‘Love Fashion- Hate Injustice’ Meet Oxford’s catwalk campaigners

Meet the Oxford students planning to tackle injustice- one catwalk at a time

A brand new fashion based charity has been making waves in fashionable circles throughout Oxford. We meet some of Fashion Relief’s founders, Oxford students Cai Wilshaw and Sarah Fan to find out more about their motto, “Love Fashion- Hate Injustice”.

Founders Cai and Sarah

What gave you and Sarah the initial idea for a fashion-based society which raises money for charity?

When Sarah and I ran the Northern Lights Fashion Show in Michaelmas, we were surprised at how much interest there was. It was a great night in the end, with live music, great clothes, fabulous cocktails, and on top of that we managed to raise £850 for an incredible Oxford-based charity called the Oxford Gatehouse. A few days afterwards, I thought to myself – why isn’t this done more, and why is it not done on a national level? So the idea for Fashion Relief was born – and months later it’s finally gaining momentum!

The catwalk at Northern Lights Fashion Show

Is this just an Oxford University charity, or do you have plans for further afield?

At present, we’re working very closely with universities including Cambridge, St Andrews, Cardiff, Southampton, Reading, Falmouth and quite a few more are building up their committees too. Once we’ve gained enough support within universities, we’re hoping to get some high schools on board as well!

How have they reacted to the project?

The reaction has been overwhelming, and it’s incredible just how much interest there is once you get in touch with people. So many people have expressed their shock to us that it hasn’t been done before! We’re hoping this’ll actually translate into a set of really exciting events come November, as well as in the future.

Oxford student Charles Malton, model at the Northern Lights fashion show

How does Oxford’s fashion scene inspire you?

The Benefactor show made a huge impression on us, as I feel it truly showed how much of a force for good fashion shows can be – something which some people don’t believe in the slightest. In fact, we were so impressed by the work of the Benefactor team that we really wanted their input with Fashion Relief – which is why Mel Kamalvand, the main organiser of the Benefactor show, is now on board chairing our Creative Committee. I’m so glad to have her help and her team’s input with the charity!

Will Fashion Relief work to combat major issues in the fashion world such as sizism, the fur trade and exclusivism?

We’ve always said that apart from our charitable aims, we feel that Fashion Relief could be a force for good in tackling the wider problems that make the fashion industry so divisive. Sizeism for instance is part of the fashion world’s culture that is slowly changing, but we’d have it move faster, which is why we’re planning on imposing a minimum BMI requirement on the models in the shows nationwide. It’s a drastic move, and one that might gain us criticism from some groups, but we feel confident enough that these are issues people care about, and want to see changed.

I think the fur trade and exclusivism are other areas we want to focus on – ultimately, when we’re starting to gain some momentum, we are then in a position to do something about the issues that matter to students. Our committee is already thinking up ways that Fashion Relief can be both an incredible charity but also a campaigning initiative.

Oxford student Allison Swinbank, model at the Northern Lights fashion show

Have you got any projects in the pipeline already?

We’re in the process of planning a big launch party in London; think rooftop bar and cocktails to showcase our website and give everyone a taste of what’s to come! Our big set of events are planned for this November, with dozens of fashion shows happening across the UK all on the same night. So the main message is – watch this space!