By Anna Gibbs
It seems that it’s not only Molly Goddard, famous for once having her models sketch in a faux still life class during London Fashion Week 2015, who has seen the innate link between fashion and the art world. This year’s highly anticipated Van Mildert Fashion Show in aid of the Rainbow Trust in the capable hands of director Damilola Sotuminu, took the theme of Art. In light of the recent use of artistic muses by major houses such as Burberry and Gucci, using illustrations to enhance their advertising, this was an on trend route to take.
Upon arrival, we slipped into the zen atmosphere of the champagne reception. Everyone was lounging around, draped across armchairs whilst they sipped from the elegant flutes. Then, into the Anne Dobson hall to our table, a round affair soaked in a metallic cloth and tiny stars glowing up at us. Dainty logoed cupcakes, also dressed in silver, tantalisingly waited for us next to our programmes. I must admit, although the overall effect was nothing short of charming, the rather rushed looking programme let down an otherwise wonderful display. If only we’d had a programme befitting the high energy and smooth execution of the show itself.
One of the shining aspects of the Mildert show was the inclusion of a wide range of students – wonderfully, the auditions were completely open. Seeing as the fashion industry is such a narrow minded one, this strikes me as startlingly forward thinking in such an approach. Instead, the focus was on the charisma of the models, most of whom seeming to be positively glowing from within as they swanned down the catwalk. Adding to the air of inclusion was the enthusiastic interaction between the models, which was delightful, throwing a dash of college companionship into the mix. This inclusive attitude also extended to the presenters, both freshers, a gentle touch regarding combining all years into the spectacle. However, perhaps a guiding hand in the way of a third year presenter, along with more speaking time, may have given their rather sparse yet valiant opportunities to present more confidence, providing a clearer narrative to the show.
Highlights included the Adidas sponsored walk, with futuristic tones showcasing the sports luxe trend in a way which didn’t feel as unnatural as it could have done on Durham’s middle class students. Kudos to whoever arranged the music, as the thumping beats accompanying the models made you almost want to get up and sassily walk around too. If you were that athletically inclined that is – I was far too attached to my (glorious) cupcake by the point Adidas strayed from their usual block colours into the realm of bold patterns, including faded florals and a neon rejig of camouflage, giving new life to the familiar tracksuit pieces.
The ‘Minimalism’ workwear walk prompted me to scribble ‘MANKLES’ on my programme, which was a clear sign of approval for the slick styling. ‘Futurism’ brought along with it a flurry of block colours, a very clean nod to the primary colours trend anticipated to be popular amongst the most in the know this Spring/Summer, as well as glorying in the seemingly insuppressible adoration and uptake of normcore. In fact, excluding the impressionism walk, normcore was very much the basis of the show. The more adventurous dressers among us could argue that it could have been spiced up by throwing some unapologetic maximalism into the mix. Nonetheless, the consistency shown could be seen as an ode to the relaxed dressing which comes with spring, this of course being a show in Epiphany term.
The ‘Impressionism’ walk included some stunning pieces from TOPSHOP, with duskier, moody floral playsuits, and the current Instagram darlings, the white shirt and jeans with embroidered detail. The crisp whites and the stubborn florals made one’s heart flutter in anticipation of the coming spring, which I take as a mark of success. The visuals onscreen behind the catwalk deserve an accolade, not only for including the Clueless Monet quote, but for their remarkable awareness of contemporary art and design. It was at times almost a choice between avidly watching the models or the screens, such was the quality. The only improvement would be to ensure that the effect of the outfits wasn’t diluted slightly across such a high volume of models. Focusing on fewer models could have resulted in bolder outfit styling, but then again, it wouldn’t have been as characterful.
Other notable moments include, of course, the ‘Gothic’ themed underwear walk, in which the Mildert models made you almost feel that perhaps rowing may be worthwhile after all, while a swarm of Greek ‘gods’, flecked with bronze glitter, sporting draping togas and glinting gold wreaths brought easy grins to the faces in the audience, with their charade of flexing muscles and almost worrying ability to pout outrageously. The relaxed camaraderie between the Mildertians spread into the audience, the models not taking themselves too seriously captivating their peers. Perhaps the most fascinating model of all was Alex Woolhouse, entirely in drag, who took to the stage like a duck to water (excusing the Mildert pun). So beautiful was he that the girls next to me didn’t even realise that anyone had appeared in drag until I exclaimed at them how fabulous he was.
I feel that this relaxed, open attitude and Mildert’s cheeky personality combined with impressive collections to create a high energy, vivid show. Indeed, although there may have been opportunities for the smoothing over and strengthening of certain aspects, on the whole, and from the perspective of an audience member, it was indeed a work of art.
Photographs: Emma Gervasi