Wednesday, October 18

Revolutionary runway


A student-run fashion show merges activism and design in a campaign against sweatshops

A&E


Tonight, those who choose to enter Ackerman Grand Ballroom will
experience a revolution. Created by and for UCLA students, this
revolution is a multimedia event produced by UCLA Fashion and
Student Trends, a campus organization that provides students with
the opportunity to take on different roles as they work together to
create, among other things, a completely sweatshop-free fashion
show.

“This is an issue that is not talked about at all, but it
is really prevalent in L.A.,” said Shaggy Bajrami, the club
president and head organizer of tonight’s event, about the
organization’s anti-sweatshop stance. “We have a huge
immigrant population and a lot of sweatshops, and there is no
fashion geared at (a sweatshop-free) career at all.”

This, she said, is one of the main reasons she decided to
dedicate this year’s entire show to only student
designers.

Admission to the event is free, but donations are encouraged, as
all proceeds benefit the Garment Worker Center, an employment
center that hires immigrant workers at legal paying rates and
advocates for worker rights within the garment industry.

T-shirts will also be sold at the event to raise funds for this
organization.

The theme of the show is “Revolution,” giving
student designers the freedom to choose from an array of concepts
for their respective clothing lines.

“We chose this theme because we wanted something that is
relevant to the present day,” said Aaron Valenzuela, vice
president of the club and budget director for the fashion show.

“However, we’re not trying to make it
political,” he said. “It can be a revolution in any
form possible. It can be personal, political, visual, whatever you
want.”

Valenzuela has participated in the club’s annual fashion
show for the last two years as a model and dancer, but wanted to
take on more responsibility this year.

“This year I will be both dancing and designing,” he
said, and that is in addition to his administrative duties.

Bajrami, now in her fourth year in the club, points out that
there are several ways to be involved with the show other than
being a designer.

“We have photographers, videographers, models, dancers,
stage designers and lighting designers,” she said, outlining
various production duties she oversees.

Other key roles include marketing and financial
responsibilities, as the logistics of the show are also planned by
the club.

“I think it’s an amazing opportunity for students to
get behind the scenes,” said Evey Rothstein, a UCLA alumna
and one of the designers at this year’s show.

“I do a lot of club shows and underground artist shows,
and UCLA is one of the most professional ones that I’m
involved with,” she said of the show’s organizational
committee. I wish I had known about (the club) when I was there. I
was an anthropology major, and designing was just something I did
on my own.”

Valenzuela points out that UCLA does not have a fashion major,
and that this is one of the few outlets for student designers on
campus.

By encouraging student designers to come together in creating
the show, the creative and activist elements of the event can truly
come together.

“Lots of clothes nowadays are overpriced,” he said.
“But this will show people that we do have the capability to
make our own clothes.”

Through advocating creativity and originality within their
clothing lines, designers can also take action to steer buyers away
from mass-produced clothing made in sweatshops.

But such a strong stance against sweatshops was not necessarily
an easy one to take.

“When we made it sweatshop-free, it made it hard to fund
the show,” said Bajrami, who was part of this decision when
it was initially implemented for last year’s show.
“Three of the companies we used to use had sweatshops, so we
couldn’t allow them to participate.”

The organization has since received little financial help from
UCLA.

“With something like fashion, it’s hard do convince
UCLA that it’s important,” Bajrami said. “But
everyone involved works really hard to fund the show. Still, we
will need to finish paying for the cost of the show even after
it’s over.”

Rothstein supports these efforts, from both the artists’
and activists’ standpoints.

“I hate the whole conformist thing ““ how people just
buy what’s in the store window of Urban Outfitters,”
she said. “The theme of “˜Revolution’ encourages
people to do their own thing and trust themselves to be different
with how they dress.”

But the show is reinforcing more than just a cultural
message.

“Every big label is using sweatshops in other countries,
and the way they treat workers is terrible,” Rothstein
said.

“Organizations like (The Garment Worker Center) are very
important because so many companies are producing overseas. We need
this organization to grow so it can oversee what’s going on.
And the more we support it, the better job it can do.”

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