By: Hannah Brattesani

You’ve heard it all before - how our small university is saturated with artistic ability, our student body put on events that draw international interest and the Fife coast fashion season is simply the champagne-sprinkled fusing of this collective talent and ambition. DONT WALK will annually draw an excess of superlatives in reviews but as I reflect on the 2017 show I type one hand on the keys and another crossing my heart to promise this year’s event defies all praise. 

The theme this year, "Progress/Regress", saw a preoccupation with design in the digital age intercut with more classic ensembles: a natural evolution from last year’s concentration on surveillance society which also served to shine a light on fashion and modernity. The opening of the show was explicit in laying the foundation for this theme: a video of erratic cuts, transitions and bass notes was immediately followed by a trio of string instruments that lulled the effervescent crowds with a Brian Eno-esque hush. This quiet was short lived. As the models ascended the stage the audience greeted them with a frenzy of flailing arms and spilled drinks.

Away To Mars, a crowdfunded clothing collective based in Lisbon and London, was the first designer to walk. The collection was indicative of the fact that DONT WALK shares far more than just timing with the A/W 17 fashion weeks. Away To Mars was a perfect iteration of the season’s trends: the pops of yellow seen at Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Mulberry, Altuzarra and Eckhaus Latta found new life in this collection with a consistent partnering of muted blues and browns. This palette returned later in the night with Wythe Bea who utilised the same tones in heavier fabrics, bomber jacket-cum-grandad cardigan cuts and miniskirts that felt more aligned with the Mary Quant 1960’s design than our contemporary, often more form-fitting, structures. In contrast, Wythe Bea’s ankle grazing cigarette pants were strikingly modern with similar styles seen at Delpozo and Tome NYC at NYFW.

Both designers played to the present popularity of co-ords, an outfit choice that I, and many of the girls around me, had made for the event. This trend continued onto the second designer of the night whose appearance on the catwalk saw a return to local talent. Ruby Coyne, a Dundonian to her core, debuted her clothing line, Dreamland, in 2015 and has since found international exposure after being picked up by ASOS and Forever 21. Her studio remains in Dundee but her designs have garnered a huge following in the rest of the U.K and further afield. At DONT WALK the co-ord trend took on 80s and Rugrats inspired patterns of bright colours and wild shapes, the combination of which would not look out of place on the set of Fresh Prince of Bel Air and resurrected my childhood aspiration to be Kelly Kapowski (please marry me Zack).

A rebellion against tailoring ran through the menswear offerings with collections showing varying degrees of deconstruction. Raffles Design Institute graduate, Inge Kiang, showcased her designs from INK Studio’s 0.2 Kreatur collection which offered a Frankenstein’s monster take on classic silhouettes and form. Suits were decorated in tailor’s chalk-style white lines, elbows came away to show the shirts underneath and others were pulled together with metallic, almost medical, implements. Her Romantic approach to degradation and mutation birthed an overall effect that I can only summarise as Victoriana gothic.

Kevin Lalune’s raw hems and drawstring waistlines painted a similar picture of deconstruction but the lack of tailoring and utilisation of materials such as transparent vinyl moved his collection towards the urban future as opposed to Kiang’s vision of the past. Lalune’s collection also reflected the A/W 17 trend of protest through design. This season countless designers took to the sewing machine to voice their opinions during this tumultuous political climate, the most notable being Public School’s all-too-familiar red caps that read “Make America New York” and Ashish’s sparkling renderings of “more glitter less twitter” and “unity in adversity”. Lalune creatively offered his own with “your idea, my work”.

Sandwiched between the maximalist approaches of Alix Gougeon and Morta Nakaite (whose luxury and exuberance cannot be given justice through words alone) were the clean shapes and conservative palettes of M. Martin, Sol Dela Villa and, office wear giant, L.K Bennett. The absurdity of following Gougeon’s karate belted bridal gown and (what the girl next to me affectionately captioned on her Snapchat as) “G.I. Barbie” outfit with an unsurprising partnership of a navy polka dot dress with red heels should have caused a feeling of incoherence, but the models wore all outfits with equal enthusiasm and ensured each design was as appreciated as the next... a difficult feat considering the sight-obscuring enormity of Morta Nakaite’s igloo hoods.

For those of us of a slovenlier disposition, DONT WALK's athleisure designers gave us another reason to wear gym clothes to the library. Bonvirage and Alma de Ace both use bright graphics to liven up classic athletic staples. Whilst the former applied loud patterns and images to leggings giving them a treadmill to Ma Bells on a Tuesday wearability, the latter used a more controlled approach and limited the colour to specific strips of fabric. A useful coupling of London urban wear and Balinese design, I anticipate a sudden influx of Alma de Ace sweatshirts around town.

A special mention should go out to certain attendees of the show whose effort and creativity helped contribute to the overall theatricality of the show. An audience member with a kirby-gripped fringe (how did you get them to stay in?!), white face and overpainted lips rubbed shoulders with fish-net topped girls (#freethenipple) and boys in a rainbow of garish suits. At points throughout the night a quick glance at the pulsating crowds was as much an engagement with fashion as a careful monitoring of the catwalk.

There is a luxury to be found in the ability to showcase such a wealth of designers and a lesser committee would scrimp on the quality of artistry in an attempt to attract bigger names to their catwalk. DONT WALK 2017 succeeded to offer a platform for designers at all stages of their career and applied equal weight to each one. The shows at St Andrews are, for many people, a process of adding notches to their “attended” bedposts, but for those with a genuine interest in fashion, the opportunity to attend DONT WALK is not one to be turned down.

All images courtesy of DONT WALK 2017: photography by Alex Massek and assisted by Sammi Ciardi on behalf of Ampersand Media.

ST.ART Magazine