Windrush campaigners bring a political edge to fashion week

Campaigners for and members of the Windrush generation modelled in a catwalk show at Lambeth Town Hall

Campaigners for and members of the Windrush generation modelled in a catwalk show at Lambeth Town Hall. Photograph: Alecsandra Raluca Drăgoi/The Guardian

The official London Fashion Week schedule had a fresh addition on Sunday night, as campaigners for and members of the Windrush generation modelled in a catwalk show.

For the event, titled Next Generation Regeneration: Fashion and Revolution, they modelled plain black T-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘Compensation not Detention’ while one sang an acoustic version of Bob Marley’s Rastaman Chant. A second group was led by the rapper Drillminister, who also performed one of his tracks.

The event, part of a day of Windrush-themed celebrations at Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton, was produced by model, designer and campaigner Eunice Olumide, who also created the collection on show.

Jamelia, Eunice Olumide, Nish Kumar and Richard Pascoe
 From left: Jamelia, Eunice Olumide, Nish Kumar and Richard Pascoe. Photograph: Alecsandra Dragoi/The Guardian

In doing so, her hope was to highlight the “huge and positive impact on society of the Windrush generation”, who were invited to the UK from the Caribbean to help rebuild the country after the second world war. Many were subsequently wrongly denied citizenship by the Home Office in 2018.

“Fashion is a really good vehicle to discuss culture,” said Olumide, who was awarded an MBE in 2017 services to broadcasting, the arts, and charity. “It’s very visual and it’s something that’s been very well archived. There is something fascinating about the way the culture of the Windrush generation affected the UK so significantly in terms of dress and style and fashion, as well as music. They influenced ska, punk, and other subgroups and cultures coming out of that period.”

Ahead of the show itself, attendees were invited to listen to free fashion and sustainability presentations, music performances and panel discussions with comedian Nish Kumar, as well as singer Jamelia, who later attended the fashion show.

“The Asian community is not immune to the racism of this government,” said Kumar. “The fight of the Windrush generation is the fight of everyone from an immigrant background.”

An earlier fashion presentation by Harris Elliott paid reference to the Windrush period, and was followed by a sustainability presentation by fashion designer Nkwo, whose work is made from recycled denim. The day’s keynote speech was delivered by human rights activist Sir Geoff Palmer.

Models walk the runway at the Next Generation Regeneration: Fashion & Revolution event.
 Models walk the runway at the Next Generation Regeneration: Fashion & Revolution event. Photograph: Stuart Wilson/BFC/Getty Images

Following the show, Lambeth councillor Sonia Winifred spoke of how the Windrush generation had contributed to the UK’s sense of style.

“We know that the Windrush generation looked fantastic,” she said. “The men were immaculate, the women just sensational.

While located some miles from the other London fashion week shows’ central London locations, the Next Generation Regeneration: Fashion and Revolution show’s venue was significant, with Lambeth described as “the heart of the Windrush community”. There is also currently a petition to erect a memorial in Brixton’s Windrush Square, opposite the town hall, rather than the government proposed location of Waterloo station.

“The fashion industry has long been linked to revolution, anarchy and significant change within culture and society,” said Olumide. “It is an area where marginalised groups have often been able to bring recognition to various serious social, economic and environmental issues within everyday life.”

[“source=theguardian”]