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What's The Deal With All These Fashion Shows?

The Saint provides a rundown of St Andrews’ six major fashion shows ahead of one of the most distinctive event seasons of the academic calendar.

With dozens of launches and other promotional events under our belts, it feels as if the student population has been preparing for fashion season all year. The presence of incredibly popular student-run fashion shows — which garner national attention for their high-profile sponsors and, occasionally, models — is a distinctly St Andrews phenomenon. Wonderful and bizarre in equal measure, the cobbled streets of St Andrews emanate those of Paris or Milan for a few months every spring: something that’s certainly not to be missed.

However, in recent years it has become apparent that fashion breeds fashion: with six major shows now being held annually, it’s become difficult for the average layperson to distinguish which shows are going to be worth the time (and money). In order to aid your fashionable endeavours over the next few weeks, The Saint has collated a rundown of what, exactly, each show entails.

The first show of the season is CATWALK 2023 / NEWSTALGIA, which will take place on Wednesday 8 February. Located in the 601, this show is one of the most accessible and inclusive options, “created, run and directed entirely by students”: making it a great introduction to the student fashion scene. Revived in 2016, CATWALK is one of the younger fashion collectives; however, it has built a strong and reliable reputation for itself after several consecutive years of successful shows.

Co-director Laura Coffin told The Saint that this year’s theme is best summarised as “90’s grunge meets 2012 indie-sleaze - think Nirvana and the 2012-15 grunge Tumblr girl style”. This is a bold and interesting choice for the group that promises to induce some faintly stressful flashbacks for attendees to their more formative years.

Setting CATWALK apart from other fashion shows is their commitment to 100% non-profitability. They work in partnership with the Charities Campaign and the Student Association to raise money for local, national, and international organisations. The proceeds from this year’s show will go to Families First, Bloody Good Period, and Médecins sans Frontières.

Show tickets are priced at an incredibly reasonable £34, gaining attendees entry to both the show and afterparty as well as a goodie bag filled with treats from the show’s sponsors. Moreover, afterparty tickets cost only £5, representing the group’s commitment to making a fun and nostalgic night as accessible as possible.

The following evening (9 February) brings VS|DREAMHOUSE to Falside Mill. Also a relatively young collective, VS distinguishes itself by their focus on streetwear and hip-hop culture. “Our fashion show is only one way that we do this”, Lia McGibbon, VS’ Head of Partnerships, told The Saint.

“Throughout the year, we hold smaller events such as club nights, DJ workshops and art sessions”.

Lia also spoke of how this year’s theme takes inspiration from the late Virgil Abloh, American designer (and founder of Off-White) whose fusion of streetwear and luxury clothing was transformative for the industry. If their launch party ‘Cloud 9’ was anything to go by, Lisa’s promise that “the venue and show will be very abstract and dream-like, pushing the boundaries of fashion” is not to be taken lightly.

The group’s tribute to Abloh will be reinforced by their commitment to raise funds for the Virgil Abloh ‘POSTMODERN’ Scholarship Fund, which works to provide scholarships and internships to black students hoping to pursue careers in fashion. Additionally, funds raised will be split with Sarcoma UK.

Tickets for VS’ show cost £54, “which we feel is a competitive price compared to the other fashion shows in St Andrews”. Aside from entrance to “our biggest fashion show yet, featuring designers and brands of all sizes from across the world”, this ticket price includes access to an art gallery, afterparty, and (perhaps the clincher), Jannettas ice cream.

Friday night provides an opportunity for a breather, and then on Saturday 11 February FS2023/REVIVAL will be taking place on Lower College Lawn. The largest and most established of St Andrews’ fashion collectives, their 31st annual show will be supported by high profile brands such as Dior, Tiffany and Co, Moet and Redbull.

A finalist for the prestigious 2022 Scottish Fashion Association Awards, FS is all about celebrating both British and international fashion. They seek to showcase couture brands – such as Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, and Fendi – alongside a new generation of student and graduate designers.

This year’s theme will be celebrating 30 years of FS and fashion with “a night of fashion and decadence”. The group states that their corporate mission “is to promote the most sustainable fashion show in the UK”, by minimising the waste produced at their events whilst simultaneously promoting sustainable designs and creating initiatives for young designers. They aim to be “ecologically friendly and to ensure our events are a key player in maintaining town and gown relations”, goals which are held in addition to the group’s charitable endeavours. Having raised over £600,000 over the past three decades, this year’s show will be fundraising for Genetic Alliance UK and Mossy Earth.

However, it is clear that prestige comes at a price. VIP tickets cost successful applicants a head (and bank) splitting £95; from the ballot applications, it is as yet unclear how much standard and afterparty tickets will cost.

23 February will see SITARA | 2023 | कला (Kala), also taking place at Falside Mill. Sitara, which means star in Hindi, was founded by the Sanskriti Society in 2008 as part of an endeavour to showcase South Asian culture through clothes and performances. “Fashion shows in St Andrews penetrate every aspect of student life, and although the university is an international institution, it is not easy for students to fit in due to the image of exclusivity portrayed when it comes to our little sea-side town”, the committee told The Saint.

“Therefore, Sitara challenges stereotypes and celebrates Asian lifestyle and culture, something that has always been underrepresented in St Andrews, and aims to provide a safe space for often overlooked cultures and identities to be represented”.

Their theme this year ‘कला (Kala)’ seeks to explore “the arts and the temporality of nature, time and death”. The word ‘Kala’ will be linguistically studied and broken down across the show’s several acts through painting, dance, performance, and music in addition to fashion. The group’s incorporation of these other art forms — from dance to sword-performances — is a critical means by which the group seeks to further their expression of different cultures and transport their audience “through modern and traditional arts”.

This year, the group will be fundraising for UNICEF and SEAAC (the Southeast and East Asian Centre). SEEAC is a small grassroots organisation working to welcome migrants and refugees of Southeast and East Asian heritage in the UK. Their VIP tickets cost £75, including premium goody bags and access to VIP areas alongside the show and afterparty; standard tickets cost £55.

DONT WALK is the self-proclaimed most elusive and certainly the most exclusive of the St Andrews fashion shows. This year it’ll take place on 18 March, with the theme and location remaining under wraps until guests arrive on the night.

Created in 2001 by a group of international students who were inspired to “come together in the face of unspeakable injustice and adversity throughout the world” in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, DONT WALK’s goal since inception has been to “make a positive impact on the world”. Their name was inspired by New York City crosswalks, and “founded on the principle of not walking past problems in society”. In pursuit of these noble goals, the collective has donated over £500,000 to charity since their inception. This year, they are supporting local charity Families First, alongside international organisation Water Aid.

Ward Cammack, DONT WALK’s head of press, told The Saint of the group’s particularly impressive roster of sponsors, designers, and models.

“DONT WALK has featured the fashion houses of Chanel, La Perla, and Rick Owens; sponsors have included LVMH, Coca-Cola, and Heineken; and, of course, we’ve had the legendary Kate Middleton on our runway”.

Unfortunately, tickets are only available by invitation from a member of the committee or a model (something that perhaps places a limit on the amount of money it is possible to raise for charity?). For those who are lucky enough to go, DONT WALK promises a “unique and close-knit experience that guests will remember for years to come”.

Finally, one of the most interesting and distinctive shows UBUNTU: AFROFUTURISM will round off the fashion season on 25 March. Established six years ago by the university’s Afro-Caribbean society, Ubuntu is a “bold cultural explosion”, a celebration of African culture through fashion, music, dance, acting, and performance.

Oluwatoni Akinsanya, the collective’s creative director, told The Saint that this year’s theme ‘Afrofuturism’ is “both a cultural aesthetic and a philosophical school of thought focused on the intersection between African diasporic culture and science/futurism”.

This will be explored not only through the group’s main showcase — which will take place in club 601 — but additionally through two launch parties held on 31 January and 17 February respectively. All events will be fundraising for Forward UK, a charity which seeks to educate about and support women who have been through FGM. The main show’s ticket prices are to be confirmed, but the group will be selling both VIP and standard tickets.

The next few months will evidently be packed full of fashion and performance from shows celebrating a huge diversity of philosophies, art forms, and cultures. From the hyper-exclusive to those putting accessibility at the forefront of their concepts, common themes include the promotion of sustainability and charity fundraising. The Saint looks forward to seeing what these shows have to offer in the coming months in terms of charity, entertainment, art, and culture.

Illustration: Calum Mayor

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