The DONT WALK experiment is a success

George Wilder reviews DONT WALK 2017.


It is fair to say over the years one can expect a variety of welcomes to an event. I am scarcely twenty and I have already swilled Bollinger, nearly driven through the side of a marquee, and been locked in a motorised horse-walker.

Anyway, it was with a little disappointment that DONT WALK welcomed me to the event. Having been stuck in our bus outside the venue for twenty minutes, we braved the walk. This proved an easy task for those in shoes, but was not so simple for some of the female contingent, whose heels seemed to dig to the centre of the earth every time they trod on dirt. Still, despite what third year Sibilla Grenon described as “an extended period of wading,” we were soon rewarded as pin prick lights turned to shining beacons, revealing a rippling assortment of tents that soon dispelled the groans of smudge on suede. We were here, a new venue, a new theme, a new DONT WALK Charity Fashion Show. 

It was clear from the first step inside that St Andrews had taken a big step in terms of fashion, opting to relinquish Hunter boots and Canada Geese for the big night. First year Samantha Jones stated how the event was “far more edgy than expected,” offering something original where it is all too easy to fall prey to the overly traditional St Andrews repertoire.

Before the show had even started, the sheer variety of outfits transformed the venue into a relative catwalk for the masses. Some walked the tight-rope of edgy and risqué; others adopted grace and class: I wore a turtleneck. These attempts by the congregation to push boundaries raised tensions in the tent as lighting effects repeatedly teased the crowd. ould DONT WALK’s reputation be reflected in the originality of the clothing?

Put simply, the answer is an undeniable yes. From the outset, I was amazed by what was being showcased. Lashings of colour and complex design were well punctuated by more minimalist pieces in black and white, which served as a palette cleanser before tossing you back into the sensory overload of the show. The lure of the catwalk left some disappointed, however since, as first year George Nickerson pointed out, “It wasn’t as well organised spatially as it could have been.”

Early on in the show it was also clear that Don’t Walk, in its attempts to break convention yet again, was walking a fine line between fashion show and theatre. At times, it was clear that precision in the choreography had been sacrificed early on so that the models could speak on stage, meet the hands of the audience, and react to the mood of the room. However, despite my doubts at the start, I found I was glad to have my opinion changed by what the DONT WALK team were trying to do. Fashion shows are so often defined by a desperate scrabble for tables. Yet, within a few minutes, it is not uncommon to see brilliant rows of white smiles mutate into the technicolour boredom of iPhone screens. No such problem at DONT WALK, something third year Antoine Porte was keen to point out saying: “I like how it’s not too serious and allows integration. A big step for DONT WALK.” 

As the event went on this “big step” only served to become more clear. The attitude of the models towards the audience became even more theatrical as the auction began; a sales pitch that would have put the Bazaars of Morocco to shame as designer labels and even a trip backstage swelled from the catwalk. Having decided that a fur coat worth over a grand was not worth economic ruin and eventual starvation, I left the better equipped for a trip outside.

Here I was pleased to experience a touch of déjà vu, a scent, a feeling beyond the regular Blackhorn van: a touch of tapas. The last time I’d encountered Toro my only complaint had been the lack of artery-jamming gouda or stent-stimulating stilton… I had wanted cheese. This time I was glad to be greeted not only by the usual hair raising ingredients, but also by a vat of bubbling three cheese sauce; which earned the greatest compliment of all in how it made me forget my lactose intolerance. A trip to the photo booth later and it was time for the rest of the show, whose rallying call tore people away from cigarettes and burgers alike to come back to the action.

Returning to DONT WALK, I started to focus on what I enjoyed most about the show, how it challenged me. From the ever shifting style of the outfits to the ever more nonchalant attitude of the models, whose choreography was now well aligned with the stage DJs, I found myself feeling, like many of the first years, that I was seeing convention challenged; a rare sight in The Bubble. First Year Georgie Spafford described the event as “a casual utopia,” while first year Charles Stevens praised the “aesthetic indulgence” afforded by the show.

Perhaps more exciting still was how the event encouraged the congregation to invest in their opinions. First year Cristian Miller pointed out how the show spoke “more like street fashion than high fashion.” Indeed, in some ways the riling up that occurred in the second half of the show had left the audience hungrier than ever. They were looking something that would mark the show, something to comment on, something to remember: cue the after party, cue NEIKED.

Fashion show after parties raise a whole host of difficulties, by now the contribution of champagne from the start of the show had long since vanished, leaving students flanked by the prospect of a very high bar tab. It is sad but relatively common knowledge that so often in St Andrews, be it Ma Bells Tuesday or one of the many balls, you need to be totally annihilated to have fun. It seems disappointing that a good night can be defined by how much is spent near black-out or groping your way down North Street like an albatross having a stroke.

I’m also glad to say that, despite a far soberer crowd than many events, DONT WALK brought something new to its congregation. As I looked around at the vast crowd dancing to NEIKED’s chart topping single “Sexual” I saw genuine enjoyment, not beer goggles. One split of opinion was based around the loudness of the speakers, which weren’t quite loud enough to fully rock out to, and yet were a bit too loud to allow conversation. Yet, as first year Paige Roepers was keen to say, “the energy backstage and out front (was) undeniable.” 

As I once again gave way to St Andrews’ weakest bladder and made a trip to the instantly iconic outdoor urinals, I found myself struck by what the night had managed to achieve. I have never been to an event in St Andrews where the audience has seemed to care so much about the outcome, or been so willing to offer their thoughts. DONT WALK had split the crowd in some ways, but the thrill of the afterparty and the provocative nature of the event itself reflects how, unlike many student events, DONT WALK is out to do more than garnish Facebook with a new array of profile pictures.

The change in venue, the choreography, the performance element, all link to how DONT WALK, as well as supporting charity, is willing to stand by its ideals of progress. The fact that people were so keen to offer their opinions, positive or constructive, reflects how the commitment of DONT WALK to pushing boundaries is not only important in the land of Pret and Barber, it is crucial.   


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