Harriet St Pier and Amelia Perry provide their reflections on attending one of the UK's most prestigious charity fashion shows for the first time.
On Saturday night, we, as the honoured guests of Mr Alex Beckett, ran — we did NOT walk — to the ever-elusive (and grammatically-incorrectly named) DONT WALK fashion show. The location of the show was officially ‘undisclosed’, keeping an air of excitement around the event in the build-up, however we soon found ourselves on the way to Bowhouse in St Monans. Upon arrival, we immediately made sure to let everyone know the press pack had arrived via The Saint’s instagram story. Afterall, did you even go if you don’t let everyone know?
DONT WALK was, of course, established in 2001 following 9/11 by a group of international students banding together to create a response to injustice in the world. At its core, the philosophy has not changed. Over 20 years on, it has become one of the largest and most prestigious student-run fashion shows in the United Kingdom, having raised over £500,000 for various charitable causes. This year’s charities of choice are Families First (a St Andrews based charity working with young people and their families across north-east Fife), and Water Aid. Still seeking to create a positive impact, DONT WALK was led this year by an all-female executive team – with Alex Wolf serving as Director and ably assisted by Gaby Meacham, Lia de Giau, and Carlota de Inza.
The marketplace had been brilliantly transformed by the team, with impressive lighting design and music brought to us by the best of St Andrews’ burgeoning DJ scene, all working to create an intense but enjoyable atmosphere. It seemed that a lot of people had had the same idea as us, and got on the last bus available to the venue. The large influx of event-goers with a mere hour to go before the show helped build anticipation, as guests discussed the various merits of their own sartorial choices — corset tops and mesh seemed to be the order of the day — and claimed their free seltzers courtesy of sponsor Bodega Bay Drinks (lethal but lovely, 11/10 recommend).
Perhaps encouraged to move aside after hearing our endless press pass chat, the crowd around us parted: meaning we were able to successfully secure a prime spot at the side of the U-shaped catwalk. Our view of the stage was beaten only by that of the VIPs, who had - true to the theme of the show — quite literally ‘ascended’ and were physically (and emotionally?) looking down at us from the vantage point of two raised platforms at either end of the room.
At 8.30, the lights shifted and the show began. The music was intense and urgent, and the models scattered onto stage showcasing a variety of the featured designs of the evening. Particularly notable amongst them was a girl wrapped in tentacle-esque fake snake, a boy in a crochet balaclava, and a girl in a beautifully-structured abstract crinoline and corset. Models sported designs from an impressive array of designers, such as POLLY, Alice and Olivia, Mistral, Fraunshchuh and Maria Callisto. They moved rapidly and powerfully across the catwalk, allowing the audience time for only a glimpse of their bold clothes before moving on: blink, and you’d missed it.
The choreography, led by Tom Kennedy, was phenomenally impressive. The pace and tempo of the walks changed with each designer showcased, with the speed of the opening number balanced by one wherein two girls moved carefully and deliberately down the catwalk in nothing but terrifyingly high heels and a pair of translucent pyjama shorts. Further highlights included a solo lyrical dance, an impressive recreation of the Dirty Dancing lift, and a particularly sensual moment featuring that old chestnut, the ‘push your man to his knees and place your stiletto on his bare chest’ manoeuvre. Indeed, the overall theme of the evening seemed to be that of powerful sensuality, with the models’ constant intense eye-contact speaking volumes. No wonder our friend across the catwalk had to direct his focus towards their feet.
These constant changes in pace held the audience enraptured throughout the course of the show. The production values were impressively and commendably high, and remained so throughout the evening. During a brief interval before the highly-anticipated lingerie section, an auction was held. At the shows’ conclusion we were treated to the entire committee coming on stage to celebrate their successes. Undoubtedly deserved, it was nonetheless a little awkward to watch for those not involved.
Between the show and the afterparty, attendees were expertly ushered out into the arms of The Screaming Peacock and Mac Love vans — a St Andrews staple and reliable hit. This allowed us to line our stomachs, undo another of Alex’s shirt buttons, and retrieve our rave shades from atop our heads before we returned to the main hall where the catwalk had been efficiently packed away and the afterparty began. Organised by Tim Berger, the afterparty allowed a new stream of attendees to flood in and enjoy the expertly-mixed blend of electronic beats. They did not walk. They danced.
Overall, the committee pulled off an incredibly impressive evening. Unlike many other similar events, logistics ran not only smoothly but almost perfectly: there was no chaotic queuing for loos, buses or the bar; it was full and busy but not uncomfortably so; and they put on an outstanding show. The high production values, slick choreography, and flawless abilities of the models were a testament to the talent of those involved. DONT WALK proved its reliable standing as one of the staples of the ever-growing St Andrews fashion scene.
Indeed, Head of Press Ward Cammack commented on the professionalism of the whole DONT WALK committee, reflecting on the show as a “huge success”.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to and myself included were super impressed with the set of the venue, the light show which reflected our theme of the year, the model’s performances, and even the food truck options”, she said.
“It was a really fun night and so amazing as always to see the level of professionalism that a team of talented and driven students can deliver”. She added that the successful sale of all of the auction prizes alongside ticket sales and donations will contribute greatly to the group’s final fundraising total.
As three fairly aggressively not DONT WALK-esque individuals, we thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to attend such an exclusive event. Apologies to anyone who had to witness it.
Photos: Harriet St Pier