Inside must see event: Uni of York hold a Multicultural Fashion Show

The sold-out fashion show celebrates diversity and cultural heritage in York


University of York student, Timi Phillips, ran her second and most successful multicultural fashion show, held on Tuesday the 23rd of April. The core message of the event was ‘Freedom through Heritage’.

Selling out the event, people were turned away at the door of The Biltmore, reaching its maximum capacity of 350 guests. The popularity of the event was “surreal” for Timi.

The event dripped in luxury: a beautiful two-floored venue with an integrated and immersive catwalk, culturally significant canapés, models exploring culture through fashion, photographers and a small business gallery.

The fashion show started with one of the models serving tea for her friends, a vital part of tea etiquette in Japanese culture, sitting around a table in the centre of the venue.

The model, then, began the catwalk in her flowing, blue kimono.

“They picked their outfits, music and elements to their walk all by themselves and they made me so proud on the day,” said Timi Phillips about the models.

She added: “I hope that they continue to shine and boldly and unapologetically take up space in even less diverse spaces.”

Each model walked, danced, and sang to their own individually curated song, with the help of DJ Jonno Orhiunu, amidst a loud audience.

South Asian Saris, Lehengas, the Nigerian Buba, Pele and Gele, the Japanese Hakama, the Malaysian Baju Melayu and many more beautiful, culturally significant pieces of clothing were styled and paraded down the catwalk.

It was a celebration and exploration of cultural identity, built on a foundation of mutual respect and admiration.

Tamara Baker, a student who attended the event said, “never been to a fashion show before, or an event specifically celebrating diversity.” She added, “I felt it was a safe environment to express culture and respect one another’s”.

Timi Phillips had recognised this gap in the market. She said: “There is an appetite for well-curated and culturally inclusive events here in York amongst the student community.” She did indeed pull through with an event that satisfied this appetite.

The event, despite how fun it was, was not just made for entertainment, it fostered a “safe space, centred around celebrating culture and cultivating a socio-cultural exchange through fashion and other creative mediums” as declared by the organisers.

The value of having a safe space in York for BAME students is crucial, given that the University of York ranked in the top four least diverse Russell Group universities.

Assistant organiser, Moesha Snoek, noticed this difference when she first came to the university. She said, “York is notably a white campus and we wanted to create space for those that do not fit in.”

Asking Timi Phillips, about her motivations for holding the event, she said: “Coming to York in first year was quite a challenge for me, I felt quite out of place. I didn’t see myself represented in the student community and code-switching to relate to my white peers became exhausting.”

This experience is one that many BAME students at the University of York can relate to. Timi Phillips’ response was of a determination “to use this as motivation for the greater good and to be the driving force of change” she believed was needed.

“It was an amazing experience that felt surreal, especially being surrounded by all the cultural diversity that York students are able to offer”, said James Martinez, a student at the University of York. He continued, “It was great being with friends and seeing different cultures being represented as York has not been as culturally diverse as other areas I have been to before! It was my first time going and hope it won’t be my last!”

While this is the last year that Timi Phillips will be running the event, hopefully, the popularity of her event will be passed down to her successors.

“I felt so bad turning people away at the door but max capacity is max capacity”, she said, “I think we might have to find a bigger venue next year.”

Both Vice Chancellor of the University of York, Charlie Jeffery and the Rt Hon Lord Mayor of York, Reverend Councillor Cullwick attended the event and shared their appreciation of the event’s significance.

Vice Chancellor Charlie Jeffery spoke about his own heritage. “I’m somebody from a Northamptonshire village, which is about as monocultural as you can get,” he said before reflecting on the event itself.

Quoting the flyer for the multicultural fashion show, he continued, “embracing and celebrating cultural roots as a source of pride and a pathway to liberation… that’s really important for the University of York. The University of York was founded as an activist university in the 1960s. It cared about livelihoods, it wanted to work regardless of class, creed or race.”

The creation of the fashion show helped Moesha reconcile with her identity as a mixed-race woman.

“This event has allowed me to have a space to explore who I am. I’m half Dutch and half Indonesian. However I grew up in a primarily white environment and my Indonesian heritage was never at the forefront,” she said.

The term ‘BAME’ restricted the ways she felt allowed to think and feel about her experiences. However, she added, “This event has allowed me to explore what it means to be BAME for myself and what I want it to be. Mainly a space where we can celebrate and embrace who we are and where we come from without any expectations on us to act a certain way. And I feel like that the Fashion Show was exactly that.”

Guest of the fashion show, Mayor Chris Cullwick also gave a short speech. “We were so pleased to be invited this evening. What a wonderful celebration of all that international students bring to this wonderful international city,” he said.

He and his wife, Mayoress, Mrs Joy Cullwick stayed till the events closed, moving around the venue with smiles on their faces.

While the event attracted big names in the city of York, perhaps the most meaningful guest to Timi Phillips was her own mum, who she said was a big inspiration for the event. It was the first time that her mum was able to attend in person. She was able to see Timi walk the catwalk herself.

Her mum said: “I loved the thought behind making the show an immersive experience for the audience. The impromptu mum and daughter dance was very special to me- it was like a lap of honour shared with her; it will live in my memory forever.”

Timi Phillips, the organiser of the event, is pictured below, modelling.

In case you lost the details of the small business showcased in the gallery, or sadly missed the event, below are the names of the businesses with their socials.

Photographers

Diana @diana_photofilms

Kai @the_arkaive

Lin @lingo_photography

Christian Stoyanovv

Maisze Cheng

 

MUAs

@andreatung_mua

@Danika.artistry

 

Small Businesses

Chioma Akudolu @HairbyChi (Hairstylist)

BC @busculture (Clothing Brand)

Jonathan Orhiunu @mushtheworld (Clothing Brand)

Ileke by Motee @ilekebymotee (Beaded jewellery & accessories)

YFB @yourfilipinobarber (Barber)

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