Review

Leeds RAG 2022: A Night of Fashion and Activism

By April 26, 2022

Fashion. Leeds.

The trouble with fashion shows is that they often tend to be self-indulgent and insular.

However, as for the 2022 Leeds RAG Fashion Show (LRFS), I can wholeheartedly declare this was not the case. The show aimed to raise money for charities and showcase local talent, as well as not being confronted with social and environmental issues. What’s not to love? 

Now in it’s 14th incarnation, LRFS is well established as a date for the underground fashion calendar. Organised by the Leeds Uni RAG (Raise and Give) Society, but spanning a wider community of involvement from students and non-students. This year featured a committee of over 50, over 90 models, and many more designers, in a celebration of creatives from all around the city.

Leeds RAG is a collaborative project, welcome to anybody who wishes to get involved. No prerequisites or experience needed, you just have to be passionate. The primary aim of the show is to raise money for different charities each year. Usually a cause close to the director’s hearts. This year LRFS chose the social charities Stop Hate UK and Racial Justice Network, raising a whopping £23,895 by the close of the second show, while incorporating the themes and ethos of the organisations involved.

“IGNITE is here to empower, inspire and educate. Fashion is a force for social change and LRFS will uphold this statement at the forefront of its values. We aim to give a voice to those who need it through an uncensored platform that destroys societal barriers.”

– Jameliah K.N. Adekunle, Creative Director of LRFS 2022.

Exaggerated handcrafted garments took precedence over mass production. (Credit: Thomas Judd-Cooper)

Set across five immersive scenes (IGNITE, INSPIRE, EDUCATE, CHANGE, EMPOWER) the show highlighted a refreshing direction in fashion. The young generation is in, and they bring their own new ideas of trends and style. New ways of inspiring social change in the unity of fashion and activism.

Dramatic readings by Natasha Monterisi of her poetic musings, titled “Core Values”, on society, alienation and activism open each scene, carefully selected for the journey of the show.

The first two scenes, IGNITE and INSPIRE, set the scene for the night. Exploding in fiery red suedes, it served as an energetic taster of fashion to come. INSPIRE continued to set the tone, cool greens/blues and carefully crafted tulle pieces noted a more serious undertone of the show.

Framing sustainability in the spotlight, each piece carefully sourced – the tone of an energetic seriousness highlighted the message of the show.

Setting the scene for the night with daring reds and crafted tulle. (Credit: Thomas-Judd Cooper)

Scene Three stole the show, EDUCATE. The lines between social messaging and fashion became one. One by one models came onto the runway with protest signs. In the upper balcony of the auditorium, groups appeared. Holding up a variety of messages from anti-racism to governmental overreach of women’s choices.

Activism took centre-stage in ‘EDUCATE’. (Credit: Thomas Judd-Cooper)

The neutrality of the garments in this scene served as a conduit to the message of the show, as to not overshadow it. The neutrality of the garments in this scene served as a conduit to the message of the show, as to not overshadow it.

In an extremely powerful performance, it was hard not to get swept up in the energy of everybody in the room. From the attendees, models and organisers – this was a room whose message impacted everyone greatly.

Featured a nod to current events close to people’s hearts. (Credit: Thomas Judd-Cooper)

The final two scenes encapsulated and solidified the message, and fashion, of this phenomenal night.

Scene Four brought with it neon pinks, balaclavas and more messaging, reminiscent of Pussy Riot. Music by Dylan Goodacre-Taylor, and Luca Vitale of DRAAGS, Ben Adamson, Jake Gigglesworth, ending the night with fabulous drag performances from Ruby the Drag Queen (night one) and Canophanta and DE’VILLE (night two).

All in all, the 14th incarnation of LRFS was a mesmerising success. Raising just under £24,000 during the course of the shows and with a sold-out finale, it is a charitable force for change to be reckoned with. Led by a passionate generation of creatives demanding change.

The often fashion-indulgent world needs more of this. Less waste, more activism. In these difficult times Leeds RAG fashion shows offer a glimmer of hope for future leaders.

***

Special thanks to:

Thomas Judd-Cooper – Photography

Jameliah Adekunle – Creative Director

Ellena Smith & Catelyn Louwrens – Asst. Directors

Anna-Karina Yuill – PR Manager

Scarlett Billinghurst – Head Stylist

Coco Tong – Head of Production

Elise Ilkyaz Engin – Head of Sustainability

Imogen Lee Savage – Asst. Head of Sustainability

and all the members of the LRFS 2022.

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