Following the success of CATWALK 2017, The Stand had a beer at the St Andrews Brewing Company with AJ Brennan, the show’s director, to pick his brain and reflect on the highlights of the event.
What sparked your interest in fashion, and what made you want to be director of catwalk?
I’ve always been pretty artsy. I did art at school, I enjoyed painting, and creating in a broad sense. To me, it wasn’t so much fashion, rather the idea of a fashion show – the amalgamation of music, fashion, (not dance) but just the party atmosphere appealed to me.
As for how I got involved, my academic aunt was last year’s co-director, so when she started publicising it, I thought, “Oh I could do that,” and decided to apply. I just thought “Why not?” I got on the creative team last year and they said “Hey, you could be director next year,” so I applied and here we are! I was excited to get it because the show was something I could have full creative control over. Even though it was stressful I really relished the opportunity.
What did you bring to Catwalk as director this year that made it stand out from other years?
I definitely wanted to raise its brand image. So from the marketing side of things, I wanted to increase the amount of content that we had. I think last year, the photo shoots could have gone a bit better. This year we had a total of five or six photo shoots, all with completely different ideas, so really just generating content and giving the show a concept that it could run with, and something that was relatable at the same time. I didn’t want it to just be “the RAG week fashion show,” I wanted to create something that could really stand on its own two feet as one of the fashion shows in St Andrews. That’s what I hope I brought to it – I don’t know if people would agree.
As the first show of the season, how do you think it stands out from the other St Andrews fashion shows? Essentially, why Catwalk?
It’s definitely very approachable and inclusive, but that’s not its main USP. I think there’s still room for it to grow and to be a bit more out there – Catwalk is really well-placed to start pushing boundaries. We’re not really bound by expectations of what a fashion show is, in the way I feel some of the others might be. We have an opportunity to really be an underdog and sort of do what we want without anyone expecting anything.
Last year, when I saw the show I had no idea what it was going to be like, and I was absolutely blown away by how good it was. Why come to Catwalk? It’s approachable and affordable, and I think people just have fun. The models aren’t serious, they are having fun on the runway. Before they went on, I said to them, “Please interact with the audience, you’re not mannequins, you’re people and we chose you at the auditions because of your personalities as well!”
Did anything go wrong and how did you deal with?
Everything went shockingly smooth, actually! I don’t trust how well everything has gone so far, this can’t be right! I don’t think anything went wrong in the run up, just because the run up is so long. At times there were things moving in a direction or a pace that I wasn’t happy with. So there were occasions where I had to intervene and ask, Why is this the case?
I don’t think anything went “wrong,” it was just a case of constant reflexivity and assessing how we were doing. For example, if a sponsor said no or pulled out, we would just assess why they said that and then contact another two. I was aware of all the little bits that were going on, as obviously that’s my job to bring everything together, but it really just fit together so smoothly on the day, so credit to my committee and models, really.
How did you channel this year’s concept on the runway?
I originally had an idea for the concept to be very normcore / urban etc. We could have solely acquired brands like Adidas and Superdry to channel this, but when we took on the creative team things became a lot more diverse. They all had these really vibrant ideas about what the concept was to them, and you can’t just ignore that for what you want. Because of that, we started getting lots of different designers. We took a lot of focus on the fashion but also on other aspects of the show as an experience.
One of the creative girls made this really cool video which was kind of mocking high fashion, as well as various shoots showing up around. We didn’t want to put too much decor out there, to the point that it would just saturate everything.
Our DJ Tanya really added to the atmosphere I think. On the night, she wore this awesome gold studded top and gold glitter lipstick, she really looked awesome. I didn’t even ask her to do anything but she just became part of the show. In a lot of other fashion shows, you don’t see the DJ, but Tanya was centre stage, dancing away to her tunes, and everyone loved it! We tried to keep everything quite minimal and let the music and the show itself do the talking.