‘We want to push boundaries’: We spoke to FUZE on planning a fashion show mid pandemic

‘Our aim is to make sure that no matter who you are, you see yourself represented in FUZE’

The FUZE fashion show is back this year and, despite all the pandemic related obstacles in their path, their mantra is that the show must go on.

In the past, FUZE has been known for its diverse, imaginative and completely captivating shows that explore fashion and identity through design, dance and music. This year is no different, with an active cast of volunteers from Bristol Uni and beyond ready in the wings.

The show is going to be raising money for Art Refuge, a charity which provides art therapy at refugee camps in Calais, and Black South West Network which supports the growth of black communities, businesses and organisations.

The Bristol Tab spoke to Alexandra, FUZE’s Commercial Director, and Emily their Assistant PR Director to understand what it’s been like trying to plan a fashion show during a pandemic and to learn more about their goals for this year.

“Our shows and events are always a thing of expression” A shot of the FUZE team

For many businesses in the entertainment industry, the pandemic is forcing people to think in new and innovative ways in order to succeed, and FUZE is no exception. Alexandra told us: “It’s been challenging, but quite honestly I think coronavirus has made us be a bit more creative.

“Obviously it’s kind of unnerving not knowing when the show will be, what venue it will be at, but the way we’ve gone about it so far is to just roll with the punches and really take it week by week.”

Emily added that for their fashion show casting they had to “think outside the box on how to make it work” but ended up having over 300 people in to audition over three days.

“We have a fantastic cast now” Emily said, “It was just about putting in the protocols and making sure everybody was safe”

As for the fashion show itself, Alexadra revealed that they have three ideas within their coronavirus strategy for the show to go ahead: “A walk in show which has six people and we take them around the show and we video and have emphasis on each person, a socially distanced event, and end goal would obviously be a main show.”

“The show is about the world we want to see coming out of the pandemic”

Likewise, the theme of the show, “Utopia”, has been influenced by the pandemic. Emily explained: “Utopia is about how the arts are thriving in the new normal. It’s the world that we want to see coming out of the pandemic, so it’s hugely focused on our core values inclusivity, diversity and sustainability. It’s just about creating a Utopia, in a time where literally everybody is indoors, and it’s about escapism and allowing our audience to follow along with our journey and escape their own lives while we create something cohesive.”

She told us that coronavirus has made FUZE a lot more reliant on the power of their social media to recruit and advertise the fashion show, and theses platforms have seen a 110 per cent growth since May. Due to this, their team has spread internationally: “Now we are getting the best people, the most excited about FUZE actually working with us and giving us loads of different opinions”

Alexandra added, “If it was a normal year, we’d be really focused on our individual tasks but we’re just having to be so much more creatively thinking and really push the boundaries of what an event is.”

FUZE hosted “Haus of horrors” event at Lakota for Halloween, just a week before the second national lockdown was imposed

The FUZE team have been working hard to create more opportunities and experiences for their community, in order to make the pandemic a “more positive experience” and so the show doesn’t feel in any way hampered by the current restrictions. Their new initiative “FUZE at Home” is a way of channelling the theme of escapism into the home.

As Emily said: “We’ve come up with this initiative called FUZE at home, where our cast and committee but also our social media audiences can get involved with FUZE from the comfort of their own bedroom. We’ve got Instagram live streams where we’re getting our musicians to come on and do a little concert for everybody and conducting interviews with musicians”

They are also running competitions on their social media channels, including a raffle worth £855 in prizes from independent, ethical sellers to raise money for Art Refuge and Black South West Network.

“There will be a show” A shot from the 2020 fashion show

“Bristol is an epicentre for change”

Alexandra explained that their choice of charities this year stemmed from listening to their community: “We felt that it was really important to listen to our community, and listen to our wider community within Bristol.” Reflecting on the Black Lives Matter movement, and the fall of the Colston statue, she added “Bristol is an epicentre for change and speaking about these really important issues.”

“Black South West Network is a really wonderful charity, which promotes business opportunities, and speakers, and help along the way to really innovate and bring people into business”

Emily also added that listening to the community has enabled FUZE to “give students the opportunity to do great work and support incredible charities that mean a lot to them”.

“Our aim is to make sure that no matter who you are, you see yourself represented in FUZE”

We spoke about what they wanted FUZE’s legacy to be this year, to which Alexandra and Emily agreed that they wanted their new ethos of inclusivity, diversity and sustainability to be carried forward with FUZE generations to come.

“Inclusivity, without a shadow of a doubt, has to happen in fashion shows, and it hasn’t.” Alexadra said, “We’re just completely throwing out all possible norms, and this is who we are and we love absolutely all of our cast, everyone brings such an amazing flair and creativity. Our shows and events are always a thing of expression.”

A runway look from the FUZE 2020 show, Graphic: Sophie Cherry

Emily also added, “Our aim is to make sure that no matter who you are, you see yourself represented in FUZE.

“Fashion shows especially are so exclusive, you can only get involved if you look a certain way or come from a certain background and we just want to throw it out. That’s a huge motivator for us”

Reflecting on the successes of previous shows, Alexandra said that this year FUZE want to “give a bit more” and “push the boundaries of what a community like this can do”.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Y2K, pop up stores and brand campaigns: These are the biggest Bristol Uni Depop shops

• Meet the new team bringing FUZE fashion show back this year

• Seven things I have learnt from dating under the 10pm curfew