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The Sustainable Style Gala Redefines Fashion Norms

Alix Ramillion reviews the society's debut gala and charity auction event.

On 9 March, Sustainable Style St Andrews held its debut gala at Falside Mill, the fruit of an ambitious and innovative project. Not only did it mark the history of St Andrews as the first sustainable gala, but also as the first entirely student-led one.

The night provided attendees with the opportunity to both witness and buy some of the amazing work produced by sustainable slow-fashion student designers as part of an auction. This was accompanied by a plethora of other arts that were showcased, such as music and dance, and followed by an afterparty.

As they entered, guests were welcomed by a champagne reception and the suave vocals of student band Raincheck, who provided captivating covers of the works of icons such as Mazzy Star and the Zombies. The marvellous atmosphere of the night was made by the refreshing service, with a free glass of champagne, canapés, and crepes also provided. What more could you want?

Filling through a flower-studded arch into the glittering main room, guests encountered the evening’s main event: the silent auction, where creations were sold through a raffle. Each attendee had the opportunity to scan a QR code to bid on the items, and when the auction closed an hour or so later, the highest bidders walked away with their sustainably-produced fashion items.

These included crochet pieces, cleverly upcycled second-hand designs, and an abundance of purses and jewellery. I thought that this auction was essential in appreciating the hard work and time that the creative members took to make the charity event possible.

Alicia Barnes, a first year St Andrews designer, spoke to me more about the creative process involved behind building up a collection.

“My crochet is inspired by organic shapes, such as the freestyle crochet top I am wearing tonight. I have two pieces for auction which are inspired by flowers and three which will be in the fashion show, which had to be approved as a portfolio by the committee. Getting involved in the Gala is a way for me to express my interest in upcycling and second hand clothing”.

Other student designers from all across the UK were also present.

Later, a thrilling performance of hip hop and classical dances was provided by the Blue Angels, and the lucky winners of the evening’s raffle were also announced. Prizes were predominantly sourced from local brands such as Topping and Co., Fatface, or Treen (based in Edinburgh), besides reusing donated pieces of clothing. The luckiest winners walked away with massage vouchers and a romantic night at an ensuite hotel!

The evening was closed by BPM, who were as dazzling as they always are in the Vic in compelling guests to dance the night away.

Holly Houston, the group’s charity publicity officer, provided me with insight on the gala’s collaboration with Fashion Revolution, the world’s largest fashion activism movement. Since 2013, the organisation has been prominent in human rights activism in fashion, promoting ethical consumption and valuing people over profit.

Holly spoke of how she felt the event differed from the other fashion shows that have dominated our weekends since January.

“I think this is a really cool and interesting change from the standard fashion shows, giving the guests something to focus on and a special item to obtain whilst simultaneously raising money for our cause”, she said.

Moreover, she stated how significant the Gala was in promoting the values that our generation stands for regarding the future of fashion.

“The gala encapsulates sustainable consumerism in an innovative way and raises awareness on the topic of fast fashion and the detriment that this has socially and environmentally”.

The element of novelty and the limited time frame was also one of the biggest challenges in organising the event. Holly stated how the “committee did an incredible job”, and that she is “proud of what we achieved and I think we have started something much bigger than us”.

Naomi Smith, another committee member of Sustainable Style, told me that one of the successful components of the gala was its small-scale size.

“We have around 40 members whereas other fashion shows are twice as big, so it felt more informal and intimate to host an event like this one”. I thought that this allowed the designers greater creative freedom, which was reflected in the variety of motifs and vibrant colours of the collection displayed at the show.

May it be for the love of fashion or the simple curiosity of looking at other ways to create and consume ethically (other than second hand clothing), the gala was an event that I hope to see become one of the many traditions of St Andrews in the years to come! Perhaps all fashion shows may seek to collaborate with Sustainable Style, and potentially soon we could witness a 100 per cent sustainable catwalk.

Photos: Alexandra Godfrey

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