By: Charlotte Rodney
The modern initiative known as the Walk On Charity Fashion Show has taken Durham by storm in recent years, seeing its inspiring models and innovative designers embrace both the runway and the ever-growing challenge of ensuring a sustainable future. In conversation with some of the Walk On team, I had the opportunity to hear about all things diversity, sustainability, and creativity, the three core values that President Maiya Dambawinna emphasised as being prioritised above all else. She notes that “…obviously there are so many fashion shows in Durham that standing out from the crowd can be quite difficult…the fact that we put those values above all else is so important to us.”
Walk On’s spotlight on diversity might be what draws so many people into this novel and energised world of fashion in Durham. Speaking on what diversity in the fashion industry does and ought to look like, Walk On Model Louise Coggrave explained that “I think at Durham it’s hard to stand out from the crowd…there’s a monopoly of quite frankly just white people.” explaining that fairness and intersectionality should be prioritised in the fashion industry. Louise speaks of her extremely positive auditioning experience where she emphasised that “I felt so welcomed…and there wasn’t a tagline of diversity on my head…” It is clear that Walk On have put in genuine efforts to not use diversity as a quota to be filled, but a value to be understood. Maiya explains that during the audition process “it wasn’t a case of what you look like…” but rather they wanted to select individuals who were able to promote their core values.
FareShare North East is the charity that Walk On have chosen to work with this year. Vice President Arabella Peak-Smylie notes that the inspiration behind working with FareShare, a local charity, is that “You’re working towards something that you can actually see.” FareShare continues to make a notable impact within the community, which we can all contribute to. Walk On have put FareShare at the forefront of promotion for their work, engaging with Durham University’s charitable community. Head of Events Penny Zacharatou, noted that the collegiate system at the university means there is a sense of interconnectivity amongst the students which can be relied on when promoting for charity. Maiya explains that “All of the money that we raise will be given towards their warehouse costs, being able to run their vans, and ensuring that their food redistribution service can continue more effectively.”
Sustainability is equally as championed by Walk On, and is done to an extent that many of us don’t appreciate. Whether that be late nights spent by Arabella in the Bill Bryson Library hand-cutting model scouting cards, or extensive efforts taken by the team to order stamps, stickers and more, made from sustainable materials, it is clear that the team have not cut any corners when mitigating any negative impact on the environment. Although we wait with baited breath for the announcement of the designers, Maiya assures us that they are all UK-based, simultaneously promoting local talent as well as ensuring minimal delivery emissions.
Luckily for us, Walk On has given Indigo the ‘inside scoop’ on what events we have to look forward to, and what to do if we haven’t been able to secure tickets to the shows. Walk On has partnered with the live streaming platform, VIOU, who have been breaking into the luxury sustainable fashion industry. Viewers can watch the shows live and donate through their stream. A unique feature of this platform is that some of the clothes may be put up for sale on their website after the show, as Louise pertinently comments that “The whole point of fashion is the designers.” Arabella then gave us exclusive insight into the highly anticipated event on 1st June. Walk On will be hosting a catwalk event in the Town Hall, where the traditional backdrop of stained glass windows meets modern fashion. Maiya explains that “I would massively encourage anyone who really appreciates fashion and wants to get into the fashion world…it’s going to be a great opportunity for networking…” What’s more, Penny has hinted that next term will also be filled with ‘summery’ events taking advantage of the good weather and freedom from exams!
The sense of community shared by the Walk On team has not been lost on me, and it is very clear that an authentic passion to make a difference shines through in their work. When I asked the team what their favourite part of working with Walk On was, the inspiring range of answers I received really spoke to their passion and dedication. But perhaps Louise summed it up best with “The people, the energy, the vibes..” We can’t wait for what comes next from Walk On.
Photography by: Minie Chan, Ollie Riley-Smith, and Bea Handley