DUCFS 2024: The forces behind Europe’s largest student-led fundraiser

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As the final echoes of applause fade away and the runway lights dim, Durham University’s Charity Fashion Show (DUCFS) leaves a trail of awe and inspiration in its wake. This year’s spectacle, guided by the visionary theme “The Future is Now,” pushed boundaries and delighted audiences with the very best of student creativity, while supporting and raising money for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).

In the aftermath of this extraordinary event, I had the privilege of sitting down with a few of the remarkable students behind this year’s show, whose collective ingenuity breathed life into the futuristic tapestry that unfolded onto the catwalk. I will be pulling back the curtain on the creative process which fuelled the metamorphosis of DUCFS 2024 into a groundbreaking fusion of avant-garde student fashion and social consciousness, where the future isn’t just a distant dream, but a vibrant reality woven into every stitch and strut on the runway.

Molly Mihell, Vice-President (Creative), was the student leading the creative vision for this year’s show. I was intrigued to find out what inspired this year’s theme “The Future is Now”.  “When applying for the position of Vice-President, I was asked to come up with a suggested creative vision.” She told me, “For me, this was always going to be about the future and celebrating the potential we all have to incite change and growth.” It is clear to me that Mihell is a natural visionary, and her curiosity and hope for the future has catapulted DUCFS into a completely new realm to what has been seen before. “I’ve always been interested in looking ahead, in imagining where humanity may go and how innovation may continue to evolve. I wanted to portray this exciting openness, along with the breadth of possibility and the process of how things constantly change and develop, through DUCFS.”

Mihell’s creative vision not only offers a source of inspiration, but her positive outlook and thoughts on future innovation aligns beautifully with the main aim driving the show: charity. When asked of how she hopes the show enforces change and inspires future students, she said “I want to encourage students at Durham to embrace creativity and collective projects outside of academia.” But most importantly, Mihell hopes DUCFS “inspires students to think about charity, specifically CALM this year, and the active role they can play in supporting and promoting their message, whether that be through attendance, team involvement or starting conversations to reduce stigma around suicide.”

I want to encourage students at Durham to embrace creativity and collective projects outside of academia.

Like every year, DUCFS did not disappoint in its ability in showcasing some incredible student talent, not only from Durham, but from all over the country. To name just a few, designers included Yijin Ge, from London College of Fashion, Maison Lapin, from Cambridge School of Arts, and Shakira Anderson from Birmingham City University, all of which seemed perfectly handpicked to represent the creative vision. This was something that was very important, Mihell explained “The fashion team worked very closely with the creative team to understand and embrace the creative vision, and really think about how this could be translated through the fashion on show, whether through colour, material or collection history.” 

Not only was choosing the right designers integral to the success of the show, but it was important that the right models brought the show to life. Model Manager Ella-May Van Der Gaag, joined her position on the 2024 exec team after modelling for DUCFS for two years. I asked her about the recruitment process and how she went about choosing the right models. “We did not have any preconceptions about what we were looking for.” She said, “It was the moment that people walked in the room, is when we knew…” I asked her why she used this approach, as opposed to coming up with a specific criteria; “Because we were looking for people to represent the DUCFS brand, and each model does that in their own way.” She said. Van Der Gaag added that she was “so overwhelmingly proud of (the models) this year… they are inspiring individuals and it’s been such a privilege to get to know them all.” 

we were looking for people to represent the DUCFS brand, and each model does that in their own way

Telling me of her experience working on the exec board, Van Der Gaag said ’the list of skills I have learnt are endless… I’ve grown so much in myself and with my confidence… I hope future students will feel as inspired as I have been. I’ve made friends that I hope will last a lifetime, and I hope that sense of working towards something bigger than myself continues. DUCFS is not just a fun student fashion show, it quite literally saves lives and so I hope it gets more traction every year.”

As this year’s rendition of DUCFS comes to a close, the success it leaves behind will undoubtedly incite inspiration onto future students and the wider community. Be sure to take a moment to explore your passions. Creativity is the core of life, and as we have seen, has the power enforce positive changes to our society. Ensure to look out for your loved ones, and carry with you the art of giving back. 

If you are struggling with any of the topics discussed in this article, contact your college, or visit: https://www.thecalmzone.net/what-we-do for information on support,

Or call the Samaritans on 116 123 anytime, for immediate help and support

Image Credit: Durham University Charity Fashion Show – DUCFS via Facebook

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