FS 2018: a great show in need of change

George Wilder heads to Lower College Lawn once again for the St Andrews Charity Fashion Show.

It is now only a little over a year ago that I sat down, hungover fingers still shaking, to write the review for last year’s St Andrews Charity Fashion Show (FS). I commented then how the committee had, despite the disaster of postponing the event, come back to deliver an astounding show, and an incredible story. Weather reports warranted no such anxiety this year, though the show’s executive director did relate at ticket collection how fingers were being kept firmly crossed. Something that seemed to have the desired effect, as crowds surged towards the venue without any sign of the daunting wind that so haunted last year’s proceedings.

As with any event that has run as long as FS has, what followed was a tick list in organisational skill. The crowd was admitted around Sallies quad in groups to avoid long queue times, the photography on entry was as slick as you might find anywhere, and the vast runway meant more room for viewing. Yet, as I say, these are givens, and I looked forward to what FS held in store for those in attendance. As I stepped round the marquee and the venue filled the atmosphere inside began to build, Verve Clicquot filled glasses and was emptied at just as fast a rate; lights began to move more rapidly, stamping the FS logo across the congregation: all that remained was for the show to begin. Like a roll of thunder, the music escalated and, with a flash of red light across the rear screens, FS 2018 began.

It was later, as the lights rose and the interval began I found myself looking across the stage with a strange feeling of bemusement. Despite incredible lighting and precision choreography, I had found the first half wanting. The ambitious length and shape of the runway had made for a great spectacle upon entry but, standing in VIP at this stage, the distance the models needed to walk seemed awkward. Equally, while some of the pieces on display were stylish, they didn’t carry the divisiveness warranted by the show’s theme of ‘Fracture’. In fact, it seemed many of the early pieces were matched by those worn by fashion savvy audience members. Mulling over this, I returned my gaze to the runway, and prepared myself for the auction.

Here the congregation at FS was able to get in touch with what was really important about the night, the Anna Freud Foundation. With the most paid for a single item coming in at three thousand pounds (for an Oktoberfest table), there can be no doubt that FS managed to use its prestige to motivate the crowd to spend on a great cause. The host was endearing, if a little over excited, locking onto genuine bidders while managing to ignore cries of ‘one million pounds!’ and ‘I am Spartacus!’. Soon, with some returning from after parties and others the queue for the ladies’ loo, which resembled the Battle of the Somme, the interval finished and the crowd readied itself for the second half.

With another rousing beat from the speakers we were once again thrust into the creative designs of the committee, with long, flowing, brightly coloured attire attracting the most attention in the second half. FS can also take great pride in the winner of the 2018 Young Designer Award, Ruth Williams, who recycled canvas tents into eye-catching pieces. However, the increasing interest of the crowd only compounded the flaws in the staging of the event, as individual walks by models appeared ever more random and VIP guests began to wonder what warranted the additional money they had spent on the event (besides champagne that was still vulnerable to theft despite the bar token system). FS is to be applauded for trying to offer standard as good an experience as possible, but many in VIP could be forgiven for looking over at friends in standard, a mere two metres away, and thinking how the extra money could have been better spent elsewhere.

Regardless, with the average blood alcohol percentage amongst guests now high enough to render most mammals deceased, the end of the show reached a much longed for climax. Models and committee alike rushed from the entrance towards the other end of the stage, sharing congratulations on all the hard graft of the past few months. Some crowd surfed into their group of friends, others accepted drinks after days of thirst, while a few exchanged dazed smiles and a sense of disbelief that it was all over. There can be no doubt that the spirit of the night here reached its peak, but with afterparty guests on the way many were still ready to continue long into the night.

It was here that the tempo of the night shifted again, as parts of the stage were cleared and the post-show celebrations ended the night entered a kind of autopilot. The sheer size of the venue started to become far more obvious at this point, making the area seem half-full as if we had reached the denouement rather than a new beginning. Unlike some other large St Andrews events the afterparty also lacked the star power of a large headliner and, although the crowd appreciated DJ Joe Jones, the music failed to follow through on the energetic response to the show. The lighting, though brilliant, did not offer enough change from earlier on, and many standard and VIP guests ended up leaving early, drifting towards the bright lights and bad decisions of house parties.

I step towards the exit of the marquee in the early morning, my vision adorned by staggering homeward journeys and a floor carpeted in Verve Clicquot bottles. On my way I am witness to tears over lost phones, lost loves, and one girl who refused the believe that the bar could have run out of oysters. Finally, walking out into the night I realise that the fresh air is the metaphor for what I was looking for this year. Events in St Andrews, and the students themselves, are all too aware that our student body will be able to laugh off their goodie bag featuring items such as… another bag. We are all conscious of how FS will deliver a good night, and foster enough interest to spread wide the wallets of the student population for a great cause year after year. Yet, as I ruminate on the great components I saw on Saturday night in terms of lighting, choreography, and young design; I wonder if it isn’t time for change. If FS seeks to be as striking as the theme ‘Fracture’ indicates, they must be willing to take a risk.

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