The Oxford Union’s ‘I Am’ Solidarity Fashion Show last weekend, celebrated survivors and resilience in Oxford University and the broader UK community. This was the Oxford Union’s first fashion show: a historical event for the institution’s 200-year history.
The event was part of a The Serenity Project, founded in 2017, by Oxford PhD student and Rhodes Scholar, Serene Singh. The Serenity Project aims to prevent suicides and empower survivors of every background. Singh spoke at the show, “We don’t know how long we have anyone. But I know one thing: there is so much importance in making sure people feel truly loved big time while we have them. This show is about celebrating many beautiful souls, just like my best friend I lost unexpectedly about a week ago. From years of running The Serenity Project, I have seen the unique and incredible effect fashion and events that celebrate resilience can have on people and have witnessed how they can be the start of changes in policies, in conversations, and especially in building community.”
One of the models participating in the show Emma Metcalf, a student at Oxford Brookes University and an Oxford Union member comments, “The event allowed me to find my voice. It made me realize how powerful and strong I am. As someone who has been through a suicide attempt and is now in a wheelchair, I gained so much confidence within myself and so much love.”
Six designers - all with unique cultural and ethnic backgrounds - were selected for the show and were all connected to the cause of survivorship in different ways. Noemie Jouas, who has been featured by Vogue and London Fashion Week, commented “It’s such an honor to have been involved in this show for many reasons but especially because the entire event focused on an issue that is never talked about - especially in the fashion industry. It was deeply touching to see models flourish on stage.” Others participating included Farida Rashid, Chloe Romanos, Joanna Deacon, Lucy Goodall, and Oxford Saïd Business School student Asha Vettoor. Oxford University’s Contemporary Dance Society, Zeta Sky, Oxford University alumnus Marie Sion and Manchester-based BBC Introducing Artist award winner RIYA also performed.
The event also presented the Union an opportunity to challenge its historical association with injustice and mental health issues. Support was received from various student groups across over thirty colleges, and also professional organizations like the Oxford Sexual Assault and Rape Crisis Centre, Oxfordshire Mind, and the Rhodes Trust. It also served as an at-large fundraiser for charity - donations were collected for the Clean Slate organization, a local charity that focuses on supporting survivors with counseling and workshops.