It is only fair to begin by describing what was great about the first ever Aberdeenshire fashion week, since there was much to praise about the event. For a start, the cast of models were of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities – something which the fashion capitals of London, Paris, New York and Milan have yet to embrace, and which is even lacking on our St Andrean catwalks. There was great diversity in the fashion collections they modelled too, ranging from bridal- and evening-wear to more casual urban street-wear. The range of designers was just as diverse as the collections they had on show, with established designers to final-year students citing inspirations from the Scottish landscape to African tribal patterns.
Highlights came in the form of Katie Sharp’s Japanese-inspired boxy silhouettes in sumptuous brocade, leather and velvet; Christina Stewart’s minimalist, almost sterile, layers of white and ice blue; Richa Kapoor’s richly embellished and embroidered fabric perfectly displaying the Indian heritage of tradition and craftsmanship; and Ami Gibson’s sheer, voluminous designs in hues of blue and grey.
However, these clearly skillful and creative designers were let down by poor planning and time management: there were countless problems, barely acknowledged by the organisers of the event. Fashion shows are notorious for not running to their schedule, but the schedule at Aberdeenshire Fashion Week was completely disregarded right from the beginning: the show started over an hour late on the first day, and finished earlier than advertised on both the Saturday and the Sunday. None of the designers’ shows began at the time stated, in fact they didn’t even run in the order they were supposed to: this meant that I missed a few of the collections, and saw others multiple times. There were also short breaks and musical interludes which weren’t in the schedule given to us before we arrived.
The catwalk itself was poorly laid out: all the seating was on the same level as the catwalk, meaning those people not sat on the front row had a hard time seeing below the waist of any of the designs. There was a raised box at the beginning of the runway which alleviated this problem, but created more hassle for the poor models wearing tight dresses and extremely high heels, who had to try and negotiate walking on and off this box; by the end of the second day, many models – presumably sick of stumbling down the runway – bypassed this obstacle by walking around it, entirely defeating the point of the box in the first place. Indeed some of the models seemed to have trouble walking steadily in heels even on flat surfaces. Since walking well is basically the essential criteria for any catwalk model, it would have worked to the organisers’ advantage to make the models wear their own shoes which they were comfortable in.
During some collections there were long pauses between each walk and repetitions of the same outfit within one show. This happened most frequently when children were modelling, and although they were completely adorable it did start to get tiresome after three or four times down the runway. There was little rhythm or coherence to the models’ walks – whether I’d been spoiled by the highly choreographed performances of St Andrews’ models, I couldn’t tell, but it was painfully obvious that one particular model was spending far longer on the runway for each of her walks than the other models, seemingly smiling and posing for each person on the front row. It felt like she needed to be reminded that she was there to advertise the clothes, not her smile.
The organisers’ worst offence, for me, was the lack of information about the designers. They were introduced briefly at the beginning of their collections by either Miss Caledonia or Miss Africa Scotland, who seemed pretty nervous and were clearly not used to this kind of event hosting. There were no banners or signs with the designers’ names on as their collections were being shown, just the briefest of introductions stating their name and a couple of their influences or inspirations. A small booklet with basically the same information (and the defunct schedule) was available at a price on top of the cost of the ticket.
The Lord Provost, in his welcoming speech, said he was proud of these kinds of cultural events and highlighted the fact that Aberdeen will be running for City of Culture 2017, but what could have been a fantastic event and showcase of Aberdeen’s talent was let down by poor organisation. The team behind the event will have a lot of work to do at making this event a success before the next Aberdeenshire Fashion Week in October, but it is by no means an impossible feat. They could do worse than take a leaf out of the FS or DONT WALK committees’ books: the level of professionalism at St Andrews’ own student fashion shows really stands out next to the poor organisation and coordination of this event.