Sophie Miller interviews Ensemble founder Margaux Wollner about the inspiration for St Andrews' first student-run dress rental service.Photos by Sam Chinomona, c/o Ensemble.The end of one’s first year at St Andrews is usually a profound relief - your exams are over, all your deadlines have been met, you’re officially no longer a “fresher”, ever the subject of derision. It seems only natural to take a step back for the summer, give yourself some breathing room before the onslaught of work coming in September. For Margaux Woellner, however, this was not the case. Instead of taking a well-deserved break following the conclusion of her first year, she decided to bring her idea of a local, crowd-sourced dress rental service to fruition. Three months later, Ensemble was born.“It kept hitting me over and over,” says Woellner of her impetus to get to work. “People would just keep saying, ‘Oh, I really wish I could go to this ball, but I don’t have a dress,’ ‘I wish I could go to this ball but I can’t afford a dress,’ or ‘I’ve already worn this dress.’” She had caught onto something. Rent the Runway, a larger online service in the same vein, has become beloved by millions of users across the globe since its establishment in 2008. Woellner’s service, though, offers a unique and student-friendly twist: the dresses are crowd-sourced, meaning that none of them were actually purchased by Woellner herself. They were donated for temporary rental by students all over St Andrews, and each time someone’s dress is rented out, they get a portion of the sales. This is the savviest facet of an already-shrewd business model. “We all only want to wear our dresses one time, we’re not going to reuse them; it’s stigmatised if you do,” explains Woellner.But businesses aren’t just born of an impetus - they must be grown and cultivated. This is something that Woellner learned from her father. “My dad owns his own business, and his whole side of the family is super, super entrepreneurial. It’s always been what I want to do, run a business. My dad’s been a huge help, and he’s been a huge inspiration for me.” The apple seems not to have fallen far from the tree. While working this summer in London, Woellner began to build the basis for Ensemble, all while keeping an eye on female entrepreneurs like herself. “It’s so empowering to me when it’s a woman running a business. In my mind, that’s what it should be,” she expresses. And in this age of women’s empowerment, strong female voices, and He For She, having Woellner, a dynamic female entrepreneur, at the helm of Ensemble is a massive advantage for her business.Another reason behind Ensemble’s burst onto the St. Andrews scene? Woellner’s relationship with her consumer base. She describes her ideal clients as simply “St Andrews girls. I don’t think it would be one ideal girl, the one who wants to rent the most expensive dress. It’s the girls who say, ‘Ok, I need a dress tomorrow, I’m so stressed, I don’t have anything to wear.’ I just want to make one thing easier.” The genius thing about Woellner’s enterprise is that she is one of those girls. She didn’t need to seek out a client base; all she had to do was text her friends. Simply by recognising a problem that affected girls she knew and communicated with on a daily basis, Woellner built her business around them and struck gold.Woellner doesn’t know where Ensemble will be in three years, when she graduates from St Andrews. “I do want to go to grad school in The States, but if it takes off, and I feel that it’s really actually helping people, then I would really love to [continue with the business.]” Regardless of the future, though, for now, Ensemble is becoming more viable by the day, and with its upcoming fashion show at The Saint (the Ensemble Exposé, being held this Wednesday, October 10), it is officially a fixture of the St Andrews community.For more information on Ensemble and their upcoming event, find them on Facebook and Instagram: @ensembledressrental.
by Lakshmi Sreedhar Da Vinci referred to Milan as the ‘Capital of Fashion Capitals’ and the last week of February saw the city turn once again into the sartorial hub it is known for. The retrospective start of “Italiana, Italy Through the Lens of Fashion 1971–2001” showcased the initial years of the fashion industry in Italy. The exhibition portrayed nine rooms: Identity, Democracy, Logomania, Diorama, Project Room, Bazaar, Post-Production, Glocal, the Italy of Objects. The time frame is set between two symbolic dates: 1971, which marks a sort of passage between high fashion and the starting point of Italian ready-to-wear; and 2001, when the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York set in motion a tectonic change on many levels. Alessandro Michele’s latest exhibition for Gucci saw models walking in a trance-like state through operation theatres. With surgical equipment all around, Michele thought it to be an ideal setting to identify the need of self-regeneration in today’s age of technology. He wanted to represent the lab working in his head and explained his collection by saying that “We are the Dr. Frankenstein of our lives”. Imagine the glitter and sparkle of the 1980’s, the 70s rock music glam vibe, tweed, leather and faux relics. David Bowie circa 1970. The catwalk saw a couple of models holding replicas of their own severed heads in their hands. Some were seen holding baby dragons and lime green snakes like a new-born baby. Quite a few of them had headpieces from turbans to burqa-like veils. It was an electrifying retro theme discovering what was happening to humans in the world of Instagram. Michele perceives this an opportunity to be liberated from the obstacles we face since we were born.A look from Gucci's Fall 2018 collection. Photo: Venturelli/WireImage Versace decided to pay a catwalk tribute to Gianni by bringing together the original supermodels clad in the signature metal dresses-Cindy Crawford, NaomiCampbell, Claudia Schiffer, Helena Christensen and the former French first lady Carla Bruni, to mark his 20th death anniversary. Donatella Versace used prints from her brother’s collections between 1991 and 1995 as the basis for this collection. The finale saw the re-adaptation of one of the most iconic moments, back from 1991 when four supermodels walked hand-in-hand. Top designers from Gucci and Saint Laurent were seen attending the tribute. The ‘Queen of Hearts’ collection by Dolce and Gabbana saw a 90’s pop theme with thirteen models in black corsets opening the show. They were superseded by ball gowns made of cabbages and soup cans for shoes. Corsets and briefs in the likes of Madonna and Beyoncé were popular on the catwalk. They even played ‘Crazy in Love’ in the background. Dolce also closed the fashion week by showcasing bags and other accessories. The bag collection was revolving on drones. Seriously, drones.Models at Dolce & Gabbana’s show in Milan. Photograph: Estrop/Getty Images With a motor-racing rage theme, Tommy Hilfiger once again showcased the sports gear he usually associates with the Formula One Mercedes Benz team by sponsoring them. Curved racing stripes, swimsuits, biker shorts, racer-back tanks, visors, denim boiler suits and leather biker jackets were covered on the runway. The collection also included the hugely popular Tommy x Gigi capsule collection designed by supermodel Gigi Hadid, who walked with Hilfiger for the finale. This is Hadid’s last edit for the brand, having fulfilled her four-season contract. Moschino’s director celebrating the 20th anniversary of his own label explored his creative side with a floral theme-models were dressed either like ballet dancers in tutus or wrapped as floral bouquets and sculpted in flower dresses. The Alberta Ferretti Fall 2018 contrasted their delicate Spring 2018 floral collection. This time their theme was far from summer dresses with printed flowers. The catwalk saw models in cowboy hats in elegant jumpsuits, yet untamed enough to be a femme fatale in a Texas ranch. If only the collection actually reached a real ranch! One can hope. As expected, Fendi screamed class. Cosy ensembles with fur, leather, suede and camel trench coats, all with the double F logo. Lagerfeld and Fendi never disappoint. The models had interesting make-up with white shades along their tear ducts while their hair had a middle or side partition. Prada, an expert craftsman, attempt to outdo their own collection in every single show. This time was no exception with tech-inspired prints and neon colours marking the runway. To add to the wow, supermodel Amber Valletta reappeared on the runway after a long break. The show was opened by Anok Yai, the second black model to do the opening act in the history of Prada since Naomi Campbell. The need to eradicate racial discrimination and be open to diversity of different cultures spoke loud and clear. And that’s all about Milan. If you love fashion the way I do, don’t you worry-Ciao, Milan means Bonjour, Paris! J