Getting to know the collaborators behind COLLUSION and why other brands need to take notes

all animations by Catherine Morton-Abuah

Content produced in collaboration with COLLUSION

From the constant flood of campaigns we consume to the ritual of wearing clothes day in, day out, the fashion industry is fast, lucrative and all-consuming – but that’s changing. We’re now in an age where individuals drive trends and consumers are savvy to brands’ premeditated blunders.

So, what happens when you gather seven diverse influencers to help shape your brand to better suit society? COLLUSION happens: a new fashion label backed by ASOS, is offering bold, experimental, inclusive styles for the “coming age”. The COLLUSION collaborators co-create numerous parts of the brand – from concepts for drops, brand principles and projects, and crafting clothing hands-on alongside a team of designers.

When browsing through the past and latest collection you get a strong sense of our generation; the androgynous silhouettes, layered styling, and bold colour palettes couldn’t be more in style. It’s fair to say each collection is executed in a way that leaves other high street retailers in the dust.

We caught up with three of COLLUSION’s new cohort of collaborators, body-positive model Antonia Jade, influencer, model and activist Hannah Alkindi, and Laila Nassali, a computer scientist YouTuber specialising in the fashion and beauty industry, to better understand what distinguishes them from other clothing brands.

Antonia Jade

Antonia, 22, is breaking down the narrative of what it means to cater for the plus-size consumer: “I like to wear tight-fitted clothes, crop tops, tight dresses. I like to show off my curves on my body and wear bright colours,” she says. “The plus-sized fashion industry doesn’t allow that – it makes plus-sized women feel like they should be wearing baggy dresses, all black and floral prints and hide everything.”

This echoes what we’re increasingly seeing from other body-positive models, such as Taylor T and Philomena Kwao, who use their social platforms and “no airbrush” campaigns to celebrate their real bodies in fitted, statement garms.

Antonia is open about her journey and candidly shares how her experience in the industry as an introverted, size-22 woman of colour (WoC) shapes how she navigates certain spaces. WoC are often expected to be, and perpetually shamed for being, the loudest person in the room. After posting her first full body picture to Instagram, she found strength in celebrating her individuality both physically and socially, adding, “I used to hate being an introvert but I realised that everyone is different and you don’t have to be the loudest person in the room to be respected or heard. People don’t want me to be a size-10 and ‘that’ Antonia, they want me now as I am, which was really rewarding.”

To avoid what she calls the “extension of the fat-tax”, she thinks plus size women shouldn’t have to pay more for their clothes, and adds, “[that] is why COLLUSION is really good, because they make sure everything is the same for everyone”. She also hopes more brands include the same clothes in both the “straight” and plus size ranges, and deliver affordable high-quality clothes with a range of styles.

“I really like the body suit – I mean, it’s quite hard to pick because I do really love all the pieces – but the body suit for me stands out because they’re not just the simple, plain bodysuits,” adds Antonia. “I love the collection because it allows me to show off my curves but also has cool clothing full of colours and prints.”

Animation by Catherine Morton-Abuah

Hannah Alkindi

The line between influencer, model and activist is often blurred in this Instagram era, and Hannah, 20, sincerely embodies all three. She believes in the capacity fashion companies have to spotlight and impact social issues. She uses her campaigns with them to touch on social subjects close to her heart or to encourage voter turnouts to her large Instagram following.

“These massive campaigns, adverts, and everything that pops up on buses and your computer on a day-to-day basis, subconsciously shapes how you think and how you see things,” she says. “We make something a norm that isn’t a norm, and brands have a duty to show a representation of what the world actually looks like.”

She is convinced that young people will have a lead role in driving change because of the issues our generation are confronted with, adding “diversity for us is a strength. We demand transparency, honesty, something different. We demand inclusion and diversity. We simply demand care.”

This demand for better diversity and honesty is most notably shown in the highest young people voting turnout in over 25 years for the UK 2017 general elections and the 10 March global climate change student strike, inspired by the weekly protests of 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist Greta Thunberg. At the time of writing, the Revoke Article 50 petition sits in Hannah’s Instagram bio: young people were most likely to vote against leaving the EU.

“Diversity for us is a strength. We demand transparency, honesty, something different”

Hannah is adamant that brands have a responsibility to speak out on social issues without exploiting marginalised groups. “What brands have in comparison to people is a platform; they have the funds, they have the social media presence, they have everything,” she explains. “So, they have a really strong platform where they can give people the option to voice their opinion and speak up about something they’re passionate about.”

Released in October 2018, COLLUSIONs debut campaign captured a plethora of 100 young voices living in the UK who would be 18 by 2018, as well as a launch event panel discussing what it means to grow up amid forward-thinking fashion with YouTube streetwear show PAQ’s Dex and Shaq.

Hannah thinks COLLUSION’s dedication to creating authentic safe spaces and events celebrating differences is one of the ways it brings people together.

“Style, fashion, opinions and issues change so much and vary so much from city to city and country to country, so I feel like expanding and bringing everyone together is something I want to and will enjoy being a part of.”

Animation by Catherine Morton-Abuah

Laila Nassali

There’s an increased expectancy for brand’s to defy gender norms, and tech-savvy YouTuber Laila, 21, wants young women to be given platforms to speak about their interests, however non-traditional they may be.

Touching on her background as a computer science student and software engineer intern for ASOS, she says that “it’s predominantly men in technology, so in terms of fashion I’d want to be able to bring out more designs that speaks for all genders. I really like that COLLUSION already does unisex styles for men and women to wear, and a lot of companies in fashion should make sure they advertise in a way that’s gender fluid for everyone.”

Laila also believes that understanding our past can inform our present and future. Through better understanding of women and non-binary people’s contributions to history, people would have a healthier expectation of what we are capable of, she explains. From this, non-stereotypical approaches to designing for all genders could be taken onboard.

Specifically in reference to technological advancements, Laila adds, “there are a lot of women who started it all if you actually look at the history, but because we have become so male-dominated, over time it has discouraged a lot of women. I do a lot of tech-related videos and even on YouTube, there are so many young people like ‘oh my god, you’ve inspired me to do computer science at university’ or ‘I thought that no girls did it’. So, I think it is important for us to also educate men and understand that women can code too.”

So, other brands, are you taking notes? COLLUSION is a clear example of how successful you could be if you collaborate with young people and don’t compromise on your values. Amongst its inclusive sizing and affordable prices, their products are animal-free and the majority of their cotton is sustainably sourced.

Despite only launching in summer 2018, it seems this agile brand has lots to teach others on diversifying their offering.

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