I was very excited to get invited to review the Sitara Launch for The Saint. I was more than ready to speak my truth to the power of the St Andrean fashion show, and cut the social élite of the student body down to size. Yes: notebook and pen in hand, I was looking forward to exposing the snooty and exclusive fashion show scene for what it was, and get a fair few clicks for the newspaper in the process.
My prejudices appeared to be confirmed as I walked down to the venue (who hosts an event at the Golf Museum?) but Sitara were already five steps ahead of me. I was incredibly annoyed to be greeted by talkative and approachable committee members, friendly models, and an exceedingly welcoming atmosphere. I made a mad dash for the wine, and I then tried my best to find someone to fit my preconceived notion of a fashion show launch event: Tomaso Daytona, Sitara’s operations director, seemed to fit the bill, and I duly pinned my crosshairs on him.
However, Mr Daytona is an infuriatingly charming man, and disarmed me with ease. My best attempts at grilling him proved futile, and he effortlessly steered me into a surprisingly enjoyable conversation about what was involved in running a fashion show and what Sitara meant to him. “I wanted to get involved as a means of strengthening my connection with the wonderfully diverse South Asian population here at St Andrews,” he explained. A noble cause in the modern world, I thought, and I surprised myself by complimenting him on how well-run the event was. I just had to ask how difficult it was for students to organise something so professional. “It’s less demanding than one presumes,” he humbly opined. “But it requires a commitment to ensure a level of quality and guest satisfaction.” You don’t say, I thought, as I gazed out of the Golf Museum and onto the Old Course.
I had previously believed that Sitara’s Asian persuasion was nothing more than a politically correct publicity stunt, but I was proved wrong (again), as genuine interest in Asian culture permeated the entire event. Mr Daytona enthusiastically explained that “Sitara has spent the better part of 10 years championing minority representation through fashion, dance, and music in an otherwise anglo-centric environment,” and everyone I talked to displayed a similar passion for exploring other cultures. As someone with Asian heritage myself, it was lovely to spend time with people who were from the more far-flung areas of the world, and listen to their stories and experiences. The committee had even booked someone to give out temporary henna tattoos, something I’ve only experienced when being forced to visit my family in India. Oh dear, I thought ─ there’s a very real danger that I’ll start enjoying myself.
And, of course, I did. Watching people who are better-looking than me glide up and down a catwalk isn’t really my cup of tea, but again I couldn’t help but notice how polished and clean the whole operation was. I didn’t know students were capable of such professionalism. And, after the festivities were done, I was almost immediately invited to join everyone for a drink afterwards. Don’t mind if I do!
At the post-launch drinks I managed to catch up with Clement Elliot, Sitara’s head of events, and, again, I couldn’t help but compliment the whole shebang. Mr Elliot beamed, and said that Sitara were explicitly trying to “explore other venues and spaces, like Mammacitas and the British Golf Museum” in order to inject some “much-needed excitement into a debatably stagnant nightlife scene.” But I also had to ask what was in it for him ─ Mr Elliot and the committee don’t get paid, and I refused to believe that organising events like this was an easy, stress-free task. He explained that he applied because Sitara has a “strong feeling of family with a laid back, welcoming atmosphere which is exhibited through the work they do.” And nor were these empty words ─ the whole event was buzzing with conversation, laughter, and I could hardly move without being introduced to friendly face after friendly face. It was an honest pleasure to be present.
I am far from a St Andrean fashionista: I’m much more H&M and Oxfam than Gucci and Prada. However, Sitara’s little tease of what’s to come was slick, professional, and frustratingly enjoyable. Ebullience and charm oozed from the very walls of the event such that an untrendy man such as myself couldn’t help but have a nice time. Based on their launch and their committee, I’d say that if you’re only going to go to one fashion show in 2019, you’d best make it Sitara’s.