“Talent like this should be acknowledged and appreciated."
On June 19, 2013, students from an outreach centre linked to the College of Bedfordshire held a fashion show at the Chiltern Hotel in Luton. DESIblitz were invited to cover the event and host the show.
The producer of the show was College teacher and part-time university lecturer, Aneesa Kiani. Aneesa wanted to celebrate the talent of her young and gifted designers. The event also raised money for Breast Cancer Research UK and funding of equipment and resources for the students of Central Bedfordshire College.
The majority of students at the college come from a South Asian background with many from traditional families which do not allow permission for children to attend mainstream colleges.
Aneesa is based at the college’s Outreach Centre which is a gateway for these students to learn and use their creative gift into design. They attend the course and manage life between college and home.
The show, which was put together by Aneesa and her students, celebrated the end of their diploma and showcased their final major projects, promoting the Outreach Centre’s students.
Aneesa researched that within the South Asian community in Luton there has been a growing numbers of breast cancer patients. Therefore, the event was also a way of promoting Breast Cancer awareness in the local community.
Many of these young ladies are not allowed to mix with men whether it is academically or professionally as their families are extremely strict. Most had to ask permission from families to even attend the show that their collections were being exhibited at.
Although some were told that they could not attend, their collections were still shown at the event as many of the women have a natural talent for creative design.
Aneesa was asked about her passion for teaching and inspiration for the fashion show:
“Teaching gave me a lot exposure to different communities, different types of people and the greater understanding about equality and diversity,” she said.
“After 3 and ½ years there was a restructure at the organisation and the new principle saw my talent in design and encouraged me to run the BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Fashion and Clothing at the outreach centre.”
Many questioned the future success of the course due to the majority of students being South Asian Muslim females who just wanted to learn how to put a shalwar kameez together.
Aneesa says: “At first, enrollments were slow but I got eight dedicated students that have led this course to such a success that within the first term I had already enrolled for the next academic year.”
She continues: “I have been truly blessed with the students I have got to teach and what a way to begin my teaching career in Fashion. I have held many exhibitions, shows and open days where local MPs, Professors and even the Local Mayor have appreciated the hard work and talents these ladies have.”
The course has been running for the past two years. This fashion show was a celebration of the students final major projects so their families and the local community could see the talent these women have.
“For some of these ladies this will be the end of the road as they will not be able to go in to Higher Education due to family commitments but I feel this show will give them enough exposure to stay intact with the design industry.”
“Talent like this should be acknowledged and appreciated so the Fashion Show will be an opportunity for these ladies to have that,” Aneesa adds.
Over three hundred guests attended the event and the sounds of applause echoed throughout the evening. Even though this was a great celebration of art and creativity through fashion, there was an element of sadness that these young women would not be able to pursue this further.
Some collections were so outstanding that you would expect to see them at some high-end fashion show in London.
But there is still some hope to be had: “With such an overwhelming response, I will give my commitment to my students and the college that we will run a fashion show every year,” says Aneesa.
“Hopefully this will start to slowly change some traditional families’ way of thinking and let these creative and talented individuals pursue this further. But small steps at a time. We have taken the first small step,” she adds.
Although there is a big struggle ahead to see these young women free to choose their own futures, community wellness events like these are going a long way to give them the appreciation they deserve.