Today’s Notable Young Professional is Ben Barry, a professor at Ryerson University’s School of Fashion. He also founded the first modeling agency in the world dedicated to promoting models of all shapes, ages, and abilities. We caught up with him to find out what inspires his work and what advice he would share with other young professionals…
1. Describe what you do in less than 140 characters. Go.
I teach and research about the ways fashion fosters well-being, diversity and social justice with the goal of advancing equality.
2. What was the inspiration for your career route?
Growing up, I loved playing with clothes and appearance. But fashion also made me feel insecure because I looked nothing like fashion models and my style was often met with confusion and teasing. I was certainly not alone, as many friends had similar experiences. So I wanted to help make sure others could enjoy the fun and empowerment of fashion without feeling insecure and unsafe.
3. What is the most memorable milestone in your career so far?
Over the past two years, I helped lead a research project Refashioning Masculinity, that explored how fashion can reimagine masculinity. Fifty diverse men gave me tours of their wardrobes, discussing the feeling they attached to their clothes. The courage of these men and the variety of their personal styles summed up everything I love about fashion.
4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
I have the best job in the world because I have so much fun doing it! So I want to continue teaching and writing about the power of fashion to foster social justice. I would love to expand Refashioning Masculinity across Canada, grow my research centre at Ryerson, and continue to build the social venture Drakbarry that my husband and I started over the next decade. I hope that in 20 years, my research helps make the world a more equitable and inclusive place for everyone!
5. Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
If you have privilege in the world (as a result of your race, gender etc.), use it to help create a more equitable workplace. For example, men can hold back on sharing their ideas first or interpreting with alternative points and instead encourage the voices of women. White men also can step back or share leadership on projects with those who do not have these same opportunities to imagine themselves in these positions.
6. Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is it (or they) important to you?
I support the Toronto Fashion Incubator which nurtures and supports fashion entrepreneurs. As the former Chair of the Board of Directors, this local non-profit organization has been helping Canadian fashion entrepreneurs build businesses from which they can earn a living and contribute to our national culture for almost 30 years.
7. What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Whenever I tell people about my work, I’m constantly met with the perception that fashion is superficial and inconsequential. But I have learned to confidently smile and ask them what is the one thing we all (well, not nudists!) do every day: get dressed! I then talk about the power of fashion to our economies, identities, self-esteem and histories. Very quickly, I’ve found these examples change the stereotypes about fashion.
8. What does the word notable mean to you?
Being notable means having a positive impact on people. And I think, as millennials, that’s one thing we have in common. We want to make people’s lives better through our work.
1. Where is your favourite place to wine/ dine in your city and why?
As a celiac, I’m a regular at Impact Kitchen because of the completely gluten-free menu and bakery. But you can usually find me at Page One writing away with a coffee and gluten-free coconut bar or having a glass of wine with my husband on a Friday night to the sound of live music.
2. What’s the most visited website on your Internet browser? The most played song on your phone?
The Business of Fashion followed on Twitter. My most played songs are Million Dollar Bill by Whitney Houston tied with The Heat by Toni Braxton. 90s R&B divas will forever be my jam.
3. Who’s one person you think everyone should be following on social media?
@fuckjerry on Instagram because we all need a good laugh during the day!
4. What’s your favourite country to visit and why? And what’s the next one you plan on travelling to?
Canada! We live in such a geographically and culturally incredible country and there’s just so much of it to see. My husband and I just got back from PEI that has the most beautiful never-ending red beaches. Our next trip: Iqaluit!
5. What gives you the greatest FOMO?
Being out of the city without my husband. Whether he’s out partying with friends or watching a movie at home, I’d so much rather be hanging out with him! Because he is the MOST fun!
6. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
I’m hooked on getting my haircut. From having the best conversations with my pal and barber Steven to experiencing that feeling of a fresh haircut with the sides and back all shaved, seeing my barber at the Crow’s Nest is one of my favourite things in this world!
7. What’s something you wish you didn’t spend so much money on? What’s something you wish you spent more on?
Books and clothes! I can easily get just as lost browsing the shelves at Indigo as I can the racks of my favourite secondhand store Off The Cuff – and so can my wallet! My husband and I have a pretty minimalist aesthetic but I’d love to spend more on decorating our house.
8. And finally, what does success look like to you? Work, play, or otherwise…
Author Iain Thomas said it best: “And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘This is important? And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!’ And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, ‘No. This is what’s important.’”
Success is about being able to shut out all the noise in life and honestly listen toyourself.