As students at St Andrews, we have heard so many things about DONT WALK. Since it’s foundation in 2001, the organization has never ceased to spark curiosity and controversy. Exclusive, or excluding, superficial, or stylish, DONT WALK has attracted its fair share of strong feelings. The event is surrounded by a certain mystique, a sense of elusiveness and secrecy, which while attracting criticism has allowed the committee to remain in total control of DONT WALK’s message, style and its brand.
I didn’t know what to expect of the show, so I thought it would be good to follow Carine Roitfeld’s advice : ‘when I hear too many rumors, I think it is good to go without any expectations. I like to be surprised’. And so I was.
This year, DONT WALK chose to relocate to the Bowhouse, near Anstruther. There isn’t much choice in Fife when it comes to venues – it usually boils down to deciding between renting a barn or hiring a tent – but the Bowhouse was, in many ways, a good choice. The rawness of the warehouse space gave a certain edge to show, calling on DONT WALK’s New York origins and cosmopolitan identity. The lighting was spectacular, there was plenty of champagne and bar space, and the photos of the models projected on the walls were glamorous and very cinematographic.
The show was as wild as it was seductive, far, far away from the glossy catwalks of Milan or Paris. No, DONT WALK isn’t a student-made copy of the traditional ideal of a fashion show many have in mind. There are no glaring models or mundane house music (Theo and Calum were brilliant), but instead a celebration of fashion in all its fantasy and daring audacity. Above all, the show was an artistic performance that the creative director, Alina Abouelenin, wanted to be more meaningful than beautiful, honoring the commitment of the men and women behind the supported charities .
And so the show kicked off, with a dramatic and powerful opening. The models emerged in a quasi military procession, the soundtrack, enthralling and controlling, the volume on full throttle, vibrating through everyone’s bodies, shaking up any ounce of conservatism left in the guests. The models stood behind life size canvases on which their shadows were projected, the lighting and the fog made for a strong performance, the models’ stares were impenetrable, and the choreography precise and vocal.
The first half of the actual défilé began with my favorite sounds of the moment, Airglow Fires by Lone, which was coincidently used in the January couture shows in Paris (the opening for Chanel). The standard of fashion was surprisingly good for a student show (despite some flops). I think everyone loved the IIA T-shirts and caps, which were stylistically different to what we tend to wear in this corner of Fife (and that I think would make great merchandise). Above all else, the models just made the styling look cool. Their smile, charisma and charm radiated a warm breath of youthful energy, and galvanized the crowd. As legendary fashion editor Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele said (look her up on youtube, she’s a riot) in her thick French accent back in 2012, ‘élegance iz een attitude. Voila!’. And what would fashion be without a taking risks?
The second half of the show was sensual and refined. The opening simply stunning – Yousra was divine with her black lingerie and gold jewelry. A certainly classic choice, yet the long black georgette silk train gave the girls a powerful brand of sexiness that was much appreciated. The men were playful and the crowd loved it. The finale was beautiful and moving, with each model holding a portrait of an individual supported by either the CWWPP (Coalition for Work With Psychotrauma and Peace) or ANICHRA (African Network against Illiteracy, Conflict and Human Rights Abuse), DONT WALK’s two chosen charities.
Overall, DONT WALK 2014 was a wonderful event. It’s a wild yet intimate party and a provocative (and sexy) artistic performance, and above all else, it is a valuable artistic project and charitable endeavor.
The DONT WALK team has had the opportunity to meet the founders of both their chosen charities, Dr Willibroad Dze-Ngwa from ANICHRA (African Network against Illiteracy, Conflict and Human Rights Abuse) and Dr. Charles Tauter from CWWPP. While New York city and the 9/11 attacks are still at the core of DONT WALK’s essence, its spirit youthful and cosmopolitan, unafraid and unbound by rules, in the past few years the show has sought to support organizations that act against violence through education or conflict prevention. The 9/11 attacks have scarred the face of New York, but they also mark the beginning of a decade of conflict and strenuous relations between world powers. With the decision to go grassroots this year, supporting two charities active in areas of both conflict prevention and post conflict support in regions that are often overlooked by the international press, DONT WALK has reinforced its status as a worthwhile charitable organisation, raising awareness on the complexity of regional conflicts, and ultimately of charity work in general. In the hope that next year’s team continues to work in that direction, we can only wish DONT WALK a bright future.
Images courtesy of the Author and Arielle Bean.