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Leeds RAG Fashion Show 2021: ”We Want to Go Big or Go Home”

Leeds RAG fashion show is the biggest fashion event in a Leeds student's calendar. This student-led charity event has been on for 12 years and this year they are planning their 13th event. The fashion show has won the event of the year multiple times before. It’s known for having a unique combination of fashion, sustainability and originality all together with a charitable goal. I've interviewed Josie Bennett and Gabi Centro, the Directors of Leeds RAG fashion show 2021; here’s everything you need to know about the event:



A post shared by Sabrina PB Photography (@sabrinapawley_photography)

Leeds RAG Fashion Show 2020, Image courtesy of @sabrinapawley_photography 


Each year, all the money raised by the event goes to two chosen charities. For next year, they have chosen one local charity and one nationwide charity that are both related to fashion. On the one hand, the national charity "Labour Behind the Label" are working on improving the conditions in the garment industry and empowering garment workers.  On the other hand, the local charity they have chosen is "Carers Leeds" which supports and helps unpaid workers in Leeds. At the top of their list is selecting charities that are relevant to the pandemic- they believe that unpaid workers and the working conditions for garment workers are negatively affected by the pandemic. 


The directors mentioned that they had a "turbulent start" caused by coronavirus, and this has modified their original plans. Josie said they are definitely behind, so they do not want to have unrealistic goals. "That's why we have decided to move the show from February to May this year, and we're hoping that's gonna give us a lot of room for planning and potentially having the show sort of still happen face to face and having it outdoors", said Gabi.


Even though there are many restrictions in place and the planning conditions are more complicated than ever, the directors said that they want to create a bigger show than last years. Gabi stated: "we're planning to sort of go hard or go home". They’re scheduling two nights of shows, like last year, and they might even add a third show depending on the rule of six and the social distancing rules that might be in place, next May. "We feel like if you set up everything, you may as well try and show as many people, as long as we're able to sell that many tickets", Josie clarified.


With the pandemic taking longer than expected, the two directors are planning on hiring coronavirus officers- as members of their committee- to make sure that they’re sticking to the regulations and to help them justify to the union why they should still host the event.


Many people think that the Leeds rag fashion show's committee only raises money from the cost of the fashion show's tickets. However, they have a merch business where they sell posters on Esty. They also raise money from their virtual fundraising conversations with many people, such as Lydia Violeta, Molly Thompson and Verity Park, about sustainable shopping as students and so much more.


At the top of their priorities is sustainability, they make sure everything they do is as sustainable and environmentally friendly as possible- they've hired committee members to do that. They also make sure that the designers participating in the show are ethical and sustainable. Additionally, they are looking for sustainable ways to take garments and upcycle them. Even when they ordered their posters for the merchandise, the shipping was carbon neutral. 


Last year's fashion show had an inclusive range of models, but next year, they want to include models with disabilities since they have never been represented before in their fashion shows. They aim to have the most inclusive range of models and aren’t looking for a specific type of model. The casting will take place in January and all they’re looking for is models who are passionate, confident and good performers. "We also want to make it key this year that we're interested in having models that are interested in our charities because often the models get like segregated from the rest of the committee and they just sort of think that they're just walking the fashion show", said Josie. "And we think it's really important that they remember that we raised money for a charity, and they should be passionate about charities as well", she added.


One of the inconveniences of planning the show during a pandemic is that most of the meetings are virtual, which affects the friendship element of the committee. The directors said that this is a fundamental part of the committee; it’s harder for them to make friends and get to know people over zoom. However, they’re hopeful that by January, the restrictions will be similar to the ones in summer so that the model casting won't be virtual, and it’ll take place face to face.


Josie and Gabi explained that they didn’t look at their applicant's university course while selecting their committee members; most of them aren’t studying any fashion-related courses like zoology or liberal arts. They just made sure that they all had a huge interest in fashion, and they "mainly focus on the interview, personality, commitment, passion, rather not so many skills", said Josie.


Now, they have a committee of 50 students who are working extremely hard to make sure that the 2021 show will be as successful as possible and that it still reaches the (very high) bar that was set by 2020's show, last February. All they wish, is for the event to not be virtual and to raise as much money, if not more, than last year's £27,600.


Follow their Instagram account, wait for the reveal of this year's fashion show theme, and if you want to become a model, they will announce the casting dates very soon.


Words By: Fatima Abdelwahab 

Edited By: Tamikka Reid 

I'm a 19 years old Egyptian journalism student at the University of Leeds. I dream of traveling the world and getting to see all its hidden gems. Fashion, culture, travel and arts are my passion. If I only had one wish, it would definitely be to get free plane tickets !
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