When I was asked to review Sitara’s launch event all the way back in February, they impressed me so much that I felt comfortable recommending that, if you could only go to one St Andrews fashion show this year, you should make it Sitara’s. Their launch was professional, slick, and thoroughly enjoyable, with a welcoming atmosphere that meant it was almost impossible to not have a good time. I was therefore very grateful to be invited to review their actual fashion show.
I immediately noticed that Sitara had elected to do things a little differently, as they had decided to host the show at Lochaber Farm, instead of using one of St Andrews’ more regular venues. Places like Lower College Lawn are tried and tested and, to my mind, represent a safe (if unoriginal) option that is hard to get wrong. I think Sitara must be commended for deviating from the established norm. As Paula Akyol, Sitara’s Creative Director, explained, the Sitara 2019 committee wanted the show to be a “totally unique evening, surpassing previous years and representing a new phase” for Sitara, with Lochaber Farm providing a “new and untouched platform” for them to carry this out. I can’t help but admire Sitara’s desire to do something different, and to inject a little more variety into St Andrews’ nightlife. Take note, student fashionistas.
Clement Elliott, Sitara’s head of events, also explained that hosting the show at Lochaber farm meant that they were not obliged to use bar staff employed by the Students’ Association, which enabled them to increase their profits and raise more money than they otherwise would have been able to for their chosen charities. Perhaps St Andrews’ other charitable fashion shows would like to follow their lead.
It was, however, a gamble. I noticed that the venue was a bit larger than what I was used to, and the rain did make the journey to the toilets somewhat perilous, but I can honestly say that I think it paid off. Sitara certainly didn’t look or feel as crowded as some of its counterparts, but it did mean that I had space to breathe, talk, and actually look at what was going on. It also introduced a logistical challenge (that is, actually delivering your guests to the venue) that I think the committee handled incredibly well. Buses were regular, frequent, and dropped guests all off ten feet away from the entrance, which was enough for you to get a good earful of the bagpipes they had playing. Sitara set themselves a challenge, and they met it.
Regarding the fashion itself, I must concede my lack of expertise; I was incredibly confused when what I could only perceive to be pyjamas and anoraks starting appearing on the catwalk. But Paula very kindly explained that Sitara was showcasing the fact that fashion should be “engaging, loud and playful”, and that they were trying to “celebrate and promote Asian culture through contemporary fashion.” Paula elaborated, explaining that this year Sitara’s fashion team, headed by Mary Barber, had secured over 30 designers that could effectively showcase Asian brands and cultures. Leona Kirk’s designs were instructive: they “fuse together Japanese cutting methods with visual motifs of skate culture, graffitti, and street art” that “re-energise modern male streetwear.” This is all Greek to me, of course, but I am nevertheless impressed.
And, even if the fashion wasn’t really my cup of tea, I could hardly deny that Sitara’s show had amazing choreography, brilliant organisation, and lots of novel quirks that made the evening that much more enjoyable. The VodkaLuge was great fun (they let me go back for seconds) and, after I had the good sense to keep my hand down, the auction was hilarious to watch. As Mr Elliott effortlessly glided across the stage and charmed guests into bidding, I almost forgot that events like these are entirely run by students. It was highly, highly professional, and I think the committee outdid themselves.
As I said at the beginning, if you can only go to one St Andrews fashion show (which is, let’s be honest, likely) I cannot recommend Sitara enough. It is a true staple of the St Andrews events scene, and to not go is to miss out.