The below article was written for AnyBody by Ben Barry, who started his own modelling agency at the tender age of 14, now 23 Ben has grown his agency to emcompass women of all shapes, sizes, ethnicities and ages. His agency negates the fashion industry's excuse that they can't find larger models. Here is Ben's point of view on the whole sample size 0 debate...
Stripping the Sample Size Down to Size
By Ben Barry
This coming Sunday, hundreds of tall, thin, young, able-bodied, and primarily white woman will strut London’s catwalk for a bevy of fashion elite. Outside the canvas tents, you and I will watch in astonishment, wondering ‘how could I ever fit into these clothes.’ Indeed, high end fashions are specifically made in a sample size zero.
Yet a stroll into the high street shops reveals a very different picture. The same size zero skirts and jumpers seen on the catwalks, shockingly, are found in larger sizes: 2, 6, 10, 14, and even, oh yes, 16. The designers – or rather their business backers – realize that fashion wouldn’t exist as a business if it only sold size zero. Consumers just come in much more diversity than the little sample size, and this diversity spans age and colour and ability too.
I am perplexed by the situation; if the catwalk clothes are sold in all sizes, why is it that only one size is shown in fashion weeks? Well, it is fashion industry, albeit recent, tradition. Designers are taught to create clothes in a sample size zero because mannequins are made in a size zero. It creates a universal standard of approval, evaluation, and showmanship.
I am immediately triggered to ask, ‘since when has ‘art’ been created according to a universal standard,’ and ‘why can’t you just make mannequins in different sizes?
But I fear that these might be too outlandish requests, even for an industry that prides itself, season after season, on adaptability and change.
But my stroll into these high street shops exposes that the sample size straightjacket designers are supposedly trapped into wearing is preposterous; the catwalk clothes elegantly lining racks and shelves differ fabulously from the sample size.
So I call on designers – and their business backers – to put their sample size blame to rest. Show the clothes you sell. Yes, you will empower and include women. But, more importantly for you bottom line focus, you will show clothes that your consumers can actually relate to, picture themselves wearing, and thus trigger the cha-ching sound many times over.
Ben Barry is the founder and CEO of the Ben Barry Agency Inc., a Toronto, Canada-headquartered model consultancy that scouts and sources models of all ages, sizes, colours, and abilities for fashion and beauty brands - www.benbarry.com