By Jake Scott
The Bedales Sixth Form put on a fashion show in November, and I was invited to go along. Even though I’ve been to a professional fashion show before, this was amazing to see it done at a school. It inspired me to put on a fashion show at Dunhurst. The question was, would I be allowed to do this? How would I go about it….and would anyone be interested in being involved?
After I’d seen the sixth form show, I went back to school and asked Simon (my housemaster) if I could run a fashion show and he was enthusiastic and willing to help. As he runs the school plays, this was a huge advantage – he knows how to put on a show!
I planned to announce it in assembly, but I had to work out what I was announcing and what I wanted from the students. I had some clothes that I had designed and made from scratch, and so had a couple of other people. However, I knew that this wasn’t enough so we needed to work out how to include more. I thought of the textiles club and thought there may be some items from that, and lots of people were generally interested in fashion, so maybe we could create something. I hoped there would be enough between all of us to pull something together.
So I worked out what areas I would need help with. In assembly I announced that I was going to be doing a fashion show and asked for helpers backstage, models, people who had made clothes and prop/set makers. I was amazed at how many people came to speak to me afterwards. In my notebook, I wrote down their names in the areas they would help with. It was wonderful that so many people were interested and even excited at this early stage – I felt that I could really do this!
The main challenge to begin with was getting the clothes that people had made – some people said they had made stuff but it never turned up. It felt at the beginning that we wouldn’t have enough clothes to make a show, but then Simon came up with the idea of putting outfits together from our costume department (wardrobe). This was a great idea, and wardrobe went one step further by giving us clothes that wouldn’t be used in the future and said we could do whatever we wanted with them, to give them a new life. What was great was that there were people interested in doing this who had never done anything with clothes before, and it was fun to introduce them to up-cycling and help them with developing their sewing skills.
Once I knew that we were on track I had to work out a date and a venue. Luckily the week after half term was the year 4-6 play and so we had the idea to use their set and adapt it. It was a Greek set with pillars and statues. My idea was to turn it into an overgrown civilisation….this is where the theme of ‘the jungle’ came from.
Our Australian Gap student, Mae, had experience of working at a fashion show so she was a great help, setting out various things I would need to consider. She also helped create a mood board for me and the upcyclers to use for upcycling from wardrobe, and lots of other organisational things to think about…lighting…sound…staging…running order…etc!
As we got closer to the date, we needed to make sure parents were invited and students were aware it was happening – we needed an audience! That involved sending out invites, putting up posters around the school (that Mae designed) and arranging catering for refreshments. I also was keen to make it an event that would benefit a charity, and I have done fundraising for Christopher’s Smile before and I’m passionate about continuing to do this, so I nominated them as the charity.
We were really on a roll now! And every day I had new ideas for the fashion show, so it was an on-going creative project.
In order to have as many garments as possible, the textiles club upcylcled men’s shirts by stencilling and embroidering on them, and generally adapting them. Every Wednesday afternoon the upcyclers would meet in the textiles department to work on their creations from wardrobe – even the English teacher and art technician made garments! The other set of clothes we had were dresses that I had designed and made, and dresses that a year 7 student had designed and made – we have both been passionate about fashion for years and love to design and make clothes. He and I have frequently met to discuss fashion, and he was very involved in the show, upcylcing from wardrobe and modelling too. I hope that I’ve started a tradition in my final year of putting on a fashion show, and that he will carry it on.
What makes a fashion show successful? Not only the clothes…music, lighting, models and the catwalk.
In my spare time, I would search music and listen to different genres to see what might go well with the Jungle theme. I considered traditional club music that would normally go with a fashion show, I thought about rock (which I love), but in the end I decided to introduce African Drums (the jungle theme!) in between some modern club tracks.
You also need to have intro music whilst people are taking their seats. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz and thought this would be welcoming without being overwhelming.
Once we had the foundations of the show in place, I had to think about the detail. The first thing I had to do was assign garments to models and check they fitted. Mae helped with this. We had all the finished garments on a rack and we labelled up the hangers with the model’s name. Each model had two or three outfits.
I then thought about how to present the clothes during the show, and worked out that having ‘collections’ would work the best. So I grouped together the shirts from textiles club, the homemade garments, the dresses by me and the year 7 fashion designer, and finally the upcycled wardrobe garments. I thought that during the show, between these sections, I would introduce the next lot of clothes to give context to the show and time for the models to get changed. One thing we had to keep in mind was that we had to order these so that it flowed nicely and the models had enough time to get changed backstage. Mae did this.
The running order is crucial so this means making sure that all the garments are in the right section and labelled with their order, and that models will be on the catwalk at the right time having had enough time to change backstage. This is where the backstage crew come in. They had to be extra organised in getting the models lined up backstage (there was a boys and girls changing room). We had to have people by each door ready to send the next model on in the right order. Quite a lot to think about!
I had been really organised, writing lists of things I had to do or ask for help with each week, ticking them off as I went. I was surprised at generally how calm I was….until the week of the show, when I had a mini meltdown on the Monday night! I guess this was to be expected, but in the end I knew that the show would go on, and if there were some blips, it wouldn’t matter in the grand scheme of things…
The week of the show! The years 4-6 play had finished and the set was eagerly waiting to be made into a jungle…I briefed the prop and set makers with what I needed them to do. We went to the prop cupboard and got anything to do with jungles…camo nets, leaves, branches, ferns, flowers, etc, and set about transforming the area. I had done a diagram of the catwalk, that I showed the set team. The idea was to put two pillars either side of the centre stage, near the audience, which created a space for the models to walk to and do a pose/twirl. We also got Facilities to hang up a HUGE camo net along the back wall to form a backdrop onto which we put up the wording ‘It’s a jungle out there’ in ransom-note-style multi coloured paper. This title was an homage to Alexander McQueen as his first show as head of Givenchy was named the same.
The day before the show, during clubs time, I asked all the models and some of the back stage crew to come for an initial rehearsal. We ran through the pace at which they would walk (slow pace to fast music) and the route on the catwalk. There were complaints about the slow walk – the models thought it might not work, but I was insistent because I knew it would be powerful and graceful. Some of the models weren’t there due to dance rehearsals which made it difficult because they had missed out on the instructions. Luckily it was easy for them to catch on to it the next day.
On the day of the show, which was to be at 6pm, we finalised the running order. We added some last minute garments that we hadn’t had the day before. We had time in the afternoon for a tech run through, which included sorting out the lights and music.
And finally we had all the models together for a dress rehearsal, with lights and music.
At this point I had to look at the detail. We fine-tuned the running order, and made sure models were aware that they had to go completely barefoot (no socks or leggings) unless instructed to. We made sure that bra straps weren’t visible and that they made good poses. I got the models together at various times during the afternoon to remind them of various things like this.
The other thing that we had done was to make crowns, which I thought would look good with the hair and makeup that Mae had proposed. However, during rehearsals the crowns weren’t working.
At the last minute, just before the show was to go on, I decided that they weren’t needed and might distract from or clash with the garments so I decided to call off the crowns.
The makeup was tricky to apply, and we had some panics backstage just before the show, getting lots of people to help! And it didn’t help that we ran out of hairspray and hair gel….but now I’ve learnt that I will need to check these details next time!
Another theme that emerged – and I think we tackled it successfully – was gender neutral dressing. We had boys in girls’ clothes and vice versa. This didn’t raise an eyebrow amongst the young or the old in the audience, which I thought was wonderful.
On the night, the show went really well and we all had lots of fun. It was great because we had time to do it twice. I think that some people were surprised at the decision to do it again, but the models relaxed and enjoyed the second time more, and the audience were able to see the clothes again. I don’t think it would have been the same show if we hadn’t done that.
The sixth formers whose show had inspired me came and really enjoyed it, and I got lots of really positive feedback. There were over 40 students involved in pulling this together, which was great. I think that people were impressed and surprised by what they saw, as they weren’t expecting it to be such a big event. I was also delighted to raise £69.07 for Christopher’s Smile!