Behind the Scenes of a Fashion Show – The College Edition

By Tania Chakraborti

St Mary’s College: Circus

The Mary’s Fashion Show Exec

St Mary’s College theme this year is Circus. Co-President Rudra Rhodes states that “we picked it because we wanted to do something very fun and colourful!” Indeed, with Co-President Jemima Coleman’s promise of “glitter, glitter and more glitter”, the team are more than likely to succeed in meeting their aim to entertain.

Recently, with the controversies surrounding Hatfield’s show and its disaffiliation with the college alongside the discontinuation of Hild Bede’s own show, college fashion seems to be getting a bad name. The Exec have acknowledged that “there is a pressure not to make it controversial…we have to prove it is worth keeping.”

Yet this only makes the team more determined than ever to provide a show which “embraces diversity, colour, (and) individuality…this theme allows models to make it their own.” There are around thirty models this year. “We have quotas for year groups. Last year was around 80% first years. So this year we want to get the whole community of the college involved.”

Their wonderfully unique anonymous selection process means that everybody has the opportunity to take part. Rhodes insists that “it’s not about stereotypical ‘fit’ models walking down the catwalk, it’s about charisma (and) personalities…That’s why we did the anonymous applications this year. It all ties together with the theme of circus and the charity. It’s about acceptance, embracing your individuality, and not basing it on looks.”

Co-President Jemima Coleman exclaims the show is “Embracing every body shape, and every kind of person…we’re so excited about this!”

This tribute to self-acceptance certainly aligns with the charity which the Exec has chosen to promote. Mind is the biggest mental health charity in the UK. Charity Rep Emily Jopling states that they chose it “because it’s so relevant to university life and is about [encouraging] mental health [to be a] more openly spoken about topic.” The support of the charity hasn’t stopped at the fashion show; Mary’s are staging a few fun events leading up to the main show, such as a ‘rugby versus netball’ match, all in order to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and raise even more money for the cause.

6th March 2017 at 7:30pm. Tickets will be approximately £26. Check out their Facebook page for more details:


Collingwood College: “Decades of Decadence”

This year, Collingwood’s show promises to be quite a journey: their theme is ‘Decades of Decadence’, displaying the height of trends from across the 20th Century.

So how are Collingwood hoping to whisk their audience away? President Eva Guerrero tells Palatinate that “we looked at each decade as a whole and picked out fun and iconic’ images, which will enable each era to really come to life.” Creative Director Lorna Dean excitedly states “We’ve got the Spice Girls for the 90s and even one girl who is an instructor, with the boys featuring in her 80s workout video.” As if this was not enticing enough, there will even be a ‘caveman’ walk with the boys, which promises to be a barrel of laughs.

All of this pageant is of course, for a worthy cause. Collingwood’s chosen charity is Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY), which is ‘very close to home’ due to the death of former Collingwood student Sarah Pilkington from cardiac arrest a few years ago. Guerrero states that “Collingwood has many screenings every year” as a result, so “it makes sense to give back to something that happened in Collingwood.”

It is no secret that these fashion shows have come under scrutiny over the past few years for showcasing ‘stereotypical’ underwear models, raising issues of body confidence and self- esteem. However, Dean insists that “for the underwear walk, models chose to wear their own; we wanted them to feel more comfortable. We are trying to link decades to the modern day”, and the modern ideal of body diversity. The Exec believe that a strong statement for the promotion of the event is ‘come as you are’ – that is after all what fashion today is truly all about.

The Collingwood Charity Fashion Show is on 10th February. Ticket Prices: VIP Table £28, non-VIP £32. Check out their Facebook page here for more details:


Josephine Butler College: ‘the full 365’

Josephine Butler’s theme this year is ‘the full 365’, which hopes to be “a look back on the year through the clothes we wear.” Co-Chair Maria Campanini animatedly explains that there are “8 walks, each of which represent a different event in the year.” These include the entire works: New Year, Valentines, April Showers, Holidays, ‘Back to School’, Bonfire Night, Halloween and ending appropriately at Christmas. Campanini and fellow Co-Chair Jess Murphy are excited about the brands they are displaying, particularly the unique Durham-based ‘Thrift Boutique’, which is “great for vintage clothes”.

The charity, which the Exec have chosen to promote, is So the Child May Learn– a foundation which focuses on the education of children in Nepal. The reason they chose to support this cause is because “we thought we would centre the event on the international charity, because it needs large donations to actually make a difference” and this seems like the ideal event, given its status as the biggest Howlands will see put on this year.

Josephine Butler’s fashion team consists of 40 models, evenly split between girls and boys, however this was not originally the case. Boys are “not as comfortable putting themselves forward”, whilst one first year said that the show “sounds really good, but am I the right body shape?” In response to this, the chairs emphatically stated that “you are perfect! Anyone can do it!”

As a result, Josephine Butler’s show desires to focus particularly on an ‘all-inclusive’, welcoming atmosphere. Campanini confirms that “we have involved more people” than ever before, the show is “Butler-central” and will affirm community spirit in a very positive way. It promises to be a reflection of ourselves over the past year, whilst being a celebration of individuality.

‘Diverse, inclusive, fun’ (the Chairs). Saturday 25th February at 7:30pm at Howlands, tickets will be around £20. See more details here:



Grey College: ‘Enter the Forest’

First year Joe Partington – one of the models featured this year in Grey’s Fashion Show.

Grey’s theme this year is ‘Enter the Forest’. Co-Chair Sophia Rashid said the Exec were determined to bring it “back to the roots. Last year the theme was cosmic chaos, so this year we’re quite literally bringing it back to Earth!”

The theme lends itself to a lot of designers’ including Topshop, Sail Away and a designer the Exec are particularly excited by, Jarlo London. The evening is set to be thrilling indeed, particularly as Grey have decided to stage their ‘mythological’ event in Durham’s new exciting venue Missoula.

Much like the other Execs this year, Grey is also stressing that their event is a move away from the stereotypical images of singular body-type fashion. Scarlett Regan, Creative Director, insists that “that has never been the vibe of Grey. What we ask the models in the interview is personality based. If someone looks ‘incredible’ but can’t stand on their own two feet and answer a funny question, they’re not going in the show.”

Rashid affirms that “whilst being ‘good looking’ is sometimes quite an objective thing, attraction is not. Different people find different qualities attractive…There is even one guy who loves to dab in our show! 400 people are coming; it’s about appealing to a wider audience.”

Grey’s two chosen charities include the Stephen Garland Foundation and Mind. Tatton-Brown stresses that Mind is a charity very “personal to Grey”. “Often the charity gets lost in it all, we want to bring it back to the charity.”

‘Magical, mystical, unique, fun, a spectacle!’ (The Grey College Exec) 9th March 2017 8pm at Missoula. Tickets will be £20-40 Check out their Facebook page for more details here:


Despite the controversies of recent years, it is clear that there is very much a place for college fashion on the Durham scene. This year more than ever looks likely to be one of the best; with concerted efforts put into brand and sponsorship sourcing, complex choreography and venue design. The message advocated by all the Execs of self-acceptance and embracing who you are no matter what shape, size or personality, is arguably as important as the fantastic causes which these shows are raising money for. So what are you waiting for? Show your support by securing a coveted ticket to your college show.

Photograph: Facebook


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