Last night saw the heavily anticipated RAG fashion show, the biggest annual event on the LUU calendar, take place. The revolutionary theme and hints of controversy provided by the mysterious advertising had aroused suspicion and formed a talking point on campus for the weeks leading up to the show. But the time was finally here…everyone took to their seats, the lights came down, the music started and the show commenced. Documenting movements through fashions prominent eras – the show paid particular attention to punk, androgyny, the influx of genderless apparel, 70’s flower power, the peace movement, women’s rights and the undeniable social media takeover.
Seamlessly integrating movement artists and vocalists, with the smooth interpretative dancing of the Expose duo and Leeds MENCAP set against the sass-filled street rendition of Rhianna’s ‘B*tch Better Have My Money’, the production was by no means a one trick pony.
Emphasising diversity and freedom, the models took to the catwalk with attitude and flair, and made for a refreshingly varied group. Hair stylists at Renegade worked with the revolutionary theme, creating everything from flowing waves for a 70s flower-bearing beauty to strong slicked back tresses setting the tone for strength and androgyny subsequently. Plus it was the Cassie Lomas Makeup Academy responsible for the revolutionary looks, from Bowie-esque lightening bolts to endless clouds of glitter. Models walked, floated and more often than not, danced to a backdrop awash with the slogans and themes of the show, from ‘war can never be won’ to the ever relevant ‘free the nipple’; brought to fruition in the finale.
The political environment that fashion operates within was of focal interest to the directors when choosing the theme.
‘We wanted to create something that brought everyone together, with a show that everyone could enjoy’ (Esther Eldridge-Mrotzek and Rachel Archer, LRFS directors)
And they truly didn’t disappoint. From the carnival fun of the LGBT inspired ‘Kaleidoscope’ complete with rainbow dress, to the social media revolution expressed in thought provoking ‘What’s on your Mind?’, littered with selfie sticks and an unforgettable emoji emblazoned outfit. Perhaps the best part of the night however was the rousing ‘girl power’ of the finale ‘Born Naked’. The image of a single female cello player positioned in front of a selection of powerfully provocative feminist photographs was an undeniably strong one, both visually and audibly. It was a clear message, made even clearer by the strength of models walks, female silhouettes against the powerful simplicity of the message behind; ‘just because she’s wearing a skirt doesn’t mean she’s asking for it.’ The section ended aptly with an homage to the Free The Nipple campaign, male models wore tape covering their nipples while a female model took to the catwalk in a simple yet crucial statement dress exposing her chest. It had all the fun and freedom of revolution without ever distracting from the seriousness of the message behind it.
By the time the lights came up it was clear; the show was a roaring success seeing a tremendous turn out for the two great charities, Leeds MENCAP and the Refugee Council. Leeds MENCAP is a local charity that works with children and young adults with learning disabilities, many of whom come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Refugee Council works directly with refugees helping them to reconstruct their lives after facing devastating conditions and treatment. The relief on the faces of the show directors and the extended committee was clear as they danced their way down the finale catwalk to Chic ‘Everybody Dance’, and rightly so, this was no mean feat. But an emotionally charged speech from the directors demonstrated just how close to their hearts both causes are.
Emma McCormack & Molly Shanahan