SolidariTee is a national campaign raising money to help provide legal aid to refugeesEvelina Gumileva

It’s a typically busy Saturday in the centre of Cambridge; early November with a chill in the air. I escape into the enclave of Sidney Sussex from the bustling crowds. Walking across the court in Sidney is Alexandra Sive, current President of the Cambridge University Charity Fashion Show (CUCFS). In black jeans and a dark top, Sive looks the part - chic and collected, she greets me in an open and friendly manner. Our conversation is in conjunction with the announcement of the charity which the show will be working with this year, which will be announced with a shoot in the old and ornate rafters of the Cambridge Union.

Now in its fifth year, CUCFS has raised over £50,000. Last year, CUCFS supported A21, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation working to fight human trafficking globally. This year, all of CUCFS’ profits will be donated to the Cambridge-founded organisation SolidariTee. Originally founded in 2017 by student Tiara Sahar Ataii, SolidariTee is a national campaign raising money to help provide legal aid to refugees.

“Part of the way that SolidariTee works is by showing support for a cause through what you're wearing."Evelina Gumileva

For Sive, SolidariTee was a natural choice in that the charity’s founder is a Cambridge student herself. Ataii was in her first year at Robinson when she started the organisation, raising money from the t-shirts it designs and sells. So far it has donated 100% of the proceeds to Advocates Abroad - an NGO providing legal aid and representation to refugees in Greece and Turkey - each SolidariTee t-shirt sold equals one night of accommodation for a human rights lawyer in Greece. “Their way of working is very direct - they are involved every step of the way.”

“It’s nice that it's also a clothing-based campaign,” explains Sive. “Part of the way that SolidariTee works is by showing support for a cause through what you're wearing. Action can’t end there, and it doesn’t with SolidariTee, but it’s a good place to start raising awareness.”

“A lot of the designs are quite dramatic and I think that strong faces work very well with that.”Evelina Gumileva

“We decided early on that we wanted to move away from a more minimalist way of looking at fashion and go for a kind of maximalist approach,” Sive tells me. This is a consistent vision from the designers chosen to the models: “A lot of the designs are quite dramatic and I think that strong faces work very well with that.” While the shoot announcing SolidariTee as the charity which CUCFS is supporting this year has a pared back feel in terms of the natural make-up, with most of the models in jeans and the t-shirts that SolidariTee produces and sells, the recent shoot announcing the change in location of the final show in Lent to the Guild Hall is an example of the “maximalist” aspirations this years’ team have.

Sive called the shoot a “unformed chrysalis before the butterfly of the show.”Domininkas Žalys

Starting out with a simple idea, a trip to Hobbycraft to buy every piece of organza they could find as well as reams of flowers, the team put together a shoot in the completely empty Guildhall. Sive called the shoot a “unformed chrysalis before the butterfly of the show.”

This year, the show will be moved to the Guildhall from the Corn Exchange. Speaking about the Guildhall, Sive said: “It's absolutely gorgeous, with all of the guilt detailing; the huge organ. It's very ornate so it fits the designs that we've chosen perfectly.

“A lot of the designs of the garments are almost baroque creations - they’re huge and dramatic and the Guildhall will be the perfect backdrop for that.”

“I want to create a space in which those clothes can be shown off to the best of their ability, where it feels like an experience.”Evelina Gumileva

The team took a hands-on approach when it came to sourcing designers. “We really wanted to work with graduate designers, so in June we went to Graduate Fashion Week in Shoreditch, where lots of the UK’s leading fashion schools, as well some international universities, show their work. It meant that we were able to see a huge range of people.”  


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“At the center, what we want anyone who attends the show to remember is the charity and the designers’ creations.” She continues to explain; “I want to create a space in which those clothes can be shown off to the best of their ability, where it feels like an experience.”

For Sive and the team, the show is more than just about the clothes. “Fashion is often branded as something that's only for a certain kind of person - that's just not how it should be at all.”

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