At first glance, Younger Hall did not seem like an optimal venue to host a fashion show – rows of generic blue chairs lined the back, facing an expanse of wooden floor that had in the past been filled with desks and chairs to host examinations.
A stout, black runway had been constructed in the centre yet, despite the scattering of tables set up for the ‘VIP’ guests and the Christmas lights hanging from the rafters, the hall retained an air of austerity. Each table was decked with plates of rich Indian food and copious amounts of wine, eyed appreciatively by the few press representatives and organisers awaiting the arrival of the guests.
At 7:30 pm, the doors were thrown open and attendees slowly came in, attired in a variety of lively shades and fabrics. They were greeted with soft Middle Eastern music, guiding the smooth, practiced motions of a slim belly dancer on stage.
I was pleased by the variety of colours in the crowd. At other, more formal fashion shows, most guests would opt for muted hues; the men in simple Oxford shirts and dark trousers and the girls in short, fitted dresses. At Sitara, however, no such unwritten code was followed, and the crowd was filled with saris and dhotis; simple cocktail dresses; and bright, patterned trousers. An assortment reflective of the diversity of the audience itself.
As the cacophony of voices in the hall grew louder and students with stadium seating began to fill the rows of blue chairs, three dancers, each wearing an assortment of bright pinks and oranges, made their way to the front of the runway.
The sound of conversation ebbed as guests flocked to the sides of the runway, eagerly seeking the best view of the main event. Fast-paced Indian music began to play and the three girls spun and stepped in tandem, attracting appreciative catcalls from the audience. The show had begun: an innovative mixture of dance, acting and fashion, all imbued with a distinctively East Asian flavor.
It was unlike any other fashion show, successfully keeping the audience’s attention as each designer set was followed by a troupe of either dancers or actors – often both – who performed a theatrical rendition of a traditional, Bollywood-esque love story.
Each segment of the show – whether it featured fashion or dance – was greeted with raucous cheers and applause from an enthusiastic audience, who unreservedly reached out to grope or high-five passing models.
The atmosphere was one of mirth and excitement, considerably more relaxed and less aggressively drunk than that of St Andrews’ other fashion shows – though the models and dancers were incredibly professional, performing their duties without fault. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, easily traversing the stage and moving the show forward.
By the interval, I had completely forgotten we were in Younger Hall. Somehow, Sitara had transformed the decidedly academic setting into one of high fashion and good cheer, buzzing with peals of laughter and comfortable chatter.
The second portion of the show featured more risqué pieces. But for some reason the girls were the only ones baring skin – for each layer that the women removed, their male counterparts added another, resulting in the odd juxtaposition of girls in sheer-blouse-and-underwear sets followed by men in long trousers and parka-like shirts.
Regardless, all models wore their pieces flawlessly and exercised the utmost precision and prudence when maneuvering the catwalk, expertly shying away from the crowd’s eagerly extended hands and toward their designated positions.
Sitara is known for adding an element of spontaneity and light-heartedness to the traditional stoic strut of the catwalk. Instead of merely striking the conventional pose, each model pair – usually male and female – would do a small dance, or perform a small skit at the end of the runway.
Attending Sitara was a transformative experience. It defied the formulaic structure and burdensome formality of conventional fashion shows and proved that beauty and style are manifest well outside of Western standards and norms.
Sitara adeptly incorporated art, choreography, and theatre into the event, making it far more than a mere fashion show. It was a performance, an expression of the magnificence of Eastern culture as well as a display of the myriad talents of our St Andrews student population.
Headline fashion events such as Dont Walk and FS are undoubtedly larger and better-funded, but they are only platforms for designers to feature their work. Creative, grandiose and stunningly executed as these larger events may be, they are patently fashion shows.
Sitara is more than that – it is not only about beautiful clothes, or beautiful people, but beautiful culture, which encompasses much more than merely garments and bodies. It is comprised of food, music, dance, history and exuberant, incredible life.