The Durham University Charity Fashion Show 2022 raised a staggering £205,000 in support of Teenage Cancer Trust. The team, comprised of thirty-two exec members, fifty-two models, three presenters, as well as other volunteers and representatives, worked to put together a vibrant show that was varied and captivating. The cast of models wore a range of collections from a diverse array of designers in a series of eight walks, centring around the theme: #IDENTITYCRISIS: A PROCESS OF SELF-DISCOVERY. The highlights of the designers worn include Flora Mae Sharpe’s corsetry, Evie Knits inventive pieces and Sam Saint James’ bold use of shape and colour. Experiencing the show as one of the three thousand audience members was an amazing experience, and style editor Anna Johns spoke with Chris Newton to learn more about what modelling for DUCFS was like.
Why did you want to model?
I wanted to model because I really wanted to get involved in Durham Uni culture in a different way. I’d heard other people talk about how good their experience was in DUCFS and I just wanted to be a part of that. People always say it was one of the best experiences they’d had in Durham. My other reason was their diversity aim. Last year, there was a big thing about DUCFS and diversity. As an ethnic minority, I decided I wanted to make my own change, you know?
On the subject of diversity, I feel like DUCFS gets hated on massively. People are saying it’s really elite and not diverse at all but did you not see the models this year? There were people of all different body types, age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality. It was there, they made an active effort. That’s why I wanted to audition.
Durham has a small sample size anyway. Coming to Durham, I feel like diversity at the uni itself is already non-existent. You have to think about that as well when you’re talking about DUCFS and diversity. I feel like everyone here’s from the same background… you know what I mean. But if you’re a minority and you’re saying that DUCFS has a diversity problem, I think you should go to the auditions. Be part of the change you want to see.
How were the rehearsals?
Rehearsals were fun! I really liked them. It was really demanding and time-consuming though, I ended up spending my whole weekend rehearsing all day long. It was still fun though; I was getting to know the rest of the team and I was spending a lot of time with them and it felt like one big family even though it was super early. It was very intense, not just for the models but for the exec as well. They put so much work into it, they were always changing things up! I had no time to do anything else when you’re rehearsing. You just end up learning your next walk during your breaks. It did get pretty stressful. Leading up to the actual show, rehearsals became more intense. People were stressed out, they were nervous. You could see the anxiety building up, but I feel like that made it even more worthwhile.
What was it like on the night?
Amazing. The first night especially. The number of emotions I was experiencing was insane. I could look on everyone else’s face and they were all going through so many emotions. We were all completely silent. It was so loud on the other side of the stage but backstage no one was speaking, we were all trying to hype ourselves up and get ready to go out. We weren’t nervous so much; it was more like anticipation and a lot of restlessness – at least for me. We were all just thinking, how badass can we be tonight? I can’t even describe the feeling but it was surreal. I remember when I first walked on stage, the cheers were amazing. The audience was insane. I couldn’t even feel my nervousness anymore, I just felt at peace. I was standing there; I did my first move. When I carried on walking, I felt really powerful with every tiny little box step, people were just hyping me up and cheering me on. No other night could compare to the first night for me.
What was the best part of the experience?
The best part was definitely the people. I know that’s a cliché answer but it’s true. This year especially. I feel like someone cast a spell or something, but I love all these people. The models, the exec. It was just the small things, getting to know them, becoming close to them. I’ve made some really great friends from the whole team that I’ll carry on talking to for the rest of my life.
What would you do say to anyone who wants to get involved next year?
If you want to be a model, all I can say is: be nice to your exec. Listen to them, respect them. Don’t annoy them, please, I’m begging you. If I find out that anyone is annoying the exec or not listening to them at rehearsals, I’ll come for you. They put so much work in, they’re stressed out constantly. They have full degrees they have to do as well!
And just enjoy the experience. Be prepared to put in effort though, you’ll need a certain amount of commitment for it. Prepare yourself for that. But have fun, enjoy it, it was one of the best experiences of my time in Durham. Apart from that, all I can say is: just apply! It’s open to anyone, it genuinely is. Just go for it.
Image credit: Maddie Pink