In The Middle With Leeds RAG Fashion Show

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The Gryphon Fashion sat down with Fashion Show directors Arabella Bowes and Tamika Hewitt ahead of the event on the 28th February, to discuss
preparations for the show and the chosen charities that it will benefit.

What courses are you both studying?

TH: I (try to) study Economics and Geography at UoL. I don’t particularly come from a fashion-related background but I think that has helped me immensely in my role as Director. Last year, I completed a 13-month placement at SAP (a huge software company) in their sales department, and that really helped me sharpen the skills needed for my role in LRFS – coming from a business mindset has allowed me to focus on the fundraising, sponsorship and marketing side of the show. It’s in this way that Bella and I are able to work so well together because we have different strengths that complement each other.

AB: I study English Literature at UoL – a course I love because of its very minimal contact hours! Studying English Lit has allowed me to have time alongside my studies during which I am able to get involved with extracurricular things. Becoming the Director of LRFS felt like a very natural progression as I have always wanted to work in fashion. I spent the summer interning at British Vogue which was such a wonderful experience and gave me the confidence I needed to undertake this huge role.

How have you found juggling the role alongside your studies?

TH: I won’t lie – it’s been a struggle. However, it wouldn’t have been possible without Bella. We’ve been best friends since school so already having such a strong relationship with each other was fundamental. If there is a time when one of us has a lot of work on, the other will step up and take on more responsibilities to relieve stress for the former. This system has worked really well so far, and I’m eternally grateful to Bella for the support she has provided so far!

How will the 2018 show differ to past RAG fashion shows?

AB: Many people in the LRFS community have felt that the chosen charities can fall to the wayside during the process of creating the show. Both Tam and I have tried to ensure that hasn’t happened. We have organised talks from charity reps to both models and committees, have made speeches about the charities at our sold-out Pub Quiz and Launch Party and generally tried to educate the community about the charities: Pancreatic Cancer Fund and Behind Closed Doors. Furthermore, where last year’s fashion was sexy and wearable, we have attempted something a little different. This is A NEW DECADE after all! With the exception of IMPRESSIONISM, the outfits on our runway will be works of art in the form of clothing. We are trying to create a lasting, visual impact.

You’ve picked two brilliant charities to support this year, how did you arrive at choosing them?

TH: As soon as Bella convinced me to apply alongside her, it was clear that this would be the charity we supported. Our best friend’s mother, Lucy Knight, passed away from pancreatic cancer four years ago, and the charity helped their family through an immensely difficult time.

AB: Lucy Knight was an incredible, strong woman whose spirit is definitely reflected in our friend, Stephanie. Their whole family emits nothing but joy and we’d like to give back to a charity who gave so much to them.

TH: We then decided that our second charity should be a local Leeds one, that is also supported by the wider RAG society. Behind Closed Doors is a charity really passionate about supporting those affected by domestic violence in Leeds, helping men and women feel safer and more independent.

Has there been much involvement with local Leeds designers?

TH: Yes of course! We have agreed with our styling team to source garments from Leeds-based designers as much as possible. This is partly for lower postage expenses (allowing us to give more to our charities), but also because a lot of Leeds-based designers attended the same universities that we do. I think it’s absolutely crucial to show our support for those who have been in the same position that we find ourselves in right now. LRFS is such a great platform to give exposure to designers, and opportunities for fashion outside of London can be limited, hence why we are so keen to help those in the city we love.

The show won the Diversity and Inclusivity award last year. How have you furthered upon these values this year, especially with regards to casting?

AB: 2018’s show made huge strides with regards to diverse casting and we knew how important it was to continue Nick and John’s great work. The show celebrates individuality and provides a platform for those who feel underepresented on ‘traditional’ catwalks. We heard from last year’s models and committee members how much being in the show had done for their confidence and self-esteem, so this year we have made sure everyone gets an equal opportunity and feels like one family.

In light of the university’s pledge to be plastic free by 2023, are you doing anything to promote sustainability in fashion through the show?

AB: In a mission to reduce our impact to the environment we have decided to scrap paper tickets this year. A seemingly small thing, but it is the small things that make big differences. As Tamika mentioned before, we are focussing on Leeds based designers to reduce our carbon footprint from postage and long drives to collect pieces.

Will there be any more events before the show?

TH: Yes! Our fundraising team have already put on two amazing events and we are are keen to expand on that! They are planning at least two socials in February (a Bierkeller karaoke night on the 7th and a cheese and wine night!) and we will also be doing an abseil down the Michael Sadler building in February. If you would like to take part in the abseil to raise money for our charities, please email directorslrfs@gmail.com!

When can we buy tickets?

TH: Main release tickets have been available on FIXR since the 28th January, exactly a month before the date of our show!

 

Interview by Victoria Copeland.