The London Based Fashion Designer Who Believes That It’s Time to Stop Defining Beauty By Size


The London Based Fashion Designer Who Believes That It’s Time to Stop Defining Beauty By Size

Mariatu Turay

Gitas Portal Founder, Mariatu Turay grew up knowing that she was beautiful, not because she was a narcissist but because she was raised to feel comfortable within her own form. Her beauty wasn’t defined, categorised or compared to others – she was just beautiful. It did not matter that she was 5.2ft, small chested, lacked a small waist and the curvaceous behind that’s appreciated in West Africa but often looked upon with intrigue in Europe, beauty was hers to have and celebrate.

 “I grew up loving my body image and became even more so after the Sierra Leone civil war and the atrocities that followed. This doesn't mean that I don't sometimes fantasize about areas of my body that I'd like to work on but I am at a starting place where I'm content and empowered rather than ashamed.” Mariatu Turay, Founder of Gitas Portal.

The fashion industry has monopolised the definition of beauty for too long, it has become stale and lacks creativity.  As a woman who has learnt to appreciate the ironies of life, Mariatu believes that physical beauty does not translate to inner beauty, emotional and physical health. In other words, celebrate what you have - beauty is not one size fits all and body image in fashion really needs to reflect this. Beauty is diverse and comes in all shapes and sizes and Gitas Portal is on a mission to make the fashion world understand this.

“I don’t want my daughters to be at the mercy of someone’s pen and their subjective views of what they perceive to be beautiful and acceptable. I want my daughters to own their beauty and be confident in who they are. A woman that’s confident to be who she wants to be and celebrates her body image without fear or prejudice - that’s so gorgeous.” Mariatu Turay.

Gitas Portal was established to burst society’s bubble of what is defined as ‘beautiful’ and wants the women who wear the label’s garments be free to stand out and celebrate themselves for who they are. The brand wants “deliciously curvy” to be used instead of plus size when referring to larger sizes.


Mariatu opened the first Gitas Portal boutique in London in 2016.  As a self-taught designer-maker, Mariatu’s goal is to set a benchmark for African inspired fashion pieces, promoting quality, beautiful and well-made designs that will challenge and balance the sometimes poor perception of ‘brand Africa’ across the world.  Mariatu celebrates fashion and sees it as a unique expression of individual flair and the emancipation of one's inner beauty. She wants women to wear her pieces confidently and boldly without fear of judgment based on size or background.

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Ronke Lawal

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Notes To Editor

·         BA in Economics, Politics and Public Administration. 

·         Studied law and decided not to qualify for practice.

·         Married now with 5 kids (3 biological and 2 step children)

·         Mariatu’s passion is evident in the painstaking effort used to craft her products to high industry standards. Recognising her ability as a God given talent, Mariatu unapologetically celebrates being a Christian, mother, wife, and woman in business.

·         Mariatu Turay is London based fashion designer and owner of Gitas Portal, a brand which wants women to stand out, be bold and win in all areas of their lives. Born in London and raised in Freetown, Mariatu was forced to leave Sierra Leone at age 16 due to the Civil War, her father was a government official and her family was targeted.  She moved to the USA and started working as a hair braider at the age of 16 in a salon to make ends meet for her family. She then learnt secretarial and office skills as a way into corporate America. By the time Mariatu returned to the UK, her entrepreneurial spirit was fully fledged and she used her hairdressing skills to pay her way through university. After brief periods of homelessness in the US and the UK she found her way back on track.