There’s a new society on campus with big ambitions. Since the Summer Term started my facebook newsfeed has been packed full of tantalising music act announcements and a stunning photo shoot (courtesy of the talented Ama Samra www.hapticworld.co.uk), all promoting Fashion Society’s inaugural annual charity fashion show: FashionFest.
With the truly abysmal spring weather we’ve been ‘enjoying’ recently, having a festival themed event seemed a bit of a gamble. But, as the evening rolled on, the glorious last hours of sunshine set a relaxed and summery tone. As an ex-inmate of Derwent C Block I might be somewhat biased, but I truly think that The Quiet Place is the most beautiful and too-often overlooked part of campus. It was great to see an event that made full use of this hidden gem of a location.
The inclusion of outside vendors at university events can sometimes prove a little awkward; students can be notoriously stingy when it comes to parting with yet more cash after a door fee. FashionFest was different. Maybe it was the long-awaited sunshine and quantities of free cider, or maybe it was the delicious smells wafting from Leeds’ Caribbean Man Cafe & Grill. Whatever it was, the punters were out in force, rummaging through the treasure troves of stalls by York Does Vintage , Miss Patina (as stocked by Topshop) and Ethics. Even the last-minute pull-out of DEEP Vintage (now in administration) couldn’t dampen the mood.
Highlights included vintage sewing patterns, cutesy dolls house jewellery, up-cycled denim jackets with embroidered stags heads, and some truly stunning vintage fashion finds. One stall was a veritable Aladdin’s cave of retro pieces with serious designer names, including Biba, Karl Lagerfeld, and Christian Lacroix. I fell deeply in love with a luxuriant white fox fur stole (perfect for the inevitable deluge of Gatsby-themed parties this summer), and was delighted to walk away with it for the less-than-princely sum of £20.
As a glorious sunset began to cast long shadows, the crowd gathered on the lawn in front of Heslington Hall, lazing around on picnic blankets to the chilled out vibes of Breakz. Cans were cracked open, cigarettes were rolled…I even spotted one enthusiastic group of festival goers who’d brought along their own shisha pipe.
With some slightly dodgy compering from Andy Lake, the first of the two Fashion Shows was announced. This is where the location really came into its own; models appeared from the topiary (very Dior Paris Couture) and stalked around the rectangular water feature. Both mens and ladies wear was modeled, showcasing a great range of well put-together summer looks. The styling was sleek, professional and very on point, with trend-driven mini-shows featuring swimwear, denim, boho chic, and floral print garments. The swimwear show was particularly well choreographed; Aisling Chomhaill stole the show with pin-up worthy striptease and some impressive high-heeled moves, all the while rocking a cute two piece and yellow raincoat combo.
After the disappointing statistics that emerged from the 90% white cast of models at the latest major fashion weeks, it was fantastic to see that this was one trend that Fashion Society had chosen not to follow. There was a diverse range of models of all sizes and ethnicity, all clearly hand picked for their individual and stunning good looks. If an alien had landed on the well-manicured lawn at that point you’d have forgiven them for completely disbelieving the scurrilous rumors of York’s low ranking in the university attractiveness stakes.
In the break between the shows there was a great live set from The Marzec Group, who describe their own music as a blend of jazz, soul, blues and dub, (as I’m the Fashion rather than the Music Editor, I’ll just have to take their word for it.)
The entertainment carried on well into the night, with another sleek and visually appealing catwalk show, followed by sets from Kat Ronson,Chris Ashfield, and Kit Munro. Entry included a Kuda wristband, and by midnight the club was packed with jubilant models and attendees determined to dance until dawn.
Overall, FashionFest’s greatest achievement was the incredible atmosphere it generated throughout the evening, and the entire events planning team should be congratulated on pulling off a first-time event so smoothly. They’ve set the bar high if this does in fact become an annual occasion, and that’s not a bad thing at all.