As I queued for FS 2017, I remembered that fateful Saturday, a time when St Andrews had been reduced to a form of first world dystopia. Flurries of Instagrams vanished as it dawned upon patrons that they couldn’t be seen in the same dress twice, Snapchat stories went from geotag glory to smudged smiles, and memes flowed forth with as much force as the wind itself. I saw shivering congregations of coat-clad friends finding salvation in the outstretched arms of ground floor windows on Greyfriars, felt the shaking floor of Bell Street, and… didn’t remember a great deal more.

As you will all know the following days were woven with anxiety, talk of cancellation, talk of a reschedule, and, perhaps most demoralising of all, talk of “losing the hype.” It is almost appropriate that as I approached this year’s FS, we were all stirred by a metaphorical gust, one that blew away all these worries.

First Year Katie Lewczynski explained how she had a flight the next morning but was still determined to come. She said, “I’ve got a cab booked for 3 am but I’m definitely staying till 1.”

In terms of grandeur the FS setup exceeded all expectations, with lighting and space that quickly outperformed the all-too-familiar Kinkell Byre. With a sense of experience that befits an organisation celebrating its twenty-fifth year, FS seemed to instantly have everyone at ease. The awe of the surroundings quickly fermented into a fervent sense of excitement: “When will the show begin?” and “Where are the models?” – all important questions that remained to be answered.

Photo: Harry Gunning

We needn’t have worried. The climax of audience excitement was marked by the dimming of light, and an explosion of sound. This was followed by an orchestra of lighting effects, and the arrival of the models. My sketchy knowledge of secondary school fashion shows had led me to become slightly sceptical of modelling; where walks and turns often seem to amount to little more than an aloof replica of trying to get down Market Street without talking to anyone. In this case I was glad to be educated, as FS again showed its years of experience in swathes of precise choreography, unperturbed gazes, and chiselled… well, you get the idea.

The work put in by the models paid dividends throughout the show, as it created clear separation between catwalk and viewers, meaning audience felt like they could continue to move around and interact while it was happening. After the first set of outfits, the show experienced a slight slip as the fashion seemed to become a tad uninspired. This dip soon shifted however, as the “On the Pulse” theme of the evening took hold and outfits became increasingly outgoing, cutting a fine balance between striking and graceful. Here FS enjoyed the variety afforded by couture, High Street, and up-and-coming designers, keeping the audience enthralled in the later parts of the show. Midway through the show, we enjoyed the traditional auction to raise further funds for The Brain Tumour Charity; and at the end, the congratulation of all the models and committee on stage, raising rapturous applause: a great show for a great cause.

The show itself being over, it was time for the after-party, which boasted a vast dance area whose colourful stage lights drew the irregular footfall of drunk students from across the venue. The music began, heralding the emptying of drinks, the removal of heels, and, this being St Andrews, the passing of toasties. Within minutes it was clear the DJ (Starfield’s Bodalia) was looking to create a set that would hold the audience’s attention, building a high tempo that meant my erratic dance-moves endangered others long into the night. At stages it seemed the only mistake of the set was to underestimate just how drunk the congregation were, meaning the hunt for drops often set off opportunistic mosh pits before the moment had come.

It was at this stage that, looking around, I noted for the first time how numbers had been influenced by the rescheduling. During the show itself it had been a blessing being able to get to the loos without needing a knuckleduster, but at this later stage the event could have benefitted from a larger crowd.

What is truly remarkable about the event, however, is that when I left FS in the early hours of the morning I wasn’t thinking about anything I’ve just discussed. I didn’t mull over the amazing outfits; I didn’t focus on the electric performance from the saxophonists part way through; I barely even noticed the attempts one person had made to fit a cheese toasty into a Fendi envelope. No: I was enthralled by something far more important. This year, in its twenty-fifth anniversary we have seen the FS committee faced with completely unpredictable adversity.

Photo: Harry Gunning

Where many would have seen a cause for despair, I think they saw opportunity. The jokes on Facebook (and there were many) have been increasingly eclipsed over the past few days by a whole different kind of message. “We would urge you to think carefully before requesting a refund on your ticket and stand by your fellow students,” from DONT WALK; “We sincerely look forward to the success that is sure to be #FS17,” from Sitara; “Before requesting a refund, remember who you are taking money from,” from The Stand. 

From fellow fashion shows to the press to even humble drunk students, the threat to FS became in many ways became far more significant. Rather than the usual attempts to try to grab as much Veuve Clicquot as possible, twist tendons to find that perfect selfie, or stare shamelessly at your favourite model, I saw a university coming together to support something that has been part of the fabric of this town for twenty-five years now.

FS 2017 may have caused anxiety, but there’s no doubt it leaves: a fantastic show, a cause well-funded, and a great story.

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