I look forward to FS every year. My friends look forward to FS every year. In fact, it’s safe to say that for 28 years now, St Andrews Charity Fashion Show has been a staple of the St Andrews social calendar.  Attracting 1,700 guests each year, the show has raised over £500,000 for its charitable partners during its lifetime and is one of the most successful student-run fashion shows in the country. Every year, the show gives us an opportunity to dress up and attend an actual event, rather than just another nondescript black-tie ball in Kinkell Byre.  For me, this time around was particularly enjoyable: as a final year student, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this year seemed to mark a significant departure from previous years, maintaining its glitz and glamour but with a more light-hearted and unpretentious vibe. Everybody, even the models, seemed to be having a lot more fun. 

Photography: Lightbox

With St Andrews’ saturated calendar of black-tie events, the temptation to buy a new outfit almost every weekend is hard to resist. But fast fashion is the second most polluting industry in terms of plastic production and carbon emissions, not to mention the human impact of exploitative practices. FS2020 is partnered with Fashion Revolution, a social movement targeted at transforming the fashion industry through encouraging sustainability, transparency and responsibility at every level. As one of the most prolific events in St Andrews, it was good to see FS lead by example and embrace a strong commitment to sustainability.  Through a week of sustainability-focused events in the run up to the show, including a screening of Riverblue, a clothing exchange pop-up and a panel discussion featuring guest speakers, FS2020 showed its commitment to its cause and charitable partner right from the beginning. Even the goody bags showed a marked change from previous years, containing sustainable and vegan freebies, and notably absent of the usual pamphlets and discount cards which were instead available digitally.

Photography: Lightbox

Friday’s Sustainability in Fashion event saw a panel of experts come together to discuss the concerning trend towards fast fashion over the past 20 years. The hour-long panel discussion and subsequent Q&A with Niamh Tuft (Fashion Revolution), Ieva Balciute and Magda Daniloaia (sustainable shopping platform Aequem), and moderator Daphne Grant explored the importance of sustainability and the role of politicians, consumers and industry in transforming the fashion world. This was followed by a drinks reception and sustainable pop-up shop, featuring clothing from emerging designers and an opportunity to meet the guest speakers.

Photography: Lightbox

Unsurprisingly, Saturday’s event was once again as spectacular as ever. The music this year proved particularly good, transitioning us effortlessly through each room of the Playhaus, with brilliant performances by Alex Mills and WEISS keeping up an atmosphere of energy and excitement. Models walked brands including CLAWDI, Alice Pons and Ripa Ripa down the runway with the help of some incredible choreography and spectacular lighting, most notably in the opening sequence. Over 30 designers featured, with at least 40% sustainably sourced.  The fashion was varied and true to each themed room, with guests commenting that the clothing seemed far better than previous years. Friends praised the self-aware choreography, improved layout and efficiency of the bars.  

Photography: Lightbox

This year, FS once again brought us the theatrical and glamorous show and afterparty we all love, but this time with an added bonus: the sustainability engrained into this year’s event allowed us to party guilt-free, safe in the knowledge that we were helping the planet. One of the hottest events of the year just made caring about climate change cooler.

Upcycling Seminar

Last year’s ‘On The Rocks’ innovation – a series of promo events in first semester, collectively called ‘On The Pebbles’ – has grown only more confident, with an expanded and ambitious programme. Saturday’s upcycling event was a testament to the increased importance of sustainability for the young artistic scene. In a town with so many all-important balls, parties, and dinners, with pressure to find something new to wear to each and every one of them, this event wasn’t to be missed.  

The upcycling session made good use of the Barron – not easy, considering the black box theatre can feel like an oppressively drab space. In the true spirit of On The Rocks’ style, there was an impressive light feature, woven through with flowers, which made for a great photo opportunity. Tables were laid out with embroidery, needles and graphic pens, for any one who had come along with the confidence and the artistic flair to get straight into crafting. For those like me who were unskilled at sewing (to say the least), those running the event were happy to help demonstrate how to sew a patch onto a complimentary OTR canvas bag. 

Photography: Georgia Luckhurst

As well as providing the materials and instructions to update your own clothing, there were two rails’ worth of secondhand items, none priced at more than four pounds. Going to charity shops to shop sustainably can prove difficult – you might find a hidden gem, but more often you’ll encounter the dross. The team had done an exceptional job of assembling genuinely gorgeous secondhand clothing, including a Topshop cocktail dress that had originally been priced at sixty-five pounds, and was now selling for four. 

Photography: Georgia Luckhurst

Throughout the event, the team were congenial and chatty, proving once again how justifiably proud of OTR everyone involved in the project is. It was a warm atmosphere, and one that was reflected in the loyal attendance. 

If the upcycling event is anything to go by, OTR have big plans up their sleeves for a festival that is going to be ever more environmentally-conscious and inventively scheduled. I can’t wait to see what comes next. 

Review: CATWALK Launch

The launch of one of my favourite events in the St Andrews social calendar certainly perked up my Tuesday evening this week. Taking it from the lows of the library to the buzz of Beacon Bar, I was greatly impressed by both the professionalism and sense of fun captured in this year’s CATWALK Charity Fashion Show Launch party. 

First, a dull but essential comment on housekeeping:  Upon entry I was greeted by some lovely ladies at a coat rail who ensured that everyone was able to find their North Face Puffer at the end of the night.  Pleasantly surprised by the absence of Mount Canada Goose and confidently handing over my jacket, I was in a good mood.  

Photography: Annie Pritchett-Brown

As a choice of venue, Beacon Bar worked well.  The room felt busy but not overcrowded and was tastefully decorated with pictures of the models on the windows and large golden balloons spelling PLAYTIME, the show’s creative theme.  This theme was somewhat less tastefully manifested in a blow-up ball pit filled with inflatable toys including a large doughnut. Other St Andrews fashion shows wouldn’t have been caught dead in that paddling pool, and that’s perhaps why I loved it so much. 

Photography: Henry Memmott

Indeed, the creative theme of Playtime is different from previous years of CATWALK and, I believe, from any other fashion show in the town.  In the dreary winter months, it’s a welcome dose of sunshine. 

Photography: Annie Pritchett-Brown

Director Isi Webb-Jenkins told me:

“We were bored of the serious noir themes that seem to dominate the student-run fashion shows of the town and thought it was time to embrace a more fun-loving side. That’s what CATWALK is all about, philanthropy and having a bit of fun and we just hope everyone enjoys it.”

The clothes aim to reflect this more light-hearted approach.   With a cupcake in one hand and a CATWALK “Refresher” cocktail in the other, I got chatting to Noemie Jouas, the show’s in-house student fashion designer whose collection is set to take to the runway next semester:

“I’m aiming for bright colours, with elements of childhood memory whilst not looking too much like children’s clothing. Big and bold, with lots of texture, I play with proportions a lot too, so the clothes appear almost unwearable. That’s sometimes exactly what fashion is.  Really, I just want to make everyone smile.” 

Noemie was also wearing a jumpsuit which she had made that very morning from some curtains, and she looked fabulous.  If that’s what she can do with a day and some drapes, I am dying to see what her collection for CATWALK has in store. 

Photography: Annie Pritchett-Brown

The floor was cleared, the lights dimmed, and the volume turned up.  The models, all in white shirts and black bottoms, were introduced through some impressive choreography, credit to the show’s choreographer, Charlotte Hoyle.  The professionalism of the event was perhaps best captured in this moment. The models’ walk was neither overly complicated nor too short or simplistic.  Their crisp white shirts combined with fun splashes of colour in their makeup complimented the theme, and the music went down a treat, the crowd seeming to greatly enjoy the spectacle. 

Photography: Annie Pritchett-Brown

Overall, CATWALK’s launch has left Owl Eyes excited for what the show itself has in store and hoping that the Union makes the “Refresher” cocktail a permanent fixture.