Label 2018: Deconstructed Fairy-tale
By: Claire Fogarty
From my first week in St Andrews, I have been intrigued and excited by Label’s initiative, best defined on their website: ‘We believe in inclusivity and the value of offering people a platform to share their stories and reflect on their identities’. Although they were established before I arrived – so I never experienced a pre-Label St Andrews’ fashion scene – I was well aware of the screaming need they’d be answering, and all-ears to hear what, exactly, they’d say. Some might say luckily, on Friday 13th they delivered: their ‘Deconstructed Fairy-tale’ was a hit.
My greatest praise goes to the nature and atmosphere of the event. I’d been nervous about attending alone, but immediately found company; though a formal affair, the tone was low-key, friendly, and sociable, and I was shocked to find myself feeling instantly comfortable within an industry so notoriously intimidating. Label somehow balanced a high-end establishment with classy décor and a host of well-dressed guests with a mood of openness and positivity, so that the evening felt special and sophisticated, yet welcoming. Before the show, people mingled freely, and circles mixed, whilst The Bells delivered a gentle and impressive performance.
A beautiful venue contributed to the mood: its enormous windows let in lots of early-evening light (also an achievement of good scheduling), whilst the décor was stylish but soft, and the room was large and open enough for easy movement without overcrowding or excessive bar queues. Amidst the greenery and a short drive from town, it also felt reclusive; this, and its unfamiliarity for myself, imbued it with the feeling of a much-needed mid-deadline retreat.
The show itself upped the tempo to increase the feel-good mood. A special mention has to go to the DJ, who, whilst wearing a Label brand ‘there is no wrong way to have a body’ jumper, smiled widely throughout the night as he passionately blasted up-beat tunes. A sitting layout was a good move – easier on the heeled feet and a nice touch considering issues of accessibility. From here everyone could comfortably – and equally – appreciate the runway, and I felt we all engaged in a collaborative, supportive, and enjoyable environment.
For me, it was really uplifting participating in the celebration of the models: their bodies, poses, walks, and individual styles. I found the greatest thing about the show partaking in an entire room of people cheering, whistling, screaming, and aggressively applauding those who the fashion and beauty industries usually have an oppressive influence over. I personally have such a short mental catalogue of any kind of positive comment regarding any body outside of what I grew up perceiving as ideal, and yet such a long – and endlessly expanding – list of toxic, demeaning, and, frankly, deeply painful comments, messages, images, and national beliefs. It was so refreshing to finally add a new – and very vivid – experience to help that smaller catalogue fight back, and it felt empowering to audibly revel in this with a group of like-minded, accepting, individuals.
There was room for improvement in the fashion itself. I appreciated the use of ethical brands such as Holly Jade O’Leary’s recycled, vegan, and environmentally-friendly pieces, and the support of independent and handmade designers such as Gatsby Lady London. Rose Appleton stood out for me in terms of artistic and original work, and I enjoyed the inclusion of Label’s own brand clothing, the slogans of which were effective, fun, and empowering. I also enjoyed the conclusive round where models were invited to express their own style – a successful display of Label’s initiative, which showcased the individual personalities, challenging the ‘human clothes hanger’ modelling stereotype and keeping to the claim of providing a platform for people to share their identities and stories. I did, however, struggle to see complete cohesion between rounds, and felt that the theme, though aiming for ‘deconstructed’ was, at times, tenuous. I also found styling slightly confusing – though I thought Sebastian Taylor’s makeup was incredible (he was also, incidentally, a natural at strutting, posing, and performing), and showcased another often neglected idea in mainstream fashion, much of the makeup was arguably too minimal, and I feel that more interesting things, potentially more overtly presenting the theme, could have been achieved.
A couple of hiccups also suggested moments lacking co-ordination, but arguably these contributed to the event feeling more friendly and inclusive: the models felt like people. At one moment, two accidentally clashed, but quickly turned this into a display of friendship and support, by taking each other’s’ hands and strutting off the runway together.
In discussion with other critics, I can sympathise with arguments that the show still represented a fairly narrow demographic. Though, as I appreciated, models who would never be included in mainstream high-end fashion walked, it is true that the cast was predominantly fairly slim, and certain groups were entirely absent. It is difficult to criticise this, however, when it is bound in who may or may not have applied or auditioned, and perhaps this is an issue to investigate in terms of Label’s selection process, rather than through a point targeting the models who were, ultimately, involved. I maintain that people of all identities and body-types should be welcome in the body positivity movement, and I feel that those who walked in the final cut did a fabulous job of showcasing their unique beauty and style. I found it easy to applaud every one of them.
I would, however, challenge the notion that the show was wholly inclusive and accessible. The main cause of my attendance being solo was an off-putting ticket price, though cheaper than any other fashion show in St Andrews, a £32 ticket, plus a £6 one-way taxi ride (after a Label wristband discount) and a relatively pricey bar did not make for an affordable night. I do, however, appreciate that this cost included a charitable donation and supported ethical causes.
All in all, though a couple of points may require investigating and/or improving, I had an enjoyable and uplifting evening. Label’s ‘Deconstructed Fairytale’ resulted in a happily ever after.