Ben Barry is a man that has always bulldozed all four walls that way too many people in the fashion industry allow to confine them. Since 14 years old, this man has thought outside the proverbial box and has been able to create a career around it. When Ben’s friend was rejected while chasing her dream of being a model, in his adolescence, Ben made it his mission to “transform the industry into a true reflection of society.” Ben basically wanted to see real women in magazines, on runways and all over the fashion industry, so he created his Ben Barry Agency.
“I started my agency like some kids go to hockey or dance practice–it was my after-school activity. Whether I made money or not or it becoming a career was an afterthought. It wasn’t my motivation. It was crazy that my friends, who were curvy, couldn’t be in the industry. I wanted to try to do something to change that,” Ben humbly admits. There’s not many people that develop a passion so deeply rooted, it becomes a part of who they are. Ben’s focus isn’t only on curvier women, but all women that think they could never be considered beautiful enough to be placed in an ad or on a runway. “We represent about 53 models. We have models that have all different sizes, ages, backgrounds, heights and abilities. Some models are in wheelchairs, some are 5’3, some are 65 years old. They range to represent the broadest segment of the population as possible because we’re all consumers. Everyone looks different.”
Ben said it brilliantly. We are all consumers. Well, then, why aren’t we all represented when we flip pages of the magazines? “For many years people have addressed this issue through health and body image, talking about low self esteem, body image problems and eating disorders, but to make change in the industry, you have to speak the language of the industry. That’s the language of business,” Ben’s plan is to help these businesses grow through using real women that consumers feel really represent them. “All people in the industry want to do is make their business successful and grow. Our business works with different companies–larger brands and smaller designer labels and focus on who’s the consumer.” If more fashion companies focused on their consumer’s they’d see sales increase because the consumer would feel included–a part of this whole thing. “Seeing a model that looks like you really drives sales. It’s so not rocket science. In the industry, it goes against everything they’ve been doing and it’s a risk to change strategy. Everything I am doing doesn’t mean get rid of the size 2 model. It just means open up to reflect a greater variety of women,” Ben adamantly states.
It’s no secret that most real women have realized they’re not being represented in the fashion world. In the past, it seems most women just sit back and let this happen. But in recent years, plus size women have banded together to start a conversation about realistic and equal alternatives of the fashion industry’s perception of beauty. Ben is aware of the long fight he has ahead of him, but he also knows, “the general public is aware of this issues that fashion is welcoming change. The conversation has opened up to see change on an even more grand scale. You’re changing culture and this idea of beauty for that last 20 years has been the core of the industry. It does take time.” As Ben patiently awaits, he works by having his models work.