Diana Di Poce is the creator of Dare Magazine, an online offering for curvy women size 12-plus.
Describing herself as "plus-size all my life," Di Poce said she has long been interested in fashion and beauty magazines, but found representation of average-size women on their pages lacking.
The fourth-year fashion communications student at Ryerson University sought to help alter the landscape with Dare, her final-year project.
While geared towards curvier women, Di Poce didn't seen it as essential to put plus-size labelling on the magazine.
"I wanted to keep it more general in the way that any woman can look at the magazine and get inspiration from it," she said.
"(It's) just like how I pick up an issue of Elle or Flare ... even though I won't fit these outfits and I won't look like these models, I still get inspiration from it."
The 22-year-old said it was also important to have a Canadian focus. The debut edition includes Jeanne Beker discussing her collaboration with plus-size retailer Addition Elle, while designer Jessica Biffi of "Project Runway Canada" fame, Karyn Johnson of fashion blog Killer Kurves and MTV Canada's Sheena Snively share style picks.
In recent years, designers like Mark Fast, Sunny Fong and Jean Paul Gaultier have cast curvier catwalkers in their shows, while V Magazine and French Elle have had spreads showcasing plus-sized models.
Elle Quebec has made headlines for featuring Canadian plus-size model Justine LeGault on its May cover. Swedish fast-fashion retailer H&M has also made a splash by having curvy model Jennie Runk showcase its beachwear collection.
Di Poce said while she appreciates the strides made by magazines to include plus-size models, she wants to see the efforts expand beyond one-time events.
"I think it's important for them to do that, but it's still seen as special," she said. "This is the average woman, so why aren't we seeing these (women) on newsstands?..Why aren't we seeing that more?"
Di Poce received guidance for Dare from Ben Barry, assistant professor of equity, inclusivity and diversity with Ryerson's school of fashion. Barry is also CEO of the Toronto-based Ben Barry Agency, which represents models of all different ages, sizes, backgrounds and abilities, and has been a vocal proponent of greater diversity in fashion.
Both Di Poce and Barry are encouraged by increasing representations of curvier women, including plus-sized label Allistyle being featured at Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week last fall. But when plus-sized models are featured in shows, it's frequently just a lone representative, Barry noted.
"It's still often done with a tokenistic approach," he said. "I think what Diana's done is really said that this is an important consumer that wants to be authentically represented."
Barry said the reasons surrounding the lack of representation for curvy women in the industry are complex, but small sample sizes rank among the prevalent issues.
"I think there's also resistance amongst the industry purely for institutionalized beliefs, this idea that a plus-sized woman may not be considered aspirational — even though that's very far from the truth," he said.
"I think it's an industry that has followed that belief. They think that consumers all aspire to a size 2 without realizing the diversity among consumers and the diverse aspirations and diverse ideas of beauty that consumers hold."
Di Poce plans to keep Dare as a digital-only publication for the time being and wants to expand the magazine to a quarterly publication.
"I really hope to show women that style has no size."
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