When I first meet them, Haleigh Stoddard and Claire Wistow look like two people who know how to run a fashion show. Yet they also look completely unassuming, so much so that they might easily blend into a Friday night Union crowd, stood around the bar, chatting and drinking. But then, the same might be said for myself as a journalist; when we are trying to find each other, they almost walk straight past me.

Nevertheless, they are the two women in charge of one of St. Andrews’ biggest fashion shows of the year. Alongside Bubble stalwarts FS and DON’T WALK, CATWALK is a slightly younger, slightly freer and edgier show that looks to have a good time with models who don’t necessarily adhere to the norm —or so it would like you to believe.

The show is currently in its fifth year, but only last year did it begin to pick up speed. Described by Haleigh as its ‘breakthrough year’, last year is the year upon which Stoddard and Wistow are building. A Committee of 24 people includes the Creative Team from Lightbox, one of the premier photography outlets in St. Andrews, alongside Choreography, Front of House, Model Management and Sponsorship. The CVs of members include top names in fashion a la Chanel. ‘We started thinking about ideas over summer,’ Haleigh informs me, but it was in September when the Committee was chosen that things really started to take off.

Hosted in Venue 1 as a fashion show-cum-party, they are eager to show CATWALK as somewhat different to its competitors. It’s ‘more of a party atmosphere in that it’s quite a “community spirit” type of thing,’ Claire explains. There are no height restrictions for models, and they are picked not only on how they look but also on their personality. ‘We want it to be quite fun, that’s the overriding factor,’ she says, which involves having a chat with all of their models and ensuring them that it’ll be alright on the night. ‘You’re obviously going to be nervous,’ she says, and this seems to be something CATWALK is eager to address in whatever way it can.

The party begins with a small drinks reception hosted by Barefoot Wine & Bubbly at which a cappella group The Accidentals will be playing for your pleasure, followed by a gathering in the Vic with reduced price drinks, then onto the show. ‘People are encouraged to come early, [it’s] first come first served,’ Clare informs me. V.I.P. tickets are sold out but ‘Stadium Tickets’; seats on the risers, are still available at £15. And if you’re worried about having to deal with Venue 1’s horrendous ‘Building Site Bar’, don’t. ‘We’re building our own bar,’ Claire tells me. It seems like one of their main aims is to give you a hefty bang for your buck, especially considering that all money raised goes directly to their charities. CATWALK is part of the annual Rag Week charity drive, which this year is supporting international, national, and local charities; Médecins Sans Frontières, Macmillan Cancer Support, and Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre Fife.

Their sponsors have been hard-won, but are impressive. KPMG sponsors Rag Week overall, and the fashion show can count Jewels, Elizabeth May, Fat Face, New Look, Jack Wills, Anthropology and Ahlvar amongst their contributors. ‘We’ve built on last year’s show,’ Haleigh feels, ‘last year we only had local brands.’ When asked what they think of the state of fashion today, they are positive. Haleigh says, ’I think it’s getting a little more accommodating to women, they’re not having their women in high heels — but that being said, we have our women in high heels!’ Of fashion shows in St. Andrews, Claire says that ‘it’s like a creative outlet, because you have people who may pursue traditional degrees but may have that creative flare, but didn’t want to pursue a degree course in that. So it just gives them [the] opportunity.’

Who, I ask them, are their fashion icons? Haleigh opts for Kate Blanchett; ‘it’s awards season’, she notes. Indeed, Blanchett was recently seen on the red carpet modelling a low-cut sequin dress at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards (AACTA). Claire decides on model Cara Delevigne, ‘because she just wears anything and looks fantastic in it. So you see her in the latest Mulberry or on the Chanel Show, and she looks so ladylike, and then you see her falling out of a black cab and she just looks equally at home. I think anyone that can pull both of those looks off is great.’

But on the minutiae of the night of the show, they will not be coaxed. ’We have some new twists in the show this year,’ Haleigh slips in, but when I try to talk her into revealing them, she is shtum. ‘We can’t tell you.’ Reason enough, it seems, to go check out one of the most unique, and most exciting, fashion experiences in St. Andrews.

CATWALK takes place on Saturday 8th February in Venue 1 from 8:00pm. Stadium tickets are available at £15 from this address.


Stuart McMillan


Image Credit: Lightbox