Our fashion editors, Jessica Dunn and Rory Swann, give their thoughts.
Last weekend, Jessica and I were lucky enough to sit front row at the biggest fashion event of the Leeds University calendar, the Raise and Give Fashion Show - and we were blown away. The two and a half-hour long spectacle incorporated a vast array of looks in five distinct collections as well as live performers, from rappers, to contemporary dance, to drag queens.
The first collection utilised fiery tones and explosions of tulle to indicate a sense of destruction which was quickly followed by earthy greens and browns in the next set of looks. New life is born out of destruction - it is no good igniting if you can’t create something new.
Next came a black and white collection. Each model held a cardboard picket sign addressing a global issue that they felt attached to. “Women’s rights are human rights” and “Hands off my hijab” paraded the runway and each time, there were cheers from the audience. The monochromatic clothes were a subtle and refreshing f-u to the baby boomers. Some things are black and white. There is no room for discourse around “Black Lives Matter”.
The second half pivoted to a more celebratory tone. The graffiti-embossed coats, tartan skirts and baseball bats seemed to be a celebration of punk and street styles. The next collection added bursts of colour, stunning tailoring, and a pair of rappers to the mix to create a joyous sense of camp. This was, of course, solidified when two drag queens then strutted down the runway lip-syncing to ‘fashionista’.
The pervading view in the industry currently is that models are simply coat hangers. These models were anything but. Not only were they all different shapes and sizes, but they maintained their individuality, interacting with each other and the audience. The show wasn’t just about clothes; it was about the people who ignite change while wearing them.
The Leeds RAG Fashion Show exceeded my expectations. On behalf of the audience I was, and still am, beyond stunned by the evening. From the RAG’s teams gracious welcoming at the VIP reception to a standing ovation at the finale, the show was a night to remember and I am unbelievably impressed by all those who contributed into such a special event. Speaking with the director’s beforehand certainly put into perspective how much hard work, time, and dedication was put into the show. The committee did an outstanding job and they should all be immensely proud of themselves.
The garments were not only eye-catching and well-constructed, but there was something about the atmosphere of the show that was so captivating and emotional. Maybe it was my inner Met Gala obsession getting worked up over the fact I sat front row and felt like a true VIP. In all seriousness, the political signs pushing for women’s rights, ending Asian hate, supporting the Ukraine crisis, and multiple more ongoing issues, was enough to make everyone in the room cheer, clap, and stand up for what’s right. The show revealed a sense of community and urged for change in our society.
After the interval and a deep breather from the powerful political, black and white collection, I was thinking one thing. ‘There is no way the rest of the evening is going to top what we’ve just witnessed’. I was wrong. The second half of the show focused on two lighter-hearted collections featuring music from rappers and an iconic drag queen lip sync. The dramatic change in tone of before and after the interval represented the idea that despite all hate and negativity going on in the world, in the end, love wins.
Overall, Rory and I can both agree as your two Lippy Fashion Editors that The Leeds RAG Fashion Show is something you definitely don’t want to miss out on in the years to come. We are extremely grateful for our invitation and were in awe by the directors, designers, models, full committee, and all those who played a role in delivering an incredible show.
Words: Jessica Dunn and Rory Swann
Photo credit: James Garrow