Fashioning Reality: A New Generation of Entrepreneurship

I first read about Ben Barry when Teen People named him “one of twenty teens who will change the world.” I felt proud because Barry was a Canadian high school student, just a year older than me. He was on a mission to transform the fashion industry’s narrow standard of beauty by running a modeling agency that represented models of all ages, sizes, and ethnicities.

Reading Barry’s memoir Fashioning Reality, I felt like it had been written for my teenaged self. As he outlines his successes and struggles, Barry offers advice for young would-be entrepreneurs on how they too can use business to create social change. Barry started his agency when he was 14 to represent a friend who had been told by a magazine editor that she was “too big” to model. At first he was motivated by a concern that images of unhealthy models were detrimental to the health and self-worth of his friends, but he soon realized that using “real” models was also a successful business model, since companies that used his models almost always saw increased profits as a result.

Like we do at WORN, Barry believes that consumers want and deserve to see a diversity of ages, sizes, and ethnic backgrounds represented in the media. I’m a firm believer that we should never put people down to elevate others, and so I admire that he never criticizes thin women as not being “real,” instead stressing that thin, white, and tall is overdone, and argues that there’s a desperate need for greater diversity.
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Is Toronto getting FAT?


There has been a lot of discussion among WORN staff lately about the issues surrounding diversity of models in the fashion world. It is a loaded topic, encompassing such controversial areas as manufactured diversity, political correctness and the effect of one predominant choice of model on women’s concepts of beauty. Mainstream fashion’s obsession with the skinny white girl has superseded trendiness, and although history is full of a variety of idealized body types, I think many people are beginning to find fashion’s preoccupation with size-zero and blank stares a little stale. Exclusivity is a selling point in fashion, but when intelligent women begin to question themselves for being healthy…well, it gives you some food (no pun intended) for thought. (Please note – I am not claiming all mainstream fashion supports size-zero culture, or that all women even take note of it, I am merely noting its current dominance.) This is why I was so excited to have the opportunity to observe FAT (Toronto Alternative Arts and Fashion Week)’s open-call model casting process, which stipulated that it would be looking for a diverse group of unconventional models.
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