Student-run fashion shows are one of the many things that make the St Andrews university experience unique. Fashion shows seem to permeate every aspect of student life; most of us attend at least one fashion show a year, and it’s quite difficult to not know a committee member or a model in a university as small as St Andrews.
Making a name for oneself in this social milieu is therefore incredibly difficult – Elaga’s 2019 cancellation is a spectacular example of how difficult it is to organise occasions of this magnitude and entice students to attend events. Each event, and this is especially true of fashion shows, needs something that makes it unique, and makes it worth attending. I believe that Sitara meets this challenge wonderfully.
For all of the things that make St Andrews an enjoyable place to live and study, a persistent problem that both the University and the town experience is a pernicious lack of diversity (and a consequent under-representation of ethnic minorities) in student spaces. The University is, of course, incredibly international, but it’s still quite easy for ethnic minorities to feel as if they don’t quite have the voice that others in our community have, especially if they happen to be from Asia.
Our university also struggles with an image of exclusivity, a look that’s hard to shift when it seems to be borne out in the evidence. Student housing is expensive, black tie events are so common as to be uninteresting, and the University itself is on track to accept the highest proportion of privately-educated students in the whole United Kingdom. Again, it’s easy to feel as if you’re unwelcome, or simply that you don’t belong.
Sitara seeks to challenge these St Andrean stereotypes. As a committee and as a fashion show, we are unashamedly open, inclusive, and diverse. Rather than let St Andrews’s Asian student population go unnoticed, Sitara has actively engaged in the promotion and celebration Asian lifestyle and culture, something that is sorely needed in St Andrews.
Even before the main event in April, we’ve had these values at the core of everything that we do. Our nominated charity, the Akanksha Foundation, is an organisation that strives to empower children from low-income families in Pune, India, to achieve their full potential and to fight the larger battle against educational inequality in India. Whilst all charitable endeavours are admirable and worthwhile, we think that it’s especially important to offer our support to smaller, Asian-based charities like the Akanksha Foundation, who may otherwise struggle to garner publicity and support.
For Sanjana Ramaswamy, one of Sitara’s models, this is especially significant, as her family is from Akanksha, India. Sanjana further believes that Sitara is able to attract so many people to its events and to its fashion show because precisely because of its niche charitable focus, and also because of diverse, relaxed atmosphere which creates an ideal environment for nurturing creative talent.
Other fashion shows have their own attractions, but I firmly believe that Sitara’s uniquely inclusive and culturally diverse atmosphere sets it apart from all other St Andrean events. I believe that this, combined with the fact that tickets for Sitara are markedly more affordable than other fashion shows, makes Sitara a truly unique experience for St Andrews students.
Tickets for Sitara 2020 can be bought here: