Yesterday saw the opening show of this year’s Oxford Fashion Week. The Style Show, taking place in Oxford’s Town Hall, was a new addition to this year’s line up: the event is in its second year, and with The Couture Show dropped from the bill, the Style show offered a refocus of the event towards a younger audience with tickets costing £6. Cherwell Fashion was invited along to experience the show that lasted nearly 6 hours, and to forecast what the week ahead (if not the weather!) would be for OFW.
Entering the Town Hall, it was hard not to be surprised by the queue that awaited us. Whilst we nearly avoided crashing a ‘reunion lunch’ going on in the next room, we quickly escorted ourselves into the hall and to the friendly staff of OFW to gain ourselves the coveted ‘press entry’. The burgeoning queue outside was waiting patiently to discover what was going on inside the main hall, and of course for the rumoured ‘goody bags’ on offer to the first 300 people through the door. Though the queue itself posed no worry that everyone would grab themselves a mini selection of Dermologica goodies (probably the only worthwhile investment in the shiny black bags), the hall quickly filled up with an excited buzz as the first show of the day was about to start.
Featuring the “Emerging Designers Collection” including Shakyra Shakeena and Terri Hughes (check out our slideshow below), the show began confidently: although the majority of the models were and did appear to be students, it was carried out fluidly and had the attention of the entire hall. Yet the one major problem, which we found with other shows during the day, was the ending – or the fact there was none. The shows were consistent, yet the ending was never signalled leaving an awkward dithering of the audience and the choices of whether to clap or not to clap and to move or not to move. A simple dip of the lights, abrupt change of music or even the parade of the entire models featured (a usual occurrence) would be a great improvement in defining the end of the show. Also there were a few other ‘glitches’ in the show(s) we noticed, and a few people in the audience surrounding us commented on them. Firstly, the underwear. Although not the lingerie show, there were certainly some pieces on offer! A few of the items worn were either sheer, nudes, or had a low back: some of the models were wearing black bras which were thus visible through the fabric or the bra itself was not the appropriate fit for the top worn. Seeing the underwear on show was uncomfortable next to the professionalism that the event was attempting to convey. With the concept show coming up, perhaps this is something to check on before sending out the models out slightly too over-exposed. Secondly, the music. In some of the samples played during various shows, the “BBC Radio 1” commercial was heard over the mixes (if you’ve listened to any of the late night shows, such as Annie Mac’s, you’ll understand what we mean!) – now we know the station isn’t associated with the event, so all we can assume is that the music was ripped from the station (or taken from a site) – we’re not questioning the legality of it, but simply the professionalism involved: again it was distracting and it would have been better to use music that wasn’t interrupted!
Divided between the runway and stalls, where facials, body art and various clothing collections were on offer to distract the audience, the Main Hall provided a picturesque setting to a modest, but inviting introduction to the world of fashion and OFW for many first time goers. During the breaks between the shows (around twenty minutes), we headed off to the individual stalls in search of any other fashionable goodies and to ask those taking part what they thought of the day.
Gillie McCollum, Piglet Skirts, pigletskirts.co.uk
Our favourite stall, if for the sheer amount of choice available, was Gillie McCollum’s home business start-up “Piglet Skirts”. The business began when Gillie’s daughter (currently studying at Durham University) complained about the price of similar skirts costing up to £50: deciding that she could make them cheaper and better, Gillie designed the elasticated skirts to be versatile -the range of materials and prints (see our favourites below) certainly mean you can’t run out of choice. Our favourite is the ‘Chanel-inspired’ number, and the blue satin skirt is one of her best sellers – starting from £14, the skirts are definitely worth the money, worn with a simple vest t-shirt or even a more delicate blouse, they would be a great investment for the summer. Also check out these Abercrombie-esque PJ’s – but at £20!
We stuck around for the next show – a change of music and crowds began to gather around the stage. The first of three ‘High Street’ shows, Crew, Gap and Next ‘showed’ their clothes from both their female and male (hurrah!) collection. Yet we were a bit perplexed: poking out from a few pieces of clothing were the tags – we later learnt that the clothes were returned to the stores after the show making us wonder, were the stores actually showing their collections, or was it OFW showing their clothes (sadly we weren’t around for the other shows so couldn’t see how the other stores panned out). Nonetheless, the show was worthwhile to watch, yet as previously mentioned we didn’t understand if it had ended! Check out a few of our pictures from the show:
Whilst out and about trawling the stalls, we stumbled on some rather well dressed women (to be expected from a Fashion event!). Wearing two colourful floral dresses from Republic, Christchurch girls Chloe Mills and Anakaret Fillipich (see the photo below) had come out to “check out the style show, and if it was any good, get a few tickets to the Concept Show”. Chloe’s entire outfit had caught our eye: bought in her native Australia, the Woodford & Co cream cape shows the true versatility of pales transitioning from Winter to Summer and her gorgeous ring (again from Australia, but we’re sure Topshop will sell something similar) added that touch of glam perfect for a day out.
The next show we were treated to was the Annabelinda “Vintage Show”. As massive fans of the vintage wear (using REIGN, Unicorn and various Parisian finds in our shoots), we couldn’t help but claim our space early in the front. The clothing was classic: from structured tea dresses to the exuberant patterns, we’d probably have bought it all – if we could. Our favourite piece was the green all-in-one dress suit (see the slideshow below), yet we couldn’t forgive some of the chunkier and unattractive shoes- some things vintage should just be left in the closet! The music did cut off towards the end – we had noticed an intentional shift in pace from the previous shows, but it proved to be too slow and the timing was off.
After the vintage show, we took our last sweep of the floor: at six hours long, we sadly had other things to do, but were adamant to return for the finale. The other two stalls that truly caught our eye were “Terri Hughes Boutique” (a collection that had showed earlier) and Aspire, one of our favourite stores on the High Street.
Terri Hughes Boutique, www.terrihughesboutique.com
Run by Terri Hughes (the woman herself), the boutique is primarily a vintage store (selling both online and on Ebay) sourcing from various wholesalers, grandparents’ wardrobes and shops in America, the outfit on show (see below) truly caught our eye. Whilst we did describe the skirt to be as if “a Hermes scarf had thrown up on pleats”, it was our favourite piece on display in the entire show – at £35 it was a bit pricey for a day out, but for something one-off, it’s a great investment. Talking to Terri herself (appearing to be in her early twenties), we were just slightly overwhelmed: having finished a degree in Fashion and now pursuing a Masters in Enterprise Management -not only did she sell clothes – but made them too, it certainly put our ‘day jobs’ to shame!
Aspire, High Street, www.aspirestyle.co.uk
If you haven’t ventured into Aspire yet, the Trinity term is definitely a brilliant time to make a visit. Selling everything from clothing and homeware to jewellery and gifts, if you’ve got a birthday to buy for, it’s the perfect stop. The range and choice is so huge, it’s often hard to decide what not to buy. Our stand-out piece was this cream dress: at £69 it’s a bit expensive for a boutique, but with the right heels and accessories, it’ll suit any black tie event.
At just before 3 o’clock, we decided we’d had enough of wandering and went our separate ways. Although it’s great to have the gap between the individual shows, the stalls are not distracting enough to fill the entire 2 hours (a “guestimate” at the entire time left between shows lasting between 10-20 minutes), and we noticed (see the photo below) are few other visitors were feeling the strain too. Perhaps a few more chairs would be appreciated, instead of resorting to the floor.
Just before we left the event, we saw our favourite outfit/well-dressed person of the day. Olga Owczarek, one of the photographers at the show looked fabulously cool in her Utility inspired (our take) outfit. Bought recently, the high waisted peg- leg trousers were from Zara, and were complimented by Gap sandals (forget gladiator, think chunky straps) and a linen shirt – we definitely wanted to steal her style.
We managed to return in time for the 6 o’clock finale. Broadcasting on the Ukraine’s number one T.V Channel, the Sunlight collection by Zinaida Likhacheva had already caught our eye when paroling the stalls. The headdresses were exquisite – apparently inspired by traditional Ukrainian hair knots – it was so tempting to purchase one for any upcoming balls. Fortunately the catwalk began and our purses remained firmly closed within our bags. The collection itself certainly championed the ‘maxi dress’, the style of the moment as we move into summer, and whilst not all to our taste, the headdresses themselves stole the show (see our main photo for our favourite).
The event ended with a certainly subdued and smaller audience than with what it began, but at six hours long, it would be hard to expect anyone to stick out the entire show. Yet we gained positive reports. Emma, from Jesus College, told us that “the shows are really good and there’s a great atmosphere. At £6 it is definitely worth the money”. Furthermore the models seemed to enjoy themselves: Sophie Lassman, said, “some of the clothes are amazing. I particularly love the London College of fashion and Zinaida Likhacheva pieces. I’ve met some really lovely people and not just from Oxford, Brookes and the city too. I’m terrified about falling on my backside in some of the shoes I have to wear though- they’re really slippery”, and whilst there were certainly a few hitches, the show seemed to be received well by those participating, attending and even organised. Rosie Piggott, one of the show’s main directors, stated that the show was a success and with over 500 people attending, it sold very well and was very happy with the outcome.
We certainly enjoyed ourselves, and whilst there were a few hitches, it’s nothing that can’t be improved upon for the next week and even the next year. The Style Show itself is an interesting concept – it definitely felt like a smaller, more contained version of the Birmingham Clothes Show, thus whilst this time it attracted a good size crowd, a returning audience maybe tricky to achieve. It’s location in the Town Hall was beautiful, yet we do think next time more could be done and at six hours, it’s incredibly long to wait out all the shows with limited seating capacity. To do it again, perhaps open slightly later, encourage a walk-around before the shows start and expand the catwalk. Furthermore, additional seats lined up would encourage people to stay and give the catwalk a greater presence within the show. We’re however truly excited for the remainder of the week and can’t wait for the Concept Show, which we’re hoping to be the event of the week. Perhaps see you there?