Veterans from the British Army's 1st Battalion of the Royal Anglian Regiment, ‘The VIKINGS’, are set to hit the catwalk this coming September during London Fashion Week (LFW). They will include and feature two amputees - walking wounded - as part of efforts to challenge the stigma associated with war wounded in society at large.
Colin Branch, who served with the Vikings for 14 years from 1991 to 2005, had multiple tours of duty in Northern Ireland and Croatia - with his last tour being Afghanistan - will be appearing on the catwalk during next month’s London Fashion Week.
He suffered a bilateral knee crush injury resulting in his right leg being amputated above the knee. Currently Branch works at ‘Help for Heroes’, ensuring the welfare needs are met for wounded, injured and sick serving service men and woman and veterans.
Wayne Harrod, a former Colour Sergeant in The Vikings, had a leg amputated back in 2004 after he was hit by a 10.5 ton Spartan tracked reconnaissance vehicle. ‘Harry’, as he likes to be known, stayed in the army until 2011 when he joined the Poppy Factory’s mentoring programme in 2012. The programme enabled him to study and to find work.
Today Harry is now responsible for more than 1,000 war graves at Cambridge Cemetery. (See: www.cwgc.org/learn/news-and-events/news/2017/10/03/08/55/war-graves-gard...).
Back in September 2017, Harry competed for Great Britain in the Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada, winning silver in the Men’s Road Cycling IRB2 Time Trial Final. For Sydney 2018 he has qualified and will be competing for team GB once again.
Against this backdrop, Sigrun Bjork Olafsdottir’s upcoming fashion collection, ‘Kindred Spirits & Wounded Warriors’, is set as the Grand Finale during the House of iKons evening show in central London this September is intended to raise awareness of how society treats soldiers once they can no longer serve.
The Icelandic designer, who hails from Reykjavik and based in the UK capital, commenting said: “Employers are not willing to hire them and there is a huge need to provide support in so many areas - one being help to transfer skills or re-train.”
It is Olafsdottir’s hope that if the fashion industry - an industry that by many would be considered perhaps the “shallowest industry in the world” - is embracing our wounded warriors and bringing in diversity, then it is high time the rest of society does too.
She also a firm believer in “sustainable, cruelty free and natural materials” and strives to put emphasis on materials that do not leave footprints in nature, be it in its making or to decompose of them.
Recycling and upcycling is something she loves to do and more often than not, a garment will have a story behind it. This is not only in the form of inspiration, but also with a history of a part of its materials.
Amongst the materials used in this collection is wool, silk, linen, cotton, fish leather, ostrich feet leather, feathers, fish bones, insects, lamb bones, old coins, horse hair, wood and hessian.
Remarking on the upcoming catwalk show at London's Millennium Hotel in Kensington and any reservations he might have, Wayne Harrod said: "I have faced many situations during and after my army career, but nothing like this where it's more personal and up close, and not wanting to let those around you down who have put their heart soul and passion into the once in a life time adventure. For me it's with a slight trepidation and excitement that I'm looking forward to the walk of Icons."
Colin Branch added: "I am excited to be apart of an amazing show but a little daunting as I have never modelled before."
At the House of iKons show during London Fashion Week on Saturday, 15 September 2018 at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, Kensington, a song will be performed to the veterans by Alda, a singer who has had top 10 records in the UK and top five all over Europe, Australia and Asia. Proceeds from sales of the song will be to going a charity helping injured war veterans.
For further details and to make contact with Sigrun, email firstname.lastname@example.org or House of iKons via email@example.com
All photos were taken by Marcus Dickerson, MUA Bryanna Angel. Roger Aitken, the author of this article, is a contributor to Forbes (www.forbes.com/sites/rogeraitken) and an ex-FT staff writer.