Updated: Feb 23
Isabel Loubser reviews one of the year's most hotly-anticipated events from St Andrews' fashion powerhouse.
As dark descended on Saturday 11 February, hundreds of students, dressed to the nines, flocked to Lower College Lawn for one of the most widely-anticipated events of the St Andrews events calendar: FS 2023 | Revival.
As explained by Emma Hartpence, Head of Charity, the principal goal of the show is to raise money. This year’s charity is Genetic Alliance UK, which raises awareness and funds support for people with genetic, rare, and undiagnosed conditions. “I’m so proud of what we’ve done here”, she told The Saint, adding that the proceeds from ticket sales and the auction should amount to “a few thousand pounds - as always”.
Excitement was palpable , and Grace, a fourth-year attendee, perfectly encapsulated the feeling of anticipation as the show began: “the ambiance is incredible, and I’m so excited to see how it turns out tonight”, she told The Saint.
It is organisation rather than glamour that is often the forgotten key to success for any St Andrews event. As a result, it would be remiss not to mention how smoothly FS was executed at an operational level. Wait times at the bar were kept to a minimum, there were no queues for entry, and, on the whole, the event flowed slickly from one stage to the next.
The choreography envisaged by Sophia Wasserman, Emily McMenamin, Emma VanPeenen and Leah Chen was dynamic and avant-garde. Departing from a simple stroll up-and-down the catwalk, the models became dancers at many moments during the show, creating a striking and immersive visual experience for the audience.
This was of course enhanced by a retro, and diverse, soundtrack. Harry Vyvyan-Robinson, Head of Music, aptly commented “obviously we’ve got the visual spectacle but there’s no audio-visual without the audio”. Insightful comments from Harry aside, the music aided the creation of a vibrant immersive experience for guests.
Speaking to Hamish, Head of Production, he lamented his third and final FS show. “I stepped back from modelling this year, let some of the younger ones have a go”, he nobly stated.
“They look stunning, amazing, ravishing, there’s not enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe how good looking these people are and how good a job they’re doing”, Hamish continued. I have to agree with Hamish. The models were, without a doubt, gorgeous, and their performances on stage were impressively professional.
With regards to the fashion, the catwalk gave a platform to a range of looks created by an impressive selection of young global designers from Copenhagen, Paris, London, and St Andrews. Everything from preppy ensembles to flowing bohemian creations aided FS in their endeavour to create a fashion journey through the ages — from the 60s to 00s.
Isabella Barber, the in-house designer who created the swimwear collection showcased spoke to The Saint about her creative process. “It was my first time designing swimwear”, she said “I knew that getting it to fit was going to be the difficult part so I decided to keep it simple”.
“I was given so much creative liberty with regards to theme. I knew the collection had to be recognisable, fun, and aesthetically accessible — I decided to go down a Jane Fonda, activewear route”. The end result was impressive — vibrant colours combined with classic shapes gave a distinct sense that the swimwear collection was imaginative, but also very wearable.
“There’s a moment of pride when everything comes together, and you see your clothes on the runway”, Barber remarked.
It was this sense of wear-ability that pervaded a large part of the clothes on show, fitting in with the idea of sustainability that FS states is at the heart of their endeavours. That said, the clothes could have been more innovative. There were some inventive gems amongst the widely highstreet-style collections. The white star-like ensemble featured in The Guardian was one of the standout creations. It would have been nice to see more of this type of ‘fashion-as-art’.
FS remained conscious of creating an environmentally-aware fashion show, trying to reduce the air-miles associated with acquiring collections, and planning to re-sell items in pop-ups in order to reduce the shipping of clothes.
Carleton Blackwell, FS' Executive Director, told The Saint about the collective's annual Fashion 4 The Earth (F4TE) week. Launched in 2020, the week consists of a series of events "dedicated to introducing our audience to sustainable brands and initiatives while educating them about sustainable production and consumption in the industry." This is the latest demonstration of the collective's commitment to recognising the destructive impact of the industry on the planet, and being "part of the solution, not the problem".
Of course, fashion shows will never be fully sustainable, and it was this aspect that was commented on by various members of the audience. Emma, a fourth-year attendee, told The Saint “By 2023, we should really be phasing out fashion shows, because, let’s be honest, they are not environmentally friendly. There is no such thing as sustainable fashion”.
Referencing the chosen theme “Revival”, she continued “we should all wear used things because if you’re really from the decade, you’re really taking fashion from the past, then show us the old fashion.”
In this light, there are clearly overarching issues that underpin any first-hand experience of FS. Sustainability and transparency were not the only issues in the minds of students who attended the show. Speaking to FS goers, many raised concerns regarding a lack of gender inclusivity, limited body diversity, and issues surrounding classism and elitism.
Criticisms aside, the work that goes into creating a student-run charity fashion show should not be understated. FS have always been regarded as a pioneering force in terms of providing a platform for student models, choreographers, and designers. There is always room for events like these to be curated more thoughtfully but, as a fashion show goes, the FS committee put on a night to remember for all those who attended.
Photos: Maggie Zhu