Meet the directors of Leeds RAG Fashion Show 2022

Introducing Jameliah, Catelyn and Ellena!

Leeds RAG Fashion Show is back for 2022, and it’s shaping up to be one of the biggest events of the semester! Unlike previous years, the 2022 show has three directors: Creative Director Jameliah Adekunle, who was the 2020 Hair and Makeup Stylist for the show, and Assistant Directors Catelyn Louwrens and Ellena Smith. I spoke to the girls to discuss their vision for the show ahead of the event.

Q. Tell me about yourselves

Jam: Hi, I’m Jameliah, but most people call me Jam! I’m 21 and in final year (4th year) studying Liberal Arts and International Language. In the future, I want to be in the fashion industry, probably something to do with creative direction. Once I’ve graduated, I’d like to do a masters in London, maybe at an arts college!

Catelyn: I’m Catelyn! I’m 20 and studying fashion marketing at uni. At the moment I’m not too sure what I want to do, but I’m still thinking fashion related… I’ve done some social media roles, so maybe in that side of things. I want to do something creative, but with a logical side to it – that’s why I chose fashion marketing.

Ellena: I’m Ellena and I’m studying fashion marketing as well! I’m 20 and I want to go into the fashion industry too. Probably something more creative, like creative marketing or social media, as I have a bit of experience from completing a social media internship.

Q. How did you get your roles?

Ellena: Catelyn and I applied together as we were friends already and had worked together on our course! We hadn’t really heard of the fashion show in first year, so we put together a document with a vision and Jam did the same.

Jam: The events coordinators of Leeds RAG usually hire the creative directors together so they have a co-directorship, but I applied by myself, because most of my friends do liberal arts/academic degrees, so I didn’t really have anyone to apply with. Rebecca and Minty [the events coordinators] told me two other girls had applied with a similar vision and asked if I’d like them to be assistant directors.

I think the assistant director role works really well because they have different ideas, they’re more experienced with marketing, and they’re way more organised than me! Whereas I have more of the creative, random ideas – so it’s good to have that balance.

Q. How do you find managing 50 people?

Ellena: We have heads of department, so like marketing, finance, sponsorship. Our role is more to oversee it (not micromanage!) and make sure everything is going smoothly.

Catelyn: We find it really helpful having heads of department so that we have a touch point with each department, meaning we don’t have to speak to 50 people every day!

Q. What has been your biggest challenge so far with directing the show?

Jam: I think for me personally, because last year’s show started quite late (in the summer) due to Covid, we had a reduced amount of time to prepare things in comparison with years before. Covid has also brought challenges with obtaining sponsorship, so we’ve been trying to do more fundraisers. But we’re getting through it!

Ellena: I think it’s similar for me. Covid has increased the pace! Usually the whole committee is hired by October, but we only finished hiring at the end of October so only started in November. Since then, we find out we have a shoot and the shoot will be next week and we have to get clothes, models, etc. We’ve been working on a very tight schedule, which is very new for me!

Catelyn: I think time going quickly has finally caught up with us as well! We were sat the other day and realised it’s five or six weeks until the show! It feels like only last week we were hiring the models!

Q. What are you most looking forward to on the actual night?

Jam: I’m looking forward to seeing the creative side come to fruition! Also seeing everyone enjoying themselves and witnessing the end product. And, of course, raising money for charity, both are really important and relate to the theme of the show. They’ve been really engaged with us and are really worth raising money for.

Ellena: When we had the launch party and the promo video was played it was unexpectedly emotional! It showed all of the work of everyone coming together. When the show finishes on that final Saturday, it’ll not just be the hard work of us directors – it’s the committee, the charities that have worked with us, the whole thing. I’m looking forward to that!

Catelyn: I’m really excited to see the audience’s reaction, because I think we’re doing things quite differently! It’s always been quite sustainability focussed and we’ve got a very different theme. So I’m looking forward to seeing what people think of it and the atmosphere it creates.

Q. So do you think the focus is what makes this year different from all the rest?

Jam: When I applied with my proposal it was very much on the idea that I wanted to present ideas that have not necessarily been portrayed before in fashion. So, fashion as a mode for social change and using protest as a way to show how important fashion is for a lot of people. We also wanted to give a space to those creatives who may not have been given the space before from marginalised communities.

I think that’s the difference. It’s always a risk when you’re doing something different, but it takes one team to really change the idea so that from then on others will be empowered to also do something outside the box.

Q. Talk me through the inspiration for the theme ‘Ignite’.

Jam: It’s based on how during Covid there were a lot of protests and situations that came to light while we were all stuck at home. As a black woman, I’ve always had issues with racial injustice and inequalities, but when the George Floyd protests happened and how he was murdered, it upset me obviously, but also made me want to use my upset in a way that was creative, allowing me to show something that means a lot to me.

So the theme is based on that feeling and from that looking at other marginalised communities too, such as people from the LGBTQ+ community and how they haven’t been given the same opportunities as other communities.

We don’t all want to be somber about it though! This is about coming together as a group and empowering those people and allowing us to create something collaboratively.

Cateyln: We [Catelyn and Ellena] had a very similar idea. We are the generation for change and we wanted to show that, so we spoke with Jam about combining the two. We want to ignite a change and spark a conversation through the show, as well as celebrating the differences and highlighting them, because they’re important for us to understand.

Ellena: It’s also the fact we’re celebrating cultures, in addition to highlighting the fact that change needs to happen.

Q. Why were the two charities chosen?

The charities chosen for this year are Racial Justice Network and Stop Hate UK.

Ellena: The main thing we wanted to do when choosing charities was to go for one on national scale and one on a local scale. Racial Justice Network is based in Leeds and we wanted to support a local charity where we could see the change they were creating.

Cateyln: Racial Justice Network is obviously focussed on racial injustices and helping to educate and combat that, while Stop Hate UK has a wider focus. It supports people from many different communities that suffer from hate crime, whether that’s disability, sex, race or anything. We wanted to have a wider reach on a national level too so we could support as many people as possible.

Q. If you could sum up in a couple of sentences why students should come to this year’s show, what would you say?

Jam: People should come to this fashion show because it’s different, it will educate you, and potentially influence your life. It’s going to spark a conversation between people, and it’s not just fashion we’re showing – there’s going to be dance, music and much more. It’ll be an interactive show, not just a catwalk.

Ellena: Come to the show because by coming, you’re not just supporting the charities, you’re supporting the movement towards social change. There’s a deep-rooted meaning in everything we’re doing with planning the show, so if you want to feel like a part of that, a part of the change – come along!

Catelyn: It’s going to be exciting!  Yes you’re supporting charities, but you’re also supporting students and it didn’t happen last year. It’s a great thing to see and it’s in the Union.  I don’t think there’s anything else like this at Leeds, so it’ll be a unique experience.

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