Big changes coming to Canada’s fashion industry?

Is the Canadian fashion industry on the verge of some serious changes? Looking at our newsstands right now, we can see Justine Legault absolutely owning the cover of Elle Quebec:

She’s there – front and centre, with a (according-to-fashion-industry-standards) plus-sized thigh that says “Je ne donne pas une merde ce que vous pensez.” It helps, of course, that she is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but Elle Quebec makes its point all the same.

We’re also watching the launch and publicity of DARE Magazine ( – an online fashion publication out of Toronto that is aimed at women sized 12 and up. Creator of the magazine, Diana De Poce, has said that she appreciates efforts of Elle Quebec and others who feature plus-sized models – but doesn’t see why using a plus-sized model has to be “special.” Are certain media outlets simply using these women as “tokens” of progressivism? To show that they don’t only book the size 2 girls?

De Poce created her magazine as a means for women of all sizes to gain inspiration rather than feel ignored by the fashion industry’s impossible standards. The first issue is definitely a hit, and even includes an interview with Canada’s own fashion mogul, Jeanne Beker. It’s an important step for fashion in (and outside of) Canada and is definitely worth checking out.


So. Are we good then? Are we done? Has Canada succeeded in representing all body types in fashion? You don’t have to look much further than the World MasterCard Fashion Week that took place in Toronto in March to see that we’re still a long way off. (Yes. I am referring to the Allistyle show during which the full-roster of plus-sized models were audibly laughed at by the audience.)

If the goal is for the media to start fairly and accurately portraying women’s body types, well then, we’ve still got a ways to go.

And where exactly are we headed? Right now, it’s almost as if we’re working to segregate the thin from the curvy – with each having their own dedicated shows, magazines and clothing lines. If both groups have the same amount of presence, but are never shown together – have we accomplished anything at all?

In the midst of all of the talk about body sizes, forgotten are the other issues of diversity in fashion. It’s great that publications like DARE and Elle Quebec are working to expand our notions of what body types are ‘ideal’ or even just ‘acceptable’ – but they’re doing so by starting out with a conventional sense of what beauty is. A quick glance through DARE’s first publication shows an utter lack of ethnic diversity in the models they’ve chosen to work with. Elle Quebec took a risk using a plus-sized model on the cover… but it was just about the tiniest risk they could have taken, since they chose a gorgeous, white, blonde to do it with.

We’re not at a total loss here either, though. One of the main things Canada likes to tout about itself is its ethnic diversity, its multiculturalism ­– and that seems to be something the international fashion community is noting as well.

This week (May 16th & 17th) Montreal is hosting “Black Fashion Week” – an event created by Adama Ndiaye that showcases designers and collections from all ethnicities, in a celebration of a diversity of cultures coming together. This will be Montreal’s first year hosting a Black Fashion Week – in 2011 Ndiaye brought it to Prague, and in 2012, to Paris.

It’s an exciting, internationally acclaimed event that Montreal should be extremely proud to host.

The Canadian fashion industry is making strides in adding diversity to our magazines, runways and billboards. They’re seemingly putting in some effort, but they’re hardly at the point yet where we need to stop and pat them on the back for a job well done.

Does such a point even exist? Will equality in the fashion industry ever really exist? Are we really seeing more diversity today, or is it just more tokenism? How much of this is really even the responsibility of the fashion industry to begin with?

Tell us where you stand.

2 thoughts on “Big changes coming to Canada’s fashion industry?

  1. I think when you mention true diversity, i.e. not just looking at weight or measurements, we need to also think about the ways in which women of colour (and women of different ethnicities in general) have their skin tones and hair (eyes, etc.) altered to make them look more Caucasian. I just came across this article
    while searching for something entirely different and it gave me a slap in the face. I remember reading about the difference between African American and Latina beauty ideals and Caucasian beauty ideals, primarily that African American and Latina women are lauded for being curvy while Caucasian women are lauded for being thin. Look at Beyonce, she oozes sex appeal and is the definition of curvy… but she’s also dyed her hair blonde on numerous occasions and chemically straightened her hair. I never really thought about how those changes are kowtowing to Caucasian beauty ideals, it seems a bit unfortunate. I think we are a long way off from having equality in the fashion industry. Until seeing diverse models and mingling of diverse models is the norm rather than the exception I don’t think we should applaud or congratulate the fashion industry on a job well done. You put a plus size/African-American/Latina/Asian/[insert tokenism here] model on your cover once/twice/ten times? Well don’t you feel proud of yourself, put them in every issue, mix the spreads up every month and then maybe I will feel like you’re trying to make a real difference. Alas, I doubt that will ever happen.

  2. Pingback: Design vs Fashion : Warm Color | DUC C. NGUYÊN BLOG

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