By Anna Gibbs
The spectacle of DUCFS began with the mesmerising, unashamedly bright blue designs of Alice Jane Potter. The mixture of futuristic tear shaped cut-outs in flowing ankle-length coats, gravity defying tulle sleeves, and various satin and glitter shines gave the audience the impression that the models were almost mythical beings who had just stepped out from the depths of the sea. The detail in the fixings, and generous layering of fabrics also brought to mind the idea of a fisherman’s boat and net. The designs were hypnotising and the execution was sharp.
I have to say, it wasn’t just the models who were glowing from the inside out either, but sharp suits on both female and male attendees, lots of fur and careful on-trend accessories made the audience themselves a vision to admire on the night. The energetic buzz in the venue was consistent throughout the night as students cheered on their friends on the catwalk, not looking too shabby themselves.
There was something for everyone; my housemate was delighted when she spotted the pink pom-poms of the Dysnea collection, which bounced behind the models as they swayed up and down the catwalk. This collection included a questionable Jessica Straword body suit, and one frankly horrendous outfit by Dmitry Gotsfird that I wish I could unsee, so with my more androgynous tastes I was a tad lost by what she found so striking at this point. Then again, when I marvelled at Isabel Schwartz’s rich, sweeping robe-esque coats in various velvet gemstone tones, she wasn’t quite as keen.
Next came the Sahira Boora collection. For me, this collection stripped back our ideas of design to the beginnings of the arts of both cut and drapery, and in doing so with muted tones, brought to mind classical archetypes with a potent simplicity which was also echoed in the mood of the Mara Hoffman pieces.
Despite the theme, #shapeofnow, I felt diversity in this area was lacking.
Despite the theme, #shapeofnow, I felt diversity in this area was lacking. A clear point for improvement was thus the need for a greater variety of body shapes. Surely the #shapeofnow is a multitude of shapes? Then again, it seems that the exec can only cast those who present themselves at the auditions – so perhaps for 2019 the run-up marketing visuals could include a wider base of body types in order to encourage a more authentic representation. Again this is something that cannot be changed overnight (or can it?) and that must first be given due attention from top designers and fashion weeks. However, the student population can often be highly and impressively innovative, as shown throughout DUCFS, and this could have been something that DUCFS really addressed. With such a large audience, they had the perfect platform to encourage open minded thinking and body diversity.
Nonetheless, at the end of the day, this was and does not pretend to be anything other than a fun, charity-focused student event. It clearly cannot be entirely judged by the same criteria of the main fashion weeks and walks because the aim is entirely different; although the level of professionalism notably similar. The important group here seemed to be the audience and their experience during the night, and every member of the audience appeared to have a brilliant time.
Sharp suits on both female and male attendees, lots of fur and careful on-trend accessories made the audience themselves a vision to admire on the night.
The underwear and swimwear walks were executed in a much more tasteful way that I was anticipating, and the fact that the personalities of the models were allowed to shine through was an added bonus. Dora Larsen’s confident juxtaposition of neon green lace against the dainty rose petal pinks of her lingerie wonderfully encapsulated the show for me: a mix of tried and tested classic, traditional and high-quality conventions fused with the contemporary, and a nervous excitement for what is to come in the near future.
To put it simply, the graphics and marketing were excellent and were what took the quality of DUCFS to the next level. The video footage throughout could have comfortably sat beside professional marketing campaigns. The audience was also nearly always included.
The audience was also nearly always included.
Before attending, I was fully expecting to dislike the vast majority of the content of DUCFS, imagining a simple cocktail of all of the most unpleasant, elite characteristics of Durham University, but I was on the whole pleasantly proven otherwise. Although yes, the auction was frankly bizarre and I didn’t understand several of the in-jokes because I hadn’t heard of the ‘BNOCs’ involved, these were merely minor annoyances which were easily brushed aside.
Overall, I am glad I went. The important group seemed to be the audience and every member appeared to have a brilliant time. DUCFS 2018 was a strong, consistent and dazzling event that gave you a little to think about. Perhaps more importantly, though, it was also a memorable night out that provided a platform to combat the stigmas around mental health in a fun, unpatronising, student-led way.
I’m already planning my outfit for DUCFS 2019.
Photography: James Gourlay