DONT WALK 2016: The Fashion, Reviewed

A review of the DONT WALK 2016 Fashion Highlights

By: Cordelia Diamond

After announcing that they would be exhibiting Vivienne Westwood's private collection SS16 Red Label Collection 'Mirror the World', DONT WALK certainly generated a huge amount of chatter and set high expectations for this year's show. I had the privilege of attending the event in my capacity as the Fashion Editor of ST.ART Magazine to see for myself if DONT WALK really lived up to the hype.

I will say first that I was in no way prepared for the sheer splendour of the show itself. I can tell you that the incredible presentation and performance of the fashion was as captivating as it was professional. The theme for this year's show focused on the idea of a 'surveillance society', and the DW team carried this through nearly every aspect of the show.

Throughout the show I found myself asking a lot of questions about the relationship between clothes and personal identity: What can you hide about yourself through clothing? How does clothing serve as a protection of your own personal identity, which is so vulnerable in the modern technological age? Can clothing create an artificial self as a barrier to the surveillance society?

The show began with models standing in pairs, facing away from the audience in the dark, seemingly concealing their identities from the inquiry of the audience — but they each wore a glowing red collar around their necks, a stark reminder that, even in the dark, we can be observed and tracked. Their tightly French-braided hair gave an element of control to their display. As the models turned around pair by pair to the booming of an ominous soundtrack, I anticipated the clothes finally becoming visible.

The show began with designers Elaine Hersby and Pakho Lee. Elaine’s simple silhouettes, flowing shapes and straightforward colour palette of cream, blue, white and black were pleasing to the eye a strong start to the show. I felt like I could see the quality of the materials, even from my position sandwiched among the endlessly tall and enthusiastic show-goers who crowded the stage.

Pahko Lee’s deconstructed jackets and coats were particularly compelling, as I saw them as a kind of admission of vulnerability. With the trench coat in particular — here was a garment that is typically associated with mystery and secrecy, now completely now deconstructed and open, with the models arms and elbows partially exposed by long cutouts in the sleeves. It reminded me of exactly how little we can do to protect ourselves from complete exposure when it comes to the personal information we share through technology.

The theme was further explored with the simplistic blue and black tops from 0.92, each bearing a prominent fingerprint design on the front, which served as a reminder of the ways in which we can actually attempt to ensure personal security. In some cases, a fingerprint may be the only thing tying you to your true identity, and to display it on a shirt is a bold statement of personhood. 

Shigo presented with patterned shirts and trousers that echoed computer circuitry, even going so far as to have typical computer messages such as 'error' and '%100 full' printed throughout, which reinforced the technological feel of the clothes. 

Vivienne Westwood’s collection was revealed resulting in great fanfare from the audience, and one piece in particular, a draped dress made out of a silky luminous material with a kind of subtle overlapping plaid-reminiscent print really shined (literally!)

The second act began with as strong and dramatic an opening as the first act. Rows of red lights moving up and down the crowd and the stage, imitating lasers, gave the impression of 'scanning' the audience, as a direct nod to the theme of surveillance. What looked like catalogues of various St Andrean’s daily activities scrolled across the screen like a clandestine surveillance report.

Towards the middle of the first act and second acts, the models exhibited some clothes less directly tied to the theme, and this showcased the breadth and diversity of the design talent that DW managed to bring in. My favourite among those was the clothes of Taiwo Sonekan, which were both whimsical and artistic with bright colours, liberal use of a wonderful furry fringe and pop-art-like designs. One piece in particular stood out: a bubble-gum pink A-line sleeveless top with a sketchy face print and a long fluffy pink fur trim at the bottom. I was overwhelmed with the urge to sneak backstage and barter for it with the team so that I could add it to my own personal wardrobe. (Alas, my bank account balance rudely reminded me that this was nothing but a pipe dream.)

I also especially loved Colleen Allen’s menswear pieces including simple neutral toned smocks and jackets with large silver rings for closures, including one white asymmetrical jacket that reminded me strongly of Yohji Yamamoto’s signature design style. These pieces were just a few out of the litany of impressive menswear outfits which were presented throughout the show, something which I think DW was particularly successful in exhibiting, as fashion shows often run into the problem of having an imbalance between womenswear and menswear.

Overall the lighting, stage design, clothing, choreography and music consistently reinforced the theme of surveillance society while not overwhelming the audience. The show managed to maintain a feeling of revelry and fun beneath its professional veneer: the upbeat attitude of the models and their occasional dancing reminded everyone not to take themselves too seriously. There was even one charming moment where two male models faced off on opposite sides of the square runway and took their underwear off without removing their pants as an homage to the infamous 'Zoolander' stunt. It is safe to say that DW went above and beyond in creating an event which managed to recreate the high fashion exclusivity of a luxury label fashion house.

I can only hope that we continue to see this level of excellence in future DW events, and I am personally very excited to see what exactly they will do next.

ST.ART Magazine