Gone are the days of ‘walkabouts’, the original fashion shows that featured poised models gracefully floating around a room at a snail’s pace. With time came theatrics, and the bigger the better. And now, the surge in social media and technology — live-streaming, Tweets, Snaps, Instagrams and blogs — have resulted in more changes. People no longer want to wait six months for the new season’s pieces, which up until now have been worn immediately only by the fashion elite. Instead, they want what they see on Instagram and they want it now! This mentality shift serves as a significant threat to the traditional fashion show model, causing designers and fashion editors alike to re-examine its structure and purpose.
Although big-name fashion houses like Burberry are shaking things up by live-streaming runway shows and adopting a see-now-buy-now attitude and abolishing ‘seasons’, there’s still room for change when it comes to the traditional fashion show structure. Ahead of the game, students at Scottish universities have been re-shaping fashion shows and the purpose behind them for years.
One that certainly stands out is DONT WALK, an annual charity fashion show run by students at the University of St Andrews. Going by the mantra ‘unafraid and unbound by rules’, this intuitive affair strips away all barriers and regulations associated with a traditional show model. ‘We seek to combine mediums of art, music and fashion, and encapsulate that in not only our show but our aesthetic and presence within St Andrews and beyond. Our charitable causes lie at the forefront of our mission since our inception 16 years ago,’ say the students.
The concept arose in the aftermath of 9/11, when a multinational group of St Andrews students felt the need to stand united in response to the tragedy. They transformed the fashion show into a vehicle for helping others. Over £220,000 has been raised for charities across the world, including the Robin Hood Foundation in New York City and Salam LADC based in Lebanon, since the first heel hit the runway.
Undeterred by social constructs and unashamedly unfazed by the rigid status quo, the creatives behind DONT WALK place emphasis on the need for collective responsibility, fusing performance and art with a potent utilitarian essence. A breath of fresh air, DONT WALK isn’t just about scintillating fashion shows and Instagram likes, it’s about tackling structural inequalities head on through all artistic channels and providing real support for those in need.
Instead of huge budgets and tons of bling, students at St Andrews and other Scottish universities are instilling a commendable drive within fashion shows by focusing on charitable efforts. The art that results from this speaks for itself.
Another of these game-changing events is the Edinburgh Charity Fashion Show. One of the largest student-led fashion shows in the UK, there’s no denying the contagious creative flair found within each annual event. Devoted to charity, ECFS also paves the way for the model of catwalk shows int he future. More than just people looking pretty and trending outfits, each carefully constructed detail is the work of a tremendous collaboration of bright minds. Such shows provide creatives with the opportunity to delve head first into their desired career field, whether it is PR, production or as an artistic director, which is rather a notch up from intern (aka coffee carrier) at the internationally renowned shows.
Other Scottish universities dedicated to charitable giving and excelling beyond the traditional fashion show model are Glasgow School of Art, University of Glasgow and West Highland College, to name but a few. These shows not only serve as a creative launch pad for budding and local talent, but they challenge our own discourse about the deeper meaning of fashion and its ability to help others.
And so, it seems that while the fashion industry is dealing with changing the traditional model, students in Scotland are steamrolling ahead with fantastically creative catwalk shows, overflowing with innovation and most importantly, pure compassion. And they’re not lacking in creativity, performance elements, theatrics and sheer talent either. To top it off, they just don’t play by the rules.