Closet Confidential: FS - Rethinking the Beginning…
Like all mysterious, elusive organizations, FS (St Andrews Charity Fashion Show) has a reputation. Insert Taylor Swift slowly whispering “reputation, reputation…” here. It’s pretentious. It’s exclusive. The sleekness is dizzying, and the shine is blinding. And something pulls you into the smoke-filled tent… just to push you back out again. That being said, I was curious. Curious more about what this event actually is, instead of what it seems to be to the outside world. What is the real FS? What does it take to put on a student-run show with an incredible amount of production value and spectacle? What goes into selecting the clothes and organizing them on the runway? What is really going on behind the scenes? The discovery process was fascinating.
The conceptualization of an event like FS is much like a think tank of sorts: lots of great minds coming together and hashing out theme possibilities until one sticks. Then months of preparation begin to pull it off in one night. This year the decided upon theme was: Origins. Not so typical, not so easily executed. Hunter Pruitt, the Creative Director of FS 2019, broke down the meaning behind Origins: taking a look at the fruitful past and translating that into the uncertain future. Pruitt’s focus was not only on defying expectations, but also requiring a level of active audience participation to focus on what the story of the show was trying to communicate. The level of concentration was noticeably different this year; smaller tent, smaller stage, and a more cohesive outline corresponding with the overall vision. Because of the incredible intent and targeted focus of the event as a whole, I believe the fashion truly got the attention it deserved this year.
As with almost everything enchantingly beautiful in life, most of the glamour is constructed. It’s laborious and tiresome; and you cannot escape the fierce grasp of hard work. FS is no exception to this rule. The FS runway starts and ends with the clothes; it’s the nucleus of the evening. Simona Mezzina, co-Head of Fashion, described to me in length about the process of collaboration and coordination that goes into constructing the show. Mezzina explained that getting in touch with designers takes months of back and forth, not one guaranteed more than the other. Much of the show is built around which designers they can pin down, then creating a narrative with the clothes they receive. The most impressive collections of the night were all from the YDA (Young Designer Award) winner and finalists, which brought life and entertainment to the stage.
Fittingly so, the show’s opening look included ethereal and bohemian pieces from Audrey Albason. Garments dripping in pearls, and delicate lace, called upon the audience to think about the earthy, wholesome elements of the natural world. It was show stopping; and perfect to get the audience’s attention. The show slowly moved toward more avant-garde pieces as the night went on, including feathered and sewn dresses and tunics from Michelle McAuley. She honorably won the Young Design Award this year, in addition to being one of the most memorable collections to walk down the runway. Her clothes were truly the definition of unique, blending the lines between performance art and style.
Similarly to Michelle McAuley, but also completely her own, Pauline Noel’s pieces stunned on the runway. Capturing a femme, other-worldly aspect that shimmered in the disco-tech lights. The clothes seemed to glow and hung beautifully on the models who wore them.
Bethany Hilton’s pieces offered a dark, structured contrast to the heavenly collections above. Lots of layered cloth, and sharp angles, helped accentuate the badassery that the clothes were trying to communicate. This was my favorite collection; it fit the vibe of the evening amazingly well and really stood out on the runway.
The men’s fashion this year was not as visual enticing as the women’s, except for one collection by St Andrews student and FS committee member Kameron Cooper. Cooper eloquently designed a collection of men’s lingerie that really made a statement at the show. The pounding sound of music and thumping lights opened the second-half of FS, to reveal all the male models owning the runway in playful, sassy boxing shorts. It was an epic moment, to say the least, and one that many talked about for days after. Her use of different textures and fabrics was a breath of fresh air and captured a true artistic creativity that I do not think I have seen from a student at this university yet.
The inclusion of student talent was also important to Pruitt’s genesis of creation. Student designs really highlight an aspect of FS I think often gets swept under the rug, it’s essentially an elevated platform for creativity. It’s an art show, but at the highest level. This is not a school where you can study fashion, or music, or dance; and this is truly one of the only outlets where those talents are taken seriously and celebrated at the zenith of their ability.
FS is not for everyone, and it’s not trying to be for everyone. But after I realized the sheer amount of determination and dedication this event takes to be produced every year, for the student population, I could not be critical. FS is challenging what it means to be a student artist; demanding respect and broadcasting a level of professionalism to the world. It’s taking expectations of what can be done at a university level and shattering them time, and time again. I do not think it’s a matter of opinion wither FS is valuable, or interesting, or controversial. It is all those things. But it inherently makes people uncomfortable to break barriers, and push the limits to an extreme; so if that is uncomfortable, then I think they are doing something unequivocally right.
Article by Soph Penelope Hill
All photos from Soph Penelope Hill