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When the team behind this year’s Charity Fashion Show announced the event’s theme back in November, they set themselves four objectives which, in hindsight, would inevitably be difficult to achieve.

  1. To show how designers and labels express political statements explicitly or subliminally through their designs
  2. To show how young people engage with current affairs using art and fashion
  3. To show how designers reflect their ‘native’ cultures through their designs, using fashion as a means of celebrating culture and identity
  4. To show how fashion pushes the boundaries and encourages discussion of these social issues

“The Prosecco was bottomless and the entertainment enthused the audience”

‘The Fabric of Politics’ was initially well-received as an engaging and potentially exciting foundation for an exploration of current and important discussions, which enthuse the young creatives the show is designed to expose. The explicit political slogans featured in Ellie Rousseau’s collection were hard to ignore, but other direct engagements with the theme were few and far between.

#cucfs #fashion #cambridge #a21

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Perhaps this was a result of a lack of information; few guests were even aware of the show’s theme and even for those keeping an eye out, it was difficult to find anything out about the showcased brands. The low profile of some of the brands involved, although a nod to CUCFS’ long running tradition of providing up-and-coming designers with a platform, was a hindrance to the theme’s success.

A better, more comprehensive publicity programme leading up to the night – in addition to a readily available and engaging schedule for proceedings – would have provided clearer expectations. It may also have given some insight into what was meant by the dress code: ‘Black Tie Creative.’

Backstage beauties

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An exception to this ambiguity, however, was Luna Del Pinal. Having featured the brand in a photoshoot and a related article in Vulture, the link to slow fashion and ethical production was a more obvious success of the theme. Other noteworthy collections came from Dirty South and Alice Potter; while neither seemingly reflected ‘The Fabric of Politics,’ both were impressive in their own right. Dirty South engaged with youth culture and presented a coherent aesthetic, where Alice Potter’s extravagant, ethereal, and elaborate designs ended the show on a high.

The designers were not the only talents on offer; this year the committee aimed to cast a diverse group of models to engage with and reflect a wider Cambridge audience. Notable appearances came from Tega Akati-Udi, whose stage presence was matched by successful styling and Elhan Ali, who walked the catwalk with a distinctive and infectious energy that saw a marked reaction from the crowd.

Alice Potter's designsEli Hayes

Last year’s event saw scandal erupt and alcohol run out. It is a credit to the new committee that not only did the night run smoothly, but the Prosecco was bottomless and the entertainment enthused the audience from the moment the doors opened. The first act, Akara Etteh, got the crowd dancing and cheering, ready for the walks to begin.

The pre-show energy was lost somewhat by the lacklustre performance of Coucou Chloe during the interval. Other logistical improvements could have been made to the timings between walks and the lack of food available, which was definitely an issue worsened by the abundance of alcohol (although it was a credit to the team that it lasted the night).

What little room for improvement there was could have been addressed by more exciting engagement in the lead up to the event. The poster advertising the brands and acts being shown was only released hours prior to the show, and made reference to notable brands that were definitely missing from the catwalk. Similarly, the campaign felt underpinned by a push for ticket sales rather than a focus on their chosen charity and the objectives they set themselves.

An eager crowd awaits the fashionEli Hayes

However, the night was an undeniable success and a much needed improvement on the year before. The atmosphere was electric and the majority of the outfits on offer were enviable. Where last year the focus seemed to be on avant-garde, conceptual fashion, this year’s more wearable but nevertheless exciting collections left us with sizeable wish lists.

Although they may not have succeeded in meeting the four objectives they set themselves, this year’s committee have improved upon last year’s mistakes and established the event as more than just debauchery and decadence; hopefully the vision of Bez, Kate, Jed, and the rest of the committee will be something maintained in the years to come