Ben Barry—a Noted Advocate for Diversity and Inclusivity— Is Appointed the New Chair of the School of Fashion at Ryerson
I remember meeting Ben Barry some 10 years ago and being so inspired by his passion for promoting diversity and inclusivity in the fashion world. At the time, he was lobbying to change the status quo by representing models of all sizes, ages, races and abilities at his eponymous agency. Years later, we connected again, when he wrote a piece on the doctoral thesis work he had done at the University of Cambridge. Barry studied how models—depending on their size, age and race—influence purchasing decisions. (You can read his excellent piece here.) After he graduated in 2012, he started his career as an assistant professor at Ryerson University. He went on to become director of The Centre for Fashion Diversity & Social Change as well as director of the FCAD Design Network. Teaching young designers to be creative as well as culturally and politically informed about their designs has been central to his work and will be a guiding inspiration when he assumes his new role this July. “I want to develop Ryerson’s unique voice to foster inclusion and justice through fashion,” he says. “Central to my vision is for us to continue to transform cultural beauty ideals by designing fashion media and clothing for all bodies.” He cites the recent work by student Sonia Prancho, who designed a collection for young women with physical disabilities for the Mass Exodus 2018 fashion show. “Sonia has moved away from working to adapt clothing and is designing for people’s bodies and needs instead,” explains Barry. His other goal is to recruit students from marginalized communities who have never felt represented in the industry. “Justine Woods, who also showed at Mass Exodus, is another great example of how Ryerson is becoming known for its unique voice,” he says. “I hope to continue to decolonize our fashion curriculum and support the cultural resurgence of Indigenous fashion design.” Woods’ menswear tailored collection featured traditional Métis beadwork on European suiting. It demonstrated her desire to create a hybrid design, he says. Barry is driven to “use fashion to design a better world by celebrating diversity, disrupting gender norms and empowering difference.” His students—as well as their future fans and customers—will benefit from his thoughtful, compassionate and inclusive approach to his work.