants to send the message that sports and movement are for everyone. Luk says when she was growing up, she ended up feeling that she didn’t belong on the soccer field because she couldn’t find soccer clothes that fit her. Today, she says Margot’s dance studio is inclusive and thoughtful around body types, but the question of “Do I belong,” or “Is this for me?” arises again if the necessary clothing to actually do the activity doesn’t exist.
“I want these kids to understand that they can show up in the body that they have and they do belong in these spaces,” Luk says.
Photo: Ember & Ace
Brands like Nike, Lands’ End, and others now sell children’s activewear in larger sizes, and Luk says the lay of the land is better than it was when she was young. However, she’s found that most of these brands don’t go up to large enough sizes, which still leaves many kids with no options.
Excessive length can also be a problem in the fit of XL sizes and with adult clothing. Making clothes for larger kids isn’t as simple as just making standard sizes bigger–the proportions are wrong, Luk says. For example, leggings or pants need to provide room in the waistband, hips, and legs, but also taper at the ankle. Waistbands need to be higher, while shirts and jackets may need to be shorter.
“You feel more confident and comfortable when you have something that doesn’t roll up and show your belly, or with pants that don’t roll down,” Luk says.
Ember & Ace provides an easy-to-understand fit chart so kids can find their size. Forgoing the conventional (and stigmatizing) “XL” sizing convention, Ember & Ace sizes range from 0 to 4. Leaving the “X” off was a conscious decision Luk made to help kids center on how the clothes actually fit, and not their size.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign this summer, Ember & Ace is currently starting its first production run, and the “Essentials Line” featuring a t-shirt, leggings, joggers, athletic shorts, and a hooded jacket will be available next year. Luk is looking forward to getting feedback from parents and kids about how she can make clothing that truly serves them. And in the meantime, she hopes the existence of Ember & Ace sends a message.
“All bodies are good bodies,” Luk says. “Keep doing the things that you love. Keep dancing, keep playing sports, ’cause you belong there and you can do it. I believe in you.”