Today is an important day. We are saying No to Violence against Women and marking the 20th anniversary of this vital work led by the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN Trust Fund). London College of Fashion, UAL along with SHOWstudio, is proud to be using the Orange Label Project to raise awareness of this issue and we are asking the fashion industry to get behind it.
Fashion Says NO to Violence against Women has called on fashion students from across the world and across all disciplines to produce a piece of work using the colour orange. Today we intend to flood our digital realities with #orangetheworld and #Orangelabelproject. Please join us!
I want our industry to stop today and think about how we portray women. In our advertising, our fashion narratives, our designs and our strategies - and then we can make a powerful difference. One in three women has experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives. That’s a staggering number. How often does the fashion industry question its use of the female image - women as victims, hypersexualised or two-dimensional?
As an industry we have a responsibility to educate a generation of strategists, designers, image-makers, and marketers and make explicit that this stereotyping isn’t acceptable. Trailblazers like All Walks Beyond the Catwalk who stand for diversity in front of and behind the lens are significant in our collective bid to see an end to this outdated and inappropriate normalising of the female image.
We know that raising awareness makes a difference. Some of the projects that the UN Trust Fund has been involved in are proof of this. UN Trust Fund has worked with Uganda-based organisation Raising Voices on a programme of community activities to challenge power imbalances between men and women. An independent evaluation by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that in communities where the programme was implemented, 76 per cent of women and men believed that physical violence against a partner was not acceptable; the corresponding figure in the control communities was 26 per cent.
When I first met Aldijana Sisic, Chief of the UNTF, at the Women: Inspiration and Enterprise Awards last June, we talked about how London College of Fashion, UAL could support this ongoing campaign using aspects of creativity, identity and fashion. And at LCF we are working with the UN on multiple fronts, helping them to promote wellbeing, equality and safety globally. From innovative responses to the needs of women and children in the Za’atari refugee camp, to building social responsibility and sustainability into our teaching, learning and research. We stand beside the UN and their mission. It’s synonymous with our own, what we call our Better Lives agenda.
The first part of the Orange Label project has seen students creating work using the colour orange. This wasn’t only for fashion designers, but also stylists, journalists, film-makers, illustrators and make-up artists. And it wasn’t just for our students either; as chair of the International Foundation for Fashion and Technology Institutes, I was able to spread the word to its 54 members and make this a truly global project.
We were delighted to have had over 150 entries and many were group collaborations, some as large as 28, coming from all fashion's disciplines and from students at different levels of study. We had entries from across the globe- from Nigeria, Turkey, Singapore, Australia, UK and USA.
What impressed me the most about the student competition was the positivity of the entries. The idea was to celebrate 20 years of the UN Trust Fund, so it wasn’t designed to highlight individual stories, or use shock tactics. The students took an ideal and made it come alive, they illustrated a world of equality where their subjects were truly empowered. We heard about their inspirations, their own stories and about how they wanted their work to influence the industry in a positive way.
This is the ethos that we work towards and demonstrates how London College of Fashion, UAL is shaping lives.
Activism is about changing the world, but it is about collective action; a social movement and a coming together of likeminded individuals.
There has never been a time when social movement is needed more than right now. What’s more social than social media? Seeing orange when we check our platforms today will mean people are coming together to think about, and speak out about, violence towards women and girls. Please show your support by uploading an image featuring the colour orange and using #orangetheworld and #Orangelabelproject.
If one other person sees your image and finds out more about the project, or if you trigger someone’s thought process, it will contribute to a collective awareness of this problem, a care to avoid stereotypes and a concern for the people around us.
It shows, overwhelmingly, what we can do if we stand together.
Professor Frances Corner OBE
Head of London College of Fashion, Pro-Vice Chancellor University of the Arts London