March 1st marked the 2014 edition of the annual DONT WALK fashion show. Now in its 13th year, the show originated as a response to the September 11th attacks but has grown to embody a spirit of young, intelligent and creative responses to society and its issues more generally.
This year the show was committed to supporting two grassroots charities. The first, Anichra, is a charity that focuses on conflict prevention. The second, Coalition for Work With Psychotrauma and Peace, is based in Vukovar, Croatia and aims to tackle the mental suffering of the war in the Former Yugoslavia.
What differentiates DONT WALK from traditional university fashion shows is the theatrical and performance element of the event. This year the show exceeded expectations. Working on a two part structure, the first half saw an energetic and visually impressive opening. Here complex and powerful lighting, large white canvas frames and futuristic costumes combined to open not only the show, but an engagement with one of the main themes, that of peace and non violence. In this way the creative expression directly engaged with DONT WALK’s chosen charities. Similarly the beginning of the second half engaged with ideas of female and minority empowerment through strong and confident costumes and choreography. These opening scenes were beautifully wrought, creatively enacting the themes in a mature and thoughtful way.
Both openings gave way to a lively and tightly choreographed series of routines, in which the models showed off the clothes with confidence and a clear sense of enjoyment. As usual, the audience interaction only added to the energy and atmosphere.
This slick production was supported by the talented Theo Borgvin Weiss and Calum Bryant. Their set carried the pace of the performance with an eclectic soundtrack that begun with the quirky Venetian Snares, dipped into some disco, Azelia Banks and Fatboy Slim before closing with Midland. What is more, the diversity of sound harmonised with the clothes and theatrical element, carving an exciting atmosphere within a large setting.
As ever, the designers in the show reflected the urban and young vibe of DONT WALK which seeks to act as a platform for up and coming brands, as well as for more established designers. Notable amongst those shown was St Andrews and Brooklyn based company IIA. Their statement that the brand culture “is a collective of young individuals that follow something that they are passionate about” comprehensively embodies the ethos of DONT WALK. Creative director Alina Abouelenin also produced beautiful designs for both men and women, especially as seen during the second half which is a testament to the range of her talent.
And yet in spite of all there was to be praised in terms of artistic and creative activity, certain elements concerning the venue dampened the overall response to the evening. Most notably was the cold. There is cold, and then there is the freezing, unshakeable chill that the audience endured in their bones at the Bowhouse, St Monans. The venue, which came complete with a muddy floor, was almost the perfect setting for an urban and grungy show such as this. However the space could have been better utilised; the fact that the bar was located so far away from the main area and the cramped arrangement of the tables were two notable examples of this. It is a shame that this logistical issue detracted from the impressive display and hard work that had clearly gone into the show.
Fundamentally however, DONT WALK 2014 saw yet another inspiring collaboration between members of the St Andrews student body. Since 2001 DONT WALK has raised over £130,000 for its charities; it is exciting and enjoyable to watch as our generation seeks creative and artistic solutions to implement change for the better.
Images copyright: Gala Netylko
First published on The Huffington Post, 10 March 2014