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Interview with Jameliah Adekunle, Creative Director for LRFS

Updated: Mar 2

Written by Jo Beverley


One of the most highly anticipated student-led events of the year, Leeds RAG Fashion Show, is BACK baby! And better than ever.


For the first time in Leeds RAG Fashion Show’s run, the event is being crafted by 3 female directors who have combined their stylistic vision to give an unforgettable performance. The award-winning show is supporting two charities this year that are closely linked to its theme of racial inequality. The first is the Racial Justice Network, a West Yorkshire based charity that conducts its activism at a grass-roots level, engaging with institutions and decision-makers to enact change, and mobilising communities. Leeds RAG Fashion Show (LRFS) has also joined up with Stop Hate UK, which is one of the leading national organisations in challenging hate crime and discrimination. Stop Hate UK is the only UK charity to offer a free 24-hour anti-Hate Crime reporting service to monitor discrimination and abuse for a person’s race, faith, sexuality, age, disability, or gender identity. Have a look at all the great work they do within our local community and nationwide in the links below, and don’t forget to donate.


Racial Justice Network - https://racialjusticenetwork.co.uk/

Stop Hate UK - https://www.stophateuk.org/


Jameliah Adekunle is the Creative Director behind this year’s RAG fashion show. The show is one of the University’s biggest events of the year, and to be responsible for planning and organising it is undoubtedly challenging. That said, Jameliah has been overcoming challenges within LRFS for a while now, having been the Hair and Makeup Stylist for the show in 2020. Despite having to deal with cancelled makeup artists, no-show hair stylists, and a packed show, she decided to come back for more and take on the responsibility of Creative Director.


“The show went on, and I decided to apply for director after that […] I might as well apply, didn’t really think I’d get it -but I did!”



Jameliah Adekunle (Creative Director) Photo Credits for all photography in this article go to Maisy Healy (Media Director at Leeds RAG Fashion Show)



Jameliah has also been active in the fashion event planning scene for a while, having directed a fashion show for her Extended Qualification Project (EPQ) during sixth form. Jameliah has always been interested in “traditional art” like drawing and painting. She decided to combine these skills with her interest in performance art (“I’ve danced and sang and played music since I was 2 years old,” she tells me). This eclectic mix of interests and skills is clearly seen in her attention grabbing and meaning-laden artwork: “how you present art is how you can include a more political focus.”


Following in this vein, Jameliah “wants to give people a glimpse into how fashion has been influenced by the history of marginalised communities, like the black trans community.” Those involved in the production of the show are very aware of the inherent exploitative and occasional superficial nature of the Western fashion industry, and the show is aimed at celebrating the marginalised people who have had to sacrifice for fashion, as well as allowing for people in these communities to come together creatively. Though, Jameliah doesn’t shy away from the sometimes dark truths of the fashion industry -“Work needs to be done to improve diversity and allow more people to be attracted to the industry.” As the fashion world is dominated by white, cishet perspectives, it is very difficult to be inclusive to a range of people. While it is becoming more common to see a wider range of people represented on the face of fashion (like on posters, magazines, or catwalks) the real work to be done is “behind the screens” such as the directors, planners, producers, and executives who have remained unchanged. While it is hard to articulate such a complex topic, Jameliah and the rest of the crew behind LRFS are determined to do their best to communicate the meaning of this year’s show.


“It’s definitely been difficult to present that ideology in a show that’s only an hour and a half.”



From left: Catelyn Louwrens, Jameliah Adekunle and Ellena Smith (Ellena and Catelyn are assistant directors)



The show’s theme for this year is IGNITE -an attention-grabbing title to represent the ignited collaboration between marginalised groups that has been stirred since the pandemic. Racial injustice -such as the death of George Floyd, which led to the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020- has inspired many marginalised communities to come together creatively and express their struggles through art and political campaigning. Creative Director Jameliah Adekunle has chosen to express this frustration and energy into planning this year’s fashion show. I managed to have a word with her in between a few of her meetings to talk a little bit about the upcoming show.



Image take from their official launch party, where the 2022 theme IGNITE was announced.



How can fashion be used to enact social change?


Jameliah:

Fashion can enact social change in a lot of ways, really. Fashion is something that everyone engages with, most people wear clothes and use it as a sense of their own identity. Most simply, if you are wearing clothes that you like, that’s an act of social change, expressing yourself through clothes.


On a wider scale, getting people of colour and marginalised people involved behind the camera is important. It’s easy to have a few tokenistic black people, tokenistic ages and be like- that’s it, we’re diverse now. What is your reason behind that? Is it because you want to just play the game, or is it because you actually think these people are worth being involved with creative engagement? And showing that fashion is actually diverse.


[…] I study Liberal Arts, and we’ve been learning how creativity meets political activism. It’s interesting to see that a lot of the foundations of fashion actually come from indigenous communities and marginalised communities. Like in Africa, fashion has always been a big part of culture, and a lot of the time they have their clothes made by local seamstresses and tailors, and that’s not really a culture in England. I feel like they have kind of stolen the glitz and glam of fashion and presented that. While in these smaller communities and less praised communities, they’re actually doing a lot to engage people with fashion. […] It's interesting to strip back from all the superficiality.


What makes this year of LRFS different to the rest?


Jameliah:

[About this year’s show]

Looking at the opposite side of orientalism and tokenism within the white fashion industry and looking at something that is from a black creative director -something that is more from the heart, I think. We have tried to include opinions from people who were in those circles, really, rather than oh- this is what we think should be presented, when we’re not actually part of that community. I am a black woman, so I’m part of that community, but there are different angles to look at it.


Are there any social issues you would like to explore in future projects?


Jameliah:

Yeah, I mean I’m definitely not done with this sort of idea of expressing marginalised communities through fashion. Because, yeah, there are so many marginalised communities, and obviously within this one fashion show we can't present all of them, and I think researching more into more niche areas like less well-known communities that are involved with fashion. I want to be able to present their ideas with fashion. Not really sure how I will do that yet. […] Like potentially doing more shows, or doing more research, or doing my dissertation on that idea. Just continuing to do more projects with my friends and showing people more about marginalised communities and how they interact with the fashion industry.


And finally, the most important question: When’s the show?


Friday 25th- Sat 26th Feb


Tickets are available here, but are quickly selling out.


And for anyone interested in getting involved with the show and behind the scenes with RAG Fashion, there will be applications for production assistants and dressers. There are some webinars coming up before the show to check out that will discuss inequality and injustice within different communities and aim to educate and inform. “I don’t want to stop educating at the end of the show […] I think we could potentially do other fundraisers after the fashion show.”


So, for anyone wanting to get involved, Jameliah summed it up very simply: “Basically, just come to the fundraisers.” To keep up to date, follow Leeds RAG Fashion Show on instagram, or check their website for updates.








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