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Philip Ellis BA collection
Philip Ellis BA collectionCourtesy of Philip Ellis

Fashion students and tutors weigh in on Brexit

People from the Royal College of Art reveal how they’re voting in Thursday’s referendum – and why

This feature is part of a series of collaborative content brought to you with help from our friends at 1 Granary.

With only days to go before the event, the ‘Brexit’ vote is at the centre of people’s minds. The deadline to register has passed, and the spectacle of politicians bickering on television over the future of Britain has lost its apocalyptic sheen, having become an expected succession of Tories' betrayal and power-plays. But the referendum is still a crucial moment for Britain as an exit from the EU would have drastic economic, social and political consequences.

But while tensions are high and polls dead even, one industry has undeniably picked a side and dug its trenches: Fashion is fighting for Remain. And it has also picked its flag: German photographer Wolfgang TillmansRemain posters. Now declined in tee shirts, backgrounds of pastel gradients and sunsets from any-place-whatever, words of human rights and freedom. Like any efficient political art, its aims are clear and its language sharp and polished, but it is hard to grasp from its smooth sentences what actually concerns the fashion industry.

Curious to know what London fashion students (and tutors) actually thought about the EU referendum, we polled them as they were getting prepared for the Royal College of Arts’ MA Fashion Show.

DAVID KAPPO, FASHION TUTOR

“Why, as a fashion designer, would we choose to leave Europe? It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.”

RHIANNON WAKEFIELD, 1ST YEAR MA MENSWEAR

“I am going to vote to stay in, I think it would be ridiculous for us to leave. I want to be able to work abroad. And it’s ridiculous that we would want to come out of any of our trading agreements. That’s insane. Our economy would be fucked.”

KIRA GOODEY, 1ST YEAR MA FOOTWEAR

“I am voting to stay. I am pro-immigration, being an immigrant myself. I agree that the EU is fundamentally flawed and is arguably undemocratic. There are some problems. The answer to that is not throwing your toys out of the pram. The positives of the EU far outweigh the negatives. The main reasons for everyone wanting to go seem to be the economy and immigration. Firstly, the economy, that’s rubbish. We know we’re gonna be substantially worse off. I think we still got the British Empire imperialist attitude that we’re gonna matter with this tiny irrelevant country, but the way to still have a voice is to have the union.

Fundamentally, all these countries, yes we have different cultures but we have the same values: leaning towards socialism, human rights, etc. I think that’s really important. We haven’t had a war in Europe in 70 years. Anyone who thinks that the European Union isn’t a big cause of that is an idiot. And the people who have a problem with immigration tend to be of an older demographic, and what they seem to fail to realise is that we have an ageing population and that most of the people from the EU working here are paying their pensions.”

ELLIE ROUSSEAU, 1ST YEAR MA MENSWEAR KNITWEAR

“I’ll vote to stay in. People think that if we leave it will put this barrier to prevent people getting in, but it will also put a barrier that will prevent us from leaving. It’s just shutting down the world instead of being fluid. That barrier thing is the main thing for me.”

HELEN KIRKUM, 2ND YEAR MA FOOTWEAR 

“I am going to vote to stay in the EU. I think that’s really important. Especially living in London there are so many diverse cultures and people from all over the world here. Studying at the RCA as well, people are from all over the world – European student, international student – just from being here I have learned so much from all these different cultures and I think it is such a richer place for that. Also on a practical level, my boyfriend is French, I am going to work in Germany, I have a lot of connections with all sort of places in Europe. If we suddenly cut all ties we are gonna be really stranded. Britain on its own just seems a bit pathetic, this little island that thinks it’s a big dog, but I think without the Union we are gonna struggle.”

HANNAH EVANS, 2ND YEAR MA WOMENSWEAR KNITWEAR

“I am going vote Remain. I think it’s really important that we have the flexibility and the fluidity across borders so that people can go to different countries so that we have a mix of different cultures. I think I benefit greatly from having a massive mix of cultures and nationality on my course. And I also think that it’s important in day to day life to have that understanding, and have conversations with people from different countries, otherwise you get too locked-in. I know that for my career path, we need to be able to move between countries, not have visa issues. And I think it’s important for a global community. I don’t think there are very many issues we can deal with without a global community now. I don’t think you can just lock yourself in as a single country and be able to deal with those issues.”

CHARLOTTE MCDONALD, 1ST YEAR MA MENSWEAR

“I am going to vote for Remain in the referendum. I don’t think Britain should close itself off. It’s a very old-fashioned point of view to think of it as a pride to stay in this country and not open to the rest of the world. We already have that, what can’t we just open as a nation.”

SUSAN POSTLETHWAITE, FASHION TUTOR

“I am going to vote in. Historically, there are no other ways than we can vote. I think the impact on students is going to be enormous. If a lot of our European students have to pay international fees, they won’t come, which would be a disaster. In terms of politics, European politics, historically, we need to band together, and to stay together.”