Undressing Don’t Walk: Behind the Scenes

What do you do when you’re forced to choose between a day in the library with an essay or a day at Kinkell helping a male model dress? Well as a self-confessed fashion junkie, I think you can see which option I took (The male models held absolutely no appeal, honest.)

My initial contact with Don’t Walk was during a lecture when a member of the subcommittee turned to me and asked ‘did I know anyone in the champagne business?’ To say I was a little taken aback is an understatement. This was full on crashing into the St. Andrews elitist cliché, however after spending time backstage with the committee my opinion quickly changed.

Don’t Walk is one of the jewels in the crown of the St Andrews events calendar. It is famed as the catwalk on which Kate Middleton caught the eye of Prince Wills, and it’s easy to see why. Don’t Walk prides itself on this cutting edge combination of fashion, performance and art, all in order to illustrate its core values of campaigning against violence and inequality.

In 2015, the event went back to its roots. Founded fourteen years ago in the wake of 9/11, this year they joined up with the New York-based Robin Hood Foundation, and organization that works towards helping to solve the problems created by socio-economic imbalances.

We can all agree that a lot can happen at Kinkell in just 3 hours, so imagine if you were there from 10 am to 2pm…the drama, the panic, the fun, the shocking reveals! The first of which was seeing the venue in the sober light of day for the first time. At first I was scared somewhat to discover all the red pillars and steps I’d never seen before. On second glance I realised it was the perfect venue for a fashion show like Don’t Walk, its industrial brick walls contrasting with the gleaming white catwalk, reminding the audience of the organisation’s New York street sign inspiration. The benefits of getting in ahead of the show: sneaking into VIP and enjoying the perks of being sponsored by Red Bull, in addition to getting up close and personal with the models…wait I mean the fashion.

When you’re dressing a model you have to become friends very quickly. Buttoning up their shirt, tying their shoes, all at top speed. It is difficult to imagine the chaos that occurs backstage when all you see is the calm façade of a show that has been meticulously choreographed and practised since September. If you thought getting ready in 10 minutes was difficult, trying getting a model into a corset in 1 minute. There’s an unfortunate correlation between pain and beauty: the more beautiful the outfit, the more of a nightmare it will be to get on. This year Don’t Walk had the fortune of landing collections from Lavin, IIA and Rayban, however the fur jackets were by far the favourites.

After countless run throughs, order changes and desperately coming to terms with some of the crazier outfits (three legged trousers anyone?) it was nearly show time. You know that calm before the storm? Yeah, so, at Don’t Walk, that’s not a thing. The dressers were standing by their posts ready to attention; the models were dancing about in a sea of hairspray, push-ups and Vaseline (ever wondered how they get that catwalk glow?); the make up artists were sprinting around on there mission to ‘correct’ everything in sight; the committee were desperately trying to keep their heads during the chaos with the aid of glasses of bubbly provided by their sponsor Pieper-Heidrick.

We had 5 minutes. We had no minutes. Let the games begin. The opening act featured the male models as builders stealing the mannequins, a.k.a the female models, and it was like the start of a rollercoaster, a tense build up of anticipation, and then it dropped. The wigs went flying, the panic that ensued when Ashton’s Kanwar Bashki outfit (by which I mean that blue dress) was discovered to be inside out. The chaos as the feeble rails collapsed amidst the speed changing, spilling the clothes everywhere. But it kept rolling. The girls screeching ‘I’m ready!’ running in heels for the door. The organisation to keep it all in order was amazing. The heads of fashion were darting about making sure every speed change was perfectly polished and every hair stayed in place.

Don’t Walk is very different to most fashion shows in that the models are partly chosen for their personality. They start the show as they would any other, straight-faced and severe, teasing the audience for the first few collections, and then they let loose. The drinks start flowing backstage and on the catwalk, Jaegermeister is downed as the boys get prepped to face the world in black boxers and Raybans, and the girls subtly sip champagne before sauntering out in lacy lingerie to ‘Crazy in Love’. In what felt like the beat of a heart, it was over. Everyone backstage was dancing and screaming as the models performing their own rendition of ‘Seven Nation Army.’

I couldn’t tell you in too much detail about the afterparty, but it was most certainly an excellent cap to an incredible evening. When we were freed from duties backstage, still bubbling away on our high we headed straight for the two bars, which were being used to amuse the guests while they cleared the lower tables away. So everyone was sufficiently fueled up on vodka shots, supplied by events bar, to help them power through the night on the dance floor. The afterparty didn’t let the show down; the energy was carried right through till the buses taking us back to St Andrews.

It was an amazing experience for a great cause, and a hundred times better than a day in the library! And I still can’t get ‘Seven Nation Army’ out of my head.

Photos courtesy of Lightbox Creative.

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