Perception is a funny thing. Fresh from last year’s roaring success of PARADIGM, a total raised of £12,900 for the three charities, and an August that saw them place third in the “Big Impact, Small Budget” category at The National Student Fundraising Conference 2018, CATWALK is back. Long-proud of its Union and Charities Campaign affiliation, CATWALK 2019 will be taking place outside of RAG week again on the 9th of March, but as always will give 100% of the proceeds to Union-nominated charities. CATWALK sits on the executive committee of the Charities Campaign this year, giving it wider creative autonomy under the Union umbrella, and the local, national, and international charities that the fashion show will be supporting are Fife Women’s Aid (FWA), Wave Project, and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) respectively.

Following cryptic astral sky graphics appearing on its Facebook page over the last week, the as yet unnamed models’ faces obscured by the atmospheric backgrounds, and the anticipatory countdown displayed on 601’s many screens, CATWALK revealed its theme for next year’s show on Tuesday 13th November. “PERCEPTION” will “push the creative boundary between the expected and the unknown”, and though it was clear Tuesday night’s launch would reveal the theme and models to the baying crowd, what wasn’t so clear was how, and to what degree of success.

Tallulah Bonay, Head of Sponsorship, has noted passionately how this year’s CATWALK is under fresh new Executive and Creative direction, an ambitious team aiming to emulate the success of previous years while growing both their brand and the scope of their charitable contribution to this year’s charities. She placed a particular emphasis on the pride that the whole CATWALK committee places on their partnering with emerging and heritage brands, both local and international. 2018’s show, though it saw Superdry as a featured brand, was predominantly focused on emerging talents along with St Andrews brands, businesses, and graduate designers among the line-up: already this year the popular Sandra’s Cakes St Andrews and Fife Women’s Aid are signed up. The pick of the raffle prizes upon purchasing a CATWALK cocktail was the chance of winning a dinner for two at Mozza: a prize with real cash value for the ticketed attendees.

Welcomed to a partitioned 601, a new, larger venue after Beacon Bar in previous years, the venue became abuzz with anticipation about how the models and theme would be revealed when the countdown inevitably ended. Guided to either side by the committee, the vacancy in the middle became an impromptu catwalk for the models. Accompanied by suitable but too-loud music for the occasion, they strutted at first stony-faced but then with more personality as they embraced the crowd, clad in black, while videos of themselves played on the screens. Balloons, headphones, candles, and disposable cameras played props for the models in the videos: a reflection of the theme regarding the perception of the surreal in the everyday. Though only a model and theme reveal, and with the caveat that sponsorship for designers is still ongoing with the show a good 4/5 months away, it would have been nice to see the models in some sort of design that reflected the twin reveal with the theme, rather than all black.

And so the unknown is known: these are the models for next year’s show, with the theme of a modern world placed in surrealist setting to challenge our perceptions. Though not without its faults, the event superseded the cacophony of the music at times and the logistics of accommodating models and guests alike in just half of 601, an already small venue: these, Owl Eyes is sure, will prove small hiccoughs that will be ironed out by next year’s actual show. Embodying its enduring values of proving open and accessible to all, as opposed to other fashion shows’ at times impenetrable and obfuscating secrecy, CATWALK promises much, and come March we will see if they can deliver to their own exacting standards.

All photos courtesy of Harry Gunning Photography for Owl Eyes Magazine.