A parade of outfits passes before my eyes, and I can barely keep track of them all as the crowd erupts with delight at each new creation on the runway. Soft velvet bomber jackets from Collections Warehouse and classic trench coats by Tutussie. Balaclavas by WASH ME, with knitted horns on the crown of the head. Embroidered caftans from beachwear brand Tashia that are perfect for a day by the ocean. A yellow plaid wrap dress designed by Nicole Miller that finds the surprising intersection between Cher from Clueless and high fashion. Now in its thirtieth year, FS has put on yet another show to remember, packing a marquee on the Madras Pitches with attendees eager to see what new styles will be taking centre-stage. The aspects of the show range from charitable (with not one, but two new partner charities being sponsored this year – Fear Free and the Joshua Nolan Foundation), to impressive (the range of designers represented includes Nicole Miller and Maria Cornejo), to thoroughly eyebrow-raising (an auction of a custom NFT for 0.51 Ethereum… read about two and a half thousand pounds).
For the second year, FS has also extended its platform towards goals of long-term sustainability, reflected in its theme of Encompassing Environments. With its ethos of ‘celebrating Scottish culture and history through the natural environments, artificial environments, and local’, this was a theme beautifully conveyed through the catalogue of photographs showing off the models of FS in the environs of the natural beauty of the Highlands, the urban gothic of Edinburgh Castle, and local sights of the Coastal Path, to name a few. While the show began with a montage of these diverse environments, I wish that the theme had more palpably carried through the runway itself, rather than confine itself to bright flashing lights and synth beats. Although the fashion on display was simply stunning, I wished that I could see more of this celebration of Scottish culture and history on the stage to truly set FS apart from the other fashion shows in St Andrews.
FS is nevertheless a major platform for designers both established and up-and-coming, and although both of these categories produced incredible pieces to display on the runway, it was perhaps the latter category which interested me most. The first designer of the night was St Andrews alumnus and now London-based designer Noemie Jouas, whose brand Noé Dresses is whimsical and trendy, with motifs of puffy sleeves, corset-style backs, and ruffles on a range of garments including never-before-seen pieces debuting on the FS runway. I asked Noemie what showing her designs at a student-run fashion show like FS meant to her, and she told me that ‘there’s a special feeling that comes with showing at fashion shows held in St. Andrews. The four years I’ve spent there have been immense in my growth as a designer – I started my business here, I made countless of costumes for countless of productions, I designed, made and showed my very first collection here. I really love being able to give back to the community that helped me get to where I am by lending my pieces for the shows!’ Noemie has come full circle as a designer in more ways than one, as she points out one of her newest designs in the show, a gorgeous orange tulle dress with a red striped bodice which she created using fabric scraps from her first collection, emphasising the importance of sustainability both to her brand and FS.
Sustainability is also extremely important to another label debuting at FS, WASH ME, by designer Sean Archie Mxolisi Mbiri Morison and current St Andrews student and FS model Emmanuella Ellia. Featuring handmade pieces made from sustainable materials, this brand is one of the favourites of FS model Julien Sarkozy, with whom I spoke before the show alongside first-time model Lourenco Maia. Both models were enthusiastic to share what they felt made FS a unique and thrilling show, with Lourenco telling me about the intensive casting process and his excitement to work with the brands that FS attracts, and Julien recounting the long hours of rehearsals, learning how to walk and turn, that lead up to the show itself. After four years of modeling with FS, Julien shared his gratitude for the collaborative effort which is put into the show, from the committee to the walking teachers to the backstage team. Lourenco also expressed his eagerness to return to model for FS next year, and the reasons behind his sentiment seemed palpable throughout the show. Although the models are extremely professional and undeniably mastered their choreography, as their faces lit up at the sight of friends in the crowd, or they danced together on stage during their final walk, it was truly evident that this was a tight-knit and talented group who must have worked hard and created plenty of memories together. When the committee joined the models on stage, and a spray of champagne descended over the crowd, the mood was irreverent, passionate, and celebratory.
The major question obviously remains: is a ticket to FS worth it? I would ask in turn what it is that an attendee hopes to get out of the event. Guests appeared to have mixed feelings about the organisation of FS – some not entirely on board with the show’s move to a more sustainable virtual goodie bags, others commented upon the small tables expected to be shared by a party of nine. I will admittedly agree with some guests who noted the crammed size of the VIP area between the two extended arms of the runway. Although the runway was one aspect of the production that reflected the ‘encompassing’ theme of Encompassing Environments, the layout did come with consequences. For those attendees who proactively found a space at the front, the view was incredible, albeit with very little elbow room as a live stream crew made its way to set up recording equipment. For those who stood a row or two back, not so much – some even giving up and trying their luck in the standard admission space.
But for those attendees who managed to secure a good space, and for those who place value on the fashion which is on display, FS is a show which often makes you forget that it is entirely organised by students. We at The Stand are intrigued to see what the next decades and beyond hold for FS.