Leeds RAG Fashion Show Represents The Changing Face of Fashion

Every year Leeds RAG (Raise and Give) society host a fashion show and each year is better than the last! LRFS (Leeds RAG Fashion Show) has won ‘Event of the Year’ in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016. This year, Leeds RAG has chosen to support and donate to Pancreatic Cancer Research and Behind Closed Doors. Both of these are incredibly important charities with pancreatic cancer causing five per cent of all cancer deaths each year, and Behind Closed Doors providing support for men and women in Leeds whose lives have been affected by domestic violence. So, if you aren’t involved already, then keep reading and keep an eye out for more news and updates about this event: its going to be one to watch!

(Photo: LRFS Facebook)

Not only is LRFS doing its bit to raise funds and awareness for two excellent local and national charities, but it is also a forerunner for diversity in fashion and the rapidly changing global industry. Last year LRFS won the Union’s Diversity and Inclusivity Award and this year will be no exception! LRFS state that every year the event “showcases fashion, creativity and glamour, as well as diversity, individuality and beauty in all shapes and sizes.” Their casting call, which occurred at the end of October, was on the hunt for everyone: no previous experience needed, any ethnicity, any shape, any size – NO DISCRIMINATION! Whilst we are proud to get involved in such a freethinking, open, and accepting community at Leeds University, we think that this is an important moment to take a look at the global industry as a whole because unfortunately, not everyone has the same idea.

(Photo: LRFS Facebook)

Take this month’s fashion headlines for example. One of the most controversial issues coming to light this month occurred at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show where models included the likes of Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and Winnie Harlow. While Victoria’s Secret has been praised in the past for its ethnic diversity, making headlines two years ago for telling “women to wear their natural hair”, it is currently under fire for remarks made about casting plus-size and transgender models.  In an interview with Vogue, Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer of L Brands was questioned about the brand’s response to the Instagram generation which has seen the likes of Ashley Graham and Munroe Bergdorf advocating for and representing plus size women and the transgender community respectively. Razek, alongside Monica Mitro, the executive vice president of public relations at Victoria’s Secret, were questioned about the changing demands on the brand due to social media and the increasing advocacy for diversity and body positivity. In response, whilst Razek and Mitro assured Vogue readers that the brand does offer larger sizes (from 30A to 40DDD), Razek stated that they don’t show plus size models and transsexuals in the show because “the show is a fantasy”. Clearly, this is problematic. Whose “fantasy” are VS trying to represent? In this day and age, ideas of ‘perfection’ are being broken down in exchange for the promotion of body positivity and self-acceptance. If a brand like Victoria’s Secret, which currently comprises 1/3 of the lingerie industry, can’t support and advocate loving your own skin, feeling confident in just your underwear, and embracing who you are, then what hope is there for us mere mortals who don’t look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel? However, Razek later took to twitter, issuing an apology that declared his remark as “insensitive”. He assured readers that “we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show. We’ve had transgender models come to castings… And like many others, they didn’t make it… But it was never about gender”. I guess while we are waiting to see how true this statement is, and if any of this so-called “admiration” and “respect” is reflected in next year’s VS Fashion show, we can turn to LRFS to present to us locally what diversity really means!

(Photo: Harpers Bazaar)

Equally disheartening is a recent scandal that occurred in light of Dolce and Gabbana’s new campaign before their fashion show in Shanghai. Video clips were released which showed models pandering to racist stereotypes. One video that received a lot of attention depicted a Chinese model being taught how to eat Italian food with chopsticks! Watch it here! While the consequences of the Victoria’s Secret discrimination are still unclear, this racist advertising campaign has had serious repercussions for the global luxury brand. Not only were they forced to cancel the show in Shanghai, but they have been subject to multiple consumers posting videos burning or destroying their products as well as the all-important influencers that they have recently collected denouncing and abandoning their loyalty to the brand. Most specifically, Lucky Blue Smith who the New York Times have termed a “millennial Dolce staple” posted a note on his Instagram which read: “I have decided not to participate in the show this evening – I have the utmost respect of the people of China and absolutely love this country”, ending the statement with: “We are all gods children and we should all be treating EVERYONE, EVERY CULTURE with respect”. We could not have said it better ourselves.

Although these cases are seriously disheartening, at least we can rely on the media and the new Instagram generation to call out such ethical blunders in the fashion world. Perhaps such globally dominant brands should take note from smaller start-ups or more local companies such as PrettyLittleThing’s recent collection with Hailey Baldwin, (shop the collection here) which received a lot of positive press for featuring two sized models and having a size range of 4-26.

Or, perhaps they could be inspired by Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty collection (view her incredible fashion show here) which saw a pregnant model walking the runway (skip to eight minutes).

Or perhaps even look to even smaller communities like LRFS, doing their best to cast a diverse range of models for their charity fashion show: embracing culture, gender, sexuality, size, shape, and just being human. The 2019 show will take place on 28th February, and they aim to raise the bar for this year’s show beyond anything it has ever been before! To make sure you bag your place at this trendsetting event, join the LRFS Facebook Group for exclusive updates and details on the ticket release.