Every year, All Walks launches Diversity NOW!, a campaign that brings together fashion students from across the UK, who all believe in our cause: diversity in fashion. Supported by Graduate Fashion Week, Arts Thread and i-D Magazine, the competition looks to empower and inspire the next generation of creatives. From designers to journalists, each candidate is given the opportunity to blur fashion’s rigid boundaries and celebrate individuality. Diversity NOW! looks to challenge stereotypes and embolden the future fashion influencers.
Here, we catch up with last year’s winner Brogan Toyn, a BA Fashion Design Technology Menswear graduate from London College of Fashion, whose graduate collection ‘Jamaican me Crazy’ sought to oppose frequently homophobic dancehall lyrics, by creating expressive street wear for the modern man. Brogan’s core message of strength through adversity resonated with All Walks.
Why did you choose to address homophobic dancehall lyrics in your graduate collection?
Fortunately I have not been affected by this personally, but I’m hugely inspired by the juxtaposition of common culture with subcultures. I wanted to address an issue that not only reversed normal gender stereotypes, but questioned sexual and race codes.
Why did you decide to take part in Diversity NOW?
What appealed to me most was that Diversity NOW promotes fashion with meaning, rather than just as clothes. Also, the competition is a fantastic platform for getting your work seen.
What was the inspiration behind your winning entry last year?
I was inspired by the over-the-top street style of Jamaica’s dancehall queens and their provocative fashion choices. However, although visually I was inspired by the energetic mood and vibrant costumes of the dancehall, it is the challenging of discriminatory lyrics by some artists who celebrate homophobic attitudes which underpin my designs.
How did you want people to feel after seeing your designs? And what was the reaction?
Happy. I want them to smile, laugh even – I want people to celebrate others expressing themselves through clothes. Everyone deserves to be an individual. But I don’t think my style of menswear is for everyone!
What advice would you give to students submitting work this year?
Choose a topic or issue that you feel genuinely passionate about, something that really does inspire you to create.
Do you think the industry is becoming more diverse?
Maybe there isn’t as much open discrimination, so to some extent there is progression. Projects like this demonstrate a shift in attitudes – I think there are more opportunities to be different. However, I still think there is a fear to do so.
How has taking part in Diversity NOW! affected you, one year on?
It was a fantastic opportunity that pushed me to design with greater intention, something which I continue to do in my practice as a designer.
Elspeth Merry is a recent University of the Arts London Journalism graduate. She was Features Editor of her University newspaper Arts London News, and is the Features Assistant at 1883 Magazine. She has also written for the Huffington Post and spent last summer in New York writing for Zink Magazine.