St Andrews boasts about its extravagant parties and balls every other day of the week, but isn’t it much more exciting to receive a private invitation to a function shrouded in secrecy?
This November Don’t Walk hosted a secret launch party for a select number of guests. In order to be invited you had to know either a committee member or one of the models. Prior to the event, guests were provided with little information on what the night would entail. The event was not publicly advertised and its location remained undisclosed until the day of the launch, where it was revealed just hours before. Aside from knowing the time and place of collection and the required cocktail attire, everyone was left in the dark. The event was cloaked in mystery. Unlike Don’t Walk’s usual Vic events, the confidentiality sparked an even greater interest and enthusiasm in its guests.
Behind the scenes:
The night before the show I was invited behind the scenes to watch the dress rehearsal and to have a sneak peek at the secret location. In a taxi packed with models and committee members, we drove away from St Andrews and into the countryside. With no idea what to expect, and no idea as to where they were taking me, I sat impatiently on the front seat. It was only when I was told that we had arrived, that the scale and glamour of the event struck me. Standing in front of me was a newly renovated barn, Falside Mill, and projected onto its structure was “Don’t Walk” in massive white letters. On entering the mill, I was faced with an attractive table design spread throughout the high-ceilinged barn, and committee members floated around making last minute adjustments to decorations and name cards. I was introduced to the team and was told to sit back and enjoy the dress rehearsal that was about to begin.
The room was flooded with blue light and a strobe flashed frantically over the stage. The models entered from different directions and swarmed the room. They weaved a pattern between the tables as the head of choreography shouted directions over the blaring soundtrack. The models’ fluid movements were captivating to watch. Despite the severity of the rehearsal, there was a fun and relaxing atmosphere. The choreographer helped adjust any mistakes the models made and guided them through their routine several times. She even took some models aside individually to make sure they were 100% confident with the walk. Experiencing the show privately provided me with a refreshing and insightful perspective. I witnessed the dedication and organisation required to create a successful event; both of which are easy to forget when attending a St Andrews fashion show.
During my time backstage, I was fortunate enough to interview the Co-Creative Directors of Don’t Walk and the Head of Charity:
The Saint – How did you decide upon the theme for this year’s launch?
Creative Directors – The theme is based upon Silent Spring, an environmental science book by Rachel Carson. It discusses sustainability and the conflict between the natural and artificial world. It engages with the current problems that our charity, Rainforest Alliance, addresses. We wanted to push our charity into focus this year. As our theme directly relates to our charity, we hope to raise more awareness. For the launch we have created decorations that will literally bring our theme to the table. As centrepieces we will have dried recycled flowers from florists in St Andrews and dead bees displayed in petri dishes. We hope that the shock factor of the bees will make our guests think about the harm we do to our environment.
The Saint – How do you plan on making your launch an environmentally friendly event?
Head of Charity – Our theme concerns sustainability. So it is really important that we try to be as sustainable as possible throughout our events. This year we have made a number of changes to ensure this happens. For example, our wristbands are recyclable, our goody bags contain items from sustainable brands, our committee jackets are from charity shops, we use Combini’s sustainable cutlery, and during the launch there will be recycling bins available for guests to use. However, there are of course limitations on what we can do, but any difference is a difference.
The Saint – Will members of your charities attend the launch?
Head of Charity – Unfortunately, no one from Rainforest Alliance can attend the launch as it is based in America. However, our smaller local charity, Families First, have volunteers to run the coat check for the evening. All the money they receive will go directly to them. We would love to get our charities more involved in the creative aspects of Don’t Walk and we are looking at ways to do this.
The night of the Launch:
After watching the rehearsal, I had high expectations for the real event. And I think it is safe to say that everything went to plan on the night. The event ran smoothly and the atmosphere was buzzing. I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of the evening. The event did not seem to emphasise its exclusivity. Instead there was an obvious feeling of family. Everyone was excited to see the results of their friends’ hard work and they were eager to support them throughout the night. The unique venue was well received. Guests were pleased to have escaped the bubble of town for the night and they could tell they were in for a special evening.
Before the food was served, the models performed their routine. The audience was enchanted by their striking appearances and movements. Despite guests cheering and waving at their friends, the models remained composed and undeterred; they were too focused on their complicated routine. Although the show was thoroughly enjoyable, the bright strobe light was quite blinding at times and obscured the models faces. It would have been nice to have seen the models more clearly. However, the effect of the lighting contributed to the overall brilliance of the night and the dark silhouettes of the models brought a haunting presence into the room, leaving everyone with goosebumps. The choreographer commented that she “could not have been prouder of the models, especially because for many of them it was their first time walking in front of an audience. They picked up the choreography so quickly for only a few weeks of rehearsals and really gave it their all. I’m quite happy with how it went. And super excited to start choreographing the spring show!”
The rest of the launch was just as successful. From the delicious cheese boards and copious bottles of wine wolfed down by the guests, to the crowded and vibrant dance floor, Don’t Walk have managed to create a spirited and special event. It was really well organised and everyones’ expectations were met, if not exceeded.
An interview with a Don’t Walk Model:
The Saint – Why did you decide to join Don’t Walk?
Model – I wanted to get involved in a creative extracurricular activity while supporting a good cause so DW seemed to be the perfect option. Moreover, I did the castings for DW for the thrill of trying something completely new to me and above all meeting and working alongside people who are all very nice and interesting, and learning from their creative perspectives on things.
The Saint – What did you look forward to most about the launch?
Model – Obviously I looked forward to the show itself; to see the past weeks work falling into place and displaying it in front of a public is very satisfactory. But I was also looking forward to spending the evening with very supportive friends and enjoying the music.
The Saint – Did the launch go well in your opinion?
Model – I think it went pretty well, we had a lot of good feedback.
The Saint – Could anything have gone better?
Model – Overall I think it fair to say that it was a successful evening. There are always things to improve but I think that everybody really put a lot of time and effort into it, whether for the organisation of the evening, taking place in a brand-new venue or for the conception of the show.
The Saint – Do you think the launch was a good idea?
Model – I think the launch was a good idea because it gave a taste to the public of what DW is, and it got people excited for the actual show. It was also a good opportunity for the committee to organise something before the big event, to have more experience and also for the models, to be able to train in show conditions.
The Saint – Did you have any fears concerning the launch?
Model – As a first time model for DW, I apprehended the show considerably. I was especially nervous to perform the choreography well and coordinately, in order to make our work from the past month with the wonderful Alexis and Abbie, the head choreographs, worth it !
The Saint – How do you find the ethos of the committee and other models?
Model – Being part of DW is like being part of a big family as we see each other very often, even though as a model I see and know more of the people who work on the creative side of the committee. The environment is always very friendly, the people from DW made me feel comfortable straight away even though I was new to all of this.
The Saint – Are you aware of the stigma shows like DW have?
Model – Apart from trying to stigmatise non environmental friendly behaviour, this year, and trying to sensibilise people to environmental issues, I am not aware of any sort of stigma.
Overall, Silent Spring was enjoyed by all parties involved. The night was a true triumph for the Don’t Walk team and I am anxious to see what’s next in store.