De- and Reconstructing An Era – A Review of CATWALK 2023: Newstalgia
Jade reviews CATWALK’s 2023 show, Newstalgia.
Where were you in 2002?
The past few years have seen a huge resurgence in early 2000s fashion, largely spurred by Generation Z, but it’s interesting to note the distinctions between 2000s fashion as remembered by older generations and its current, reanimated form. Part of the reason why the two are different might be, well, us – and it’s not a bad thing that they are. To answer my own question, a fraction of St Andrews undergraduates weren’t born by 2002. Those of us who were there, also… weren’t there. We were babies. By all this I mean we were there, of course, but we weren’t old enough to engage in a lot of these trends or subcultures and draw on that kind of lived experience for this revival. Having snatches of memories, internet resources and items to look back on and work with in the present, while amazing, gives us only part of the 2000s story. In only having a limited view of the era, we inherently isolate certain aspects of that time, the gaps between give us a chance for us to reinvent those styles with contemporary fashion trends. The Y2K trend has simply been refracted through a different lens to that of mature, lived experiences. The result is an expression of nostalgia often reminiscent of, but distinct from, the original source material. This lens is coloured by a sense of collective ownership and affinity felt towards the era: it’s not just a decade we passed through, but the one we were born into. This phenomena of unique nostalgic refraction is encapsulated in the neologism Newstalgia, CATWALK’s current theme.
CATWALK is a student-run, “100% non-profit” charity fashion show in St Andrews. This year, they partnered with three charities chosen by the student body: Families First, Doctors Without Borders and Bloody Good Period. Even before the show, my excitement was stoked by the effort and thought put into the promotional material. The committee used branding to flesh out the thematic world that the pieces would inhabit weeks in advance, building audience anticipation. This was achieved by illustrating the Newstalgia concept through consistent and creative branding. In my view, a large part of an event’s success depends on the holistic experience offered to guests. Creating an effective theme allows you to enhance that experience by prompting guests to buy into the premise. If there’s one thing I like, it’s a good through-line when it comes to a theme: CATWALK branded all the posts for their special media, announcements, ticket-buying page and more with font and iconography hearkening to the grunge, Y2K diegetic world. Even the preliminary photos of the models were themed accordingly. Another creative bit of marketing from the team was a series of pseudo-VOGUE videos showing the models’ skincare and makeup routines in a sartorial-meets-relatable manner (cue my analysis of this using Richard Dyer’s star theory).
The theme was centred on the fledgling new millennium. Not just Y2K, but also the early 2010s and its contrapuntal, grunge-inspired-Tumblr “indie sleaze”. For me, CATWALK’s take on Newstalgia was all about deconstruction and reconstruction, in equally refractive ways. The through-line for all the designs seemed to be a deconstruction of core elements of early 2000s and 2010s trends, silhouettes and subcultures, and a reimagining of them with current or alternative aesthetic influences. For instance, one look that came down the runway was a tan-coloured puffer jacket and puffer miniskirt set. They had the muted, minimalist colour scheme and detailing that characterised the late 2010s, but paired with the 2000s micro-mini silhouette. Having them both in the puffer style is the through-line that really tied this piece together, as well as to the show’s theme.
Sometimes, this de- and reconstruction was not literal: various pieces seemed to be deconstructing a concept rather than a physical trend, such as autonomy or concealment. Other times, contrast was used as a tool of de- and reconstruction. One instance that perfectly exemplified this was a two-model walk. One model was in a deconstructed, highly-angular grey suit jacket that came up over her back and down over her shoulders in a V-shaped minidress form, the two panels crossing her front void of buttons or traditional lapels. The other was draped in a sheer, tourmaline blue, gossamer robe over black underclothes. It had large slits that let in the air at the sides, so it billowed out as she walked. This meeting of the angular and the gossamer, both garments innovative in their forms, stood out to me because of how differently they interacted with the environment but yet how well they played off each other. It felt holistic, seeing the two pieces together. Among the many other looks that kept me enthralled was a charcoal-black, avant-garde ode to maximalism and playing with textures. This look featured long, puffy sleeves that were also ruched, with leather labels stitched onto them and an expansive, layered skirt with the most minute pleating. The depth and absorbency of that particular black seemed to make the details gel well with each other, as the eye viewed them as a cohesive unit but was also kept fascinated and moving by the minutiae. Another design was a reimagined long-sleeved shirt dress, scorched along the boat neckline, hem. It also features fabric strips that draped to the floor, the ends of which were also scorched off for a distressed counterpoint to the crisp shirt.
Additionally, there were also pieces that celebrated artistry through creative distortion and mark making in various ways. There were double-denim suits featuring trousers with brightly-painted, patchwork panels, and jackets with layered patches that stood off of the wearer’s form like a relief collage. There were also illustrations in different styles hand-painted onto the garments: a poncho full of swirling, animated portraits, or a stark-white puffer with a profile painted in thick black, the visible brushstrokes. The audience gasped as a model in a huge, white crolined dress that seemed to be blushed with pink spray paint strutted down the aisle. Scrawled over the pink in black was a defiant slogan: “WE ARE NOT OBJECTS”.
On the whole, I immensely enjoyed my evening at the CATWALK fashion show this year. I was inspired, surprised and moved by the designs I saw, as well as the professionalism of the models and the dedication of the committee to their main charitable goals. CATWALK remains one of St Andrews’ most recommended fashion shows, and for good reason: the atmosphere on and off the runway was one of positivity and fun. CATWALK’s encouragement of people to come as they were reflected this (you could, of course, wear what you wanted!), and this sense of ease allowed space for the audience to truly engage with the art being spotlighted, and to celebrate their friends who were involved. In light of all this, I would definitely put forward CATWALK 2024 as one you wouldn’t want to miss.
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