Our Fashion Editor reviews a memorable night

Top knots galore, an abundance of fur, studded leather, a myriad of sequins and a few Mulberry Alexas thrown in for good measure – and that was just the audience. FS2011, the nineteenth year of the St Andrews Charity Fashion Show was about to begin.

Anticipation built as the marquee filled; there was just time to chat with some prominent designers and bloggers in the press area. I was excited to meet one of my favourite bloggers Simon Glazin of ‘The Very Simon G’, whose influential London blog I read regularly. I admired his Vivienne Westwood Grafitti trousers and he complimented my red Zara dress. We talked a bit about the fashion industry and how hard it can be to break into and he seemed impressed at the scale and ambition of the event.

Amy Molyneaux and Percy Parker of PPQ were also extremely impressed at the scale of FS and praised the evident success, and worldwide recognition, of a student event. Asked what they were looking forward to most in the show, they joked “It’s good to be this side of the catwalk for once. As we’re always backstage at shows it’s refreshing!”  The design duo famous for their cutting edge collections and the epitome of London cool, were well placed to judge the Alfa Romeo Young Designer Award. They had seen the final designs that afternoon and said “It’s amazing what’s been achieved. Judging was so difficult as there was just so great a standard.” I asked what they were looking for in the winner, Parker said “Something new and innovative, sexy” and Molyneaux chipped in saying “Interpreting the brief effectively… but not too literally. No wheels on arms and such!”

The lights dimmed and it was time for the show to start. Beginning on a dramatic note, a model leapt upon the catwalk; funny in light of the instructions we had just heard the security guard next to us receive: “If anyone gets on the catwalk, they’re kicked out, no matter who they are.” The boys were topless with black trousers and Trekstock underwear peeping above the waistband. The girls donned black tuxedo jackets with lingerie and brightly coloured tights. Opening the show was Nicole Fahri where sequins and tweed were the order of the day. Slick white trousers and a white double-breasted shift dress channelled a minimal aesthetic. This was contrasted with vibrant, youthful florals from Odd Molly. Cropped trousers by Matthew Miller made a menswear statement in shades of navy and grey, with a slouchy relaxed vibe that became a motif of the show’s menswear.

As for womenswear, PPQ was the absolute highlight for me. The designs took influence from bygone eras, with puritan style blouses and pagan hats given a modern twist – the blouse was exaggerated into leg of mutton shoulders and the classic pencil skirts were rendered in sumptuous velvet. Texture was key to the sleek looks: lace, velvet and satin and exaggerated rhinestone detailing. The shoulder was PPQ’s erogenous zone of the season, with attention drawn there by exaggerated articulated shoulders or off-shoulder necklines. Fashion here had a sense of humour too, with embellishments such as necklaces rendered in Perspex and attached to the dresses. Statement accessories included the grey suede platform over-knee boots and those hats, adding a feline appeal.

Elsewhere in the show there was a sort of Grecian vibe, via draped dresses in jewel colours such as at Ivana Basilotta and D.S. Dundee. For men there were an abundance of trousers and jumpers in pastel shades, baby blue shorts were paired with canvas boat shoes for a look that smacked of summer walks on West Sands. There was a retro vibe in the Princess Tam-Tam selection; high-waisted swimwear and silky teddies nodded to the sex appeal of the fifties.

Sara Berman brought her take on tweed, adding a modern twist to the fabric. There was some menswear influence via the oversized cuts and frogging, but the blue bows and pink hues kept things feminine. Modern tweed was also seen at Milly, where the pink and black Chanel-esque skirt suit was a standout piece. The Trekstock tees were seen throughout the show and styled up with skinny black trousers and black patent shoes for the men. It served as a bold statement, reminding the audience of why we were all there: to raise money for such a great cause.

Silky, draped jumpsuits and velvet printed dresses by William Tempest again threw emphasis on the relation between colour and texture. The highlight was the gorgeous maxi dress split to the thigh with the floating cloud-like material complemented by the dusky pink colour. Tempest played with this beautiful sense of movement as well as short/ long proportions; a long tube dress had a risqué slit up the back for subtle sexiness.

These statement looks were contrasted with the casual styling of MiH Jeans, where denim Capri’s and hotpants were paired with simple white shirts or grey marl cropped sweaters. The contrast throughout the show between statement stunning pieces and laid-back chic struck the right balance.

Texture was fast becoming another motif of the show, emphasised at Biba, Dagmar and Clemency; a red pleated mid dress at Biba caused a collective “ooh” from the crowd and velvet/ satin contrasts at Dagmar were pleasing on the eye. The coats at Clemency in leather and suede were a highlight for a fresh take on the trench coat, and a fur coat was thrown nonchalantly over a silky slip dress.

As for the cuts, there were lots of plunging necklines and halter necks such as at Gomez-Gracia. The halter neck offset a playful skirt length, shorter at the front and long at the back; the sharp white contrasted by gold sequined embellishment.

Closing the first half in spectacular style were The Alfa Romeo Young Designer Award finalists; the moment we had been waiting for. It was fascinating to see how each had interpreted the brief and portrayed their take on “the colour of fashion”. They all referenced Alfa in some way, no mean feat. St Andrews’ own Emma Sherlock, the only one of our cohort to reach the final of the competition, incorporated the company’s logo into her designs; the symbols on the bottom of one dress looked like oversized sequins. Her sheer creations wowed the crowd, my favourites being the daring red jumpsuit and the stunning fairytale white dress. Hugo Mills’ menswear designs contrasted bright colours with neutrals beige and white to make the colour really pop. His white, chainmail-like loose weave knit was my menswear highlight, standing out against red cord shorts. Antonia Ede’s collection had a sporty feel with hoods, gilets and trousers with utilitarian stripes down the side; her use of primary colour made an impact. Judy Zhang used earthy tones with greys, browns and reds. The fabric had a dip-dye feel showing a range of hues blended to perfection.

The winner of the Alfa Romeo Award was Dominique Dean. Her collection of stunning red dresses made use of Alfa Romeo’s famous signature colour. Piping details and bib-embellishments were a subtle take on the brief and the unfussy aesthetic really stood out with chic, clean lines. A deserved winner, but as you can see from the photos the talent of all five finalists is clear to see and the range of interpretations of the brief was inspiring. These five captured the essence of colour in a way that the established brands failed to do; perhaps in setting their own brief FS came closer to achieving their creative vision at this stage than at any other in the show. I hope, with the establishment of the Alfa prize, FS can move towards a greater concentration of student designers. Other than PPQ, these were the best of the night.

After the auction during the interval in which a drunken VIP accidentally bought a Michael Jackson signed record for two thousand pounds, we were straight back into ruffles and asymmetry at Rebecca Taylor. The dapper but edgy menswear at E. Tautz was military inspired, shirts had splits in the back and different shades of blue were contrasted.
The models wowed in Wolford underwear, but it was at this stage things began to deteriorate. The crowd’s level of inebriation had increased dramatically and subsequently everyone was a lot more boisterous. I was appalled at some of the behaviour, people grabbing at the models’ legs, trying to obstruct them and pouring champagne over the catwalk causing one of the models to nearly slip and fall created a bad atmosphere and spoilt the show for me.

However, the models strutted admirably on and stunned the polite half of the crowd in David Longshaw’’s velvet creations and some real stand-out pieces from Future Classics, such as multicoloured chevron print leggings and a tweed jacket with fur sleeves. There were the usual offerings from Superdry but the styling here gave it a bit of an edge with good use of layering. As the event came to a close there were some show-stopping pieces; embellished shift dresses at Rohmir, a slinky wet-look maxi dress at Andrew Majenyi and pastel pleats at Koci Koci. Amanda Wakely brought the show to a close, the red satin maxi dress floated down the catwalk and black sequined bandage-dress packed a final punch.

I think the impetus of the first half was lost a little in the second, and at times the vision of the show wasn’t as cohesive as it could have been – maybe there needed to be more of a definition of what the ‘colour of fashion’ actually was, as opposed to most colours. I think I get what they were trying to show; the different ways colour can be interpreted and used, especially in relation to texture, and classic colour as opposed to innovation. I think most people were there to have a good time, and on the whole the show did not disappoint. The crowd management could have been a little smoother, which would have made the night more seamless. However, it is also a massive feat for a student-run event; a sentiment many members of the (incredibly distinguished) press echoed.

Rosie Steer

Photos by Alastair Irvine