From the evening darkness of the countryside around St Andrews, the coaches pulled up to Falside Mill, where pulsating lights, gauzy curtains, the heady scent of incense, and dozens of flickering candles which glowed through flutes of champagne awaited the two hundred and fifty guests attending ‘Crystal Liturgy’, the launch for the main show which DONT WALK will host in 2022. According to DONT WALK’s Creative Director, Elise Morrison, ‘Crystal Liturgy’ is the most ambitious launch that the organization has put on to date. The event featured a fashion show spotlighting six fresh and talented designers set to take the world of style by storm, a sit-down dinner, and an afterparty joined by another hundred and fifty guests, all in support of DONT WALK’s charitable partners Impact Arts and the Domestic Violence Project at the Urban Justice Centre. The dress code of Ethereal Opulence gave each guest a Met Gala moment as the foyer filled with a range of styles from chiffon to pale silk, feathers and gold headbands, corsets, pantsuits, gowns, and even an artfully placed ivy crown. ‘I love seeing how each person interprets the theme,’ Gabby, one of the committee members, said to me as we observed the well-dressed crowd.
The fashion show was certainly the highlight of the night at ‘Crystal Liturgy’. The mood in the room was ecstatic and irreverent as cheers and a sudden swell of live-mixed, bass-heavy hypnotic chant cut through the heavenly voices of the unaccompanied choir singing the Pater Noster. And as the models made their way down the aisles between the rows of tables in complex choreographed formations, there was almost a bacchic, pure and palpable adrenaline coursing through the space. The collections on display at the fashion show were spectacular, and while showing everything from outerwear by Friederike Snelting fit for a day on the ski slopes to harmonious and effortlessly elegant menswear by Maddy Goddard, the show presented these distinct styles in a sense of cohesion. If there was an overarching theme at ‘Crystal Liturgy’, it seemed to be defined and varying forms of geometricity: a neon pink jacket by Tighe Mearns Smith which doubled the shoulder span of its model, a cinematically stunning black off-shoulder gown by Jannah Babar that could have fit in with Natalie Portman’s wardrobe in the Star Wars prequels, and a beautiful, airy confection of a rose dress by Carolina Leontina were my particular favourite pieces, all creating silhouettes which ranged from sharp to ephemeral.
‘The name ‘Crystal Liturgy’ comes from one of my favourite pieces of music which has been instrumental in constructing the theme for this year,’ Elise explained what the event means to her. ‘It is the first moment in Messiaen’s ‘Quartet for the end of time’. This piece was written in a prisoner of war camp in the early days of the Second World War… For me, this composition is apocalyptic and dark but at the same time is a beacon of hope. This is the ultimate message of DONT WALK this year – hope.’ Hope. Something I think we all need more of as we continue to face the difficulties that the world presents to us. Perhaps it wasn’t only the geometricity that defined the collections on display, but a sense of resilience in those forms that reflects the hard work of DONT WALK’s charitable partners. And as Carolina Leontina wrote about her designs that ‘[investigate] how rigid objects can be expressed through the flexible structure’, her statement seems true not only about her pieces but also about the message which they express in their cloud-like shapes. It must have been a sense of resilience and determination which drove some of the designers to create their work, including the supremely talented Grace Wang, a first-year St Andrews student whose dresses were shimmering with asymmetrical folds in metallic tones.
This all only goes to show what I think is the most wonderful part of the energy at a DONT WALK event. There’s an undeniable sense of community, about which Henry Empson, one of the models, had enthused to me later that night at the afterparty before heading off to dance: ‘DONT WALK feels like a family.’ It takes an astounding amount of work to put together this event, and everyone from Press, to Production, to Sponsorship has a significant role to play. When I warmed up to the driving beats of the DONT WALK resident DJs and took to the dance floor myself, I felt transported by that feeling of togetherness that practically every person with whom I spoke had told me about. ‘We are here to create conversation,’ Elise concluded in our brief interview, ‘presenting a whimsical and confessional reflection into our humanity, and provoking conversation about difficult but important issues.’ Opulence, luxury, and charitable partnership? Without a doubt. But in addition to all this, DONT WALK’s events are characterized by a supportive, tight-knit circle that I was delighted to be part of for the night.