Student alternative to mainstream catwalks – DONT WALK at St Andrews University

For the twelfth year running, Kinkell Byre played host to St. Andrew’s notorious DONT WALK catwalk show, the culmination of a years worth of hard work by a collection of energetic university students. For an entirely student-run show the standard was incredibly high, showcasing designers such as Tim Labenda and Yosef Peretz. In addition to earning thousands for the Non Violence Project, the evening truly upheld its reputation as the roguish rival to St. Andrews fellow student-run charity fashion show ‘FS’.

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Photo by Eliah English

Running seamlessly from catwalk performance into after-party, the entire night was delivered to an eclectic soundtrack fusing classics such as Jonny Cash’s Ain’t No Grave alongside the much hyped Maxxi Soundsytem. Bringing the essence of an urban warehouse rave to a barn in the wilderness of Fife is no mean feat however. The tireless team behind creative direction altered the layout of the catwalk itself to an ‘H’ style this year, thus displaying more models on stage at any one time. This produced a theatrical and feverish buzz of energy, each model’s dynamism bouncing off the next. It is this refreshing sense of empowerment and confidence in the student models that sets DONT WALK apart from other high brow shows and this is further reflected in the high street brands represented, such as Canada Goose and Topman.

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Photo by Eliah English

 

The new layout also allowed for more interaction between the models and audience members; a myriad of bum slapping, high fiving students celebrating their success in clambering to the front of the stage, well received by the models of course! While the DONT WALK team succeed in creating a rough-and-ready atmosphere to the performance, it is easy to forget the event is organised by a group of students when the quality of sponsorship includes LVMH and Bank of America. As one corporate guest mentioned “I went to Yale, but this is unlike any university event I’ve seen in the States”. The phenomenal scale of the evening and time sacrificed by these individuals really does outline how unique DONT WALK is.

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Photo by Eliah English

An edge of exclusivity appeared to shroud the evening however, with tickets only available to a select group of student invitees and costing as much as £80. DONT WALK seems to become less about raising money as it is about being seen at one of St. Andrews biggest nights of the year (no doubt polarized by Kate Middleton’s infamous association with the event in 2002.) One student says “I’d like to see curvier models up there. I eat foie gras and drink wine, I’m a real girl. I work out at the same gym as those models.” She reveals a deeper grievance with the show that DONT WALK doesn’t seem to address (although was clearly oblivious to the irony of “real girls” going out for a spot of foie gras…).

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Minor gripes aside, the event does a great deal to raise awareness – and funds – for this year’s charity amongst young people. Since its establishment in the wake of the 9/11 bombings twelve years ago DONT WALK has supported a number of charities ranging from Invisible Children (whoops) to Zamcog, donating upwards of £110,000.

This year, the Non Violence Project (NVP) was chosen. The charity aims to promote self esteem and youth employment statistics on an international scale. Yet this is also the first time the project will support a charity that operates on a local level. St Andrews has become the platform for the European launch of the Non Violence University Project (NVP-U) which aims to establish a stronger relationship between universities and their local communities. Amongst the clothes showcased are a series of t-shirts, designed by Emma Raventos, featuring the charity’s knotted gun logo.

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Fundamentally, the event seems to act as a voice for charities such as NVP, introducing them to new audiences. DONT WALK epitomizes the invaluable relationship between art and charity, whilst allowing an ambitious bunch of students the chance to take the helm of a flourishing creative project. Whatever your thoughts on that, one thing is clear: it can only get bigger.

The event, we mean. Not the models. Those poor girls don’t eat nearly enough foie gras

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Words by Bea Cartwright; Photography by Kelly Diepenbrock (unless otherwise stated)