Review: Oxford Fashion Week 2014 – High Street Show

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 In 2009, the first Oxford Fashion Week took place. Since then, the operation has grown in size and impact, with this week’s program boasting everything from couture to cosmopolitan, and high profile runways in a Norman castle. In The Varsity Club yesterday evening, OFW made its 2014 debut with a high street show, presenting a wide range of styles from a multitude of sources, from nationwide chain Next to local boutique Aspire Style and independent designers. Cherwell went down to check out the best new trends from their Spring/Summer collections.

The show started with four of the models walking out in matching attire; a fitted black shift dress and strip of black lace to make a veil for the eyes, before returning back upstairs and letting the real catwalk begin. This could have been highly sophisticated and intriguing, but instead felt rather awkward and unnecessary, especially given one slightly fidgety model’s noticeable wobbles.

As a smirky young male model in sunglasses, shorts and a paisley shirt stepped onto the catwalk, Next became the first collection to take to the runway. He was followed by another boy in an equally unremarkable outfit, and then a female model in a black and white aztec print dress and red satchel. The satchel, provided by Brit-Stitch, was to die for, and the dress well styled. However, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the model’s wobbling on her stiletto heel, and the price sticker still attached to said shoe, as well as one model’s ill-fitting jeans, and poor DJing from the sidelines. Further, for a brand that has frequently been accused of failing to experiment or lacking inspiration, Next’s collection had little to no imagination, especially in menswear. Some dark teal chinos were about as exciting as it got.

Despite the somewhat uninspiring start, the first piece to enter from the Henri Castro collection changed the atmosphere dramatically. A short, floaty and flattering dress in royal blue and pink florals and a kimono style, it was a clear standout piece from the night, with the ensemble set off perfectly with a red lip. The dresses that followed were equally innovative, like a kitsch bodycon with a unicorn and letter print, and a full length white dress with plunging neckline and thigh high slit. A 90s vibe was introduced with a dungaree dress over a tie dye tee, denim jackets and a festival inspired fringed pink tie dye top. However, yet again, the lack of inspiring design on the men’s side let the collection down. As the last show to feature men’s fashion, the high street show failed to provide one stand out men’s look all night.

But where the men’s fashion fell short, the striking range of designs by Lula Le Bon and dresses from the Aspire Style boutique more than made up the difference. A stunning, royal blue shimmering silk trench coat, the first look from the former’s catwalk, was lucky enough to be paired with a model that employed just the right level of sass and seduction to pass it off with class and sophistication. It was a detective costume for the more jewel than beige inclined.

However, there is nowhere in Oxford that does party dresses quite like Aspire Style. The last (and best) collection of the evening, the boutique showed off everything from a 50s rockabilly halter-neck and petticoat in white and red from Hell Bunny, to a kooky, loose fitting silk day-dress with a bicycle print from Sugarhill Boutique.

It was a night that improved incrementally, from the positively dull to the delightfully darling. For better or worse, OFW have also convinced me to whip out my debit card and make a visit to Aspire tomorrow. However, in an arena where perfection is not only expected but demanded, the continuous stage management issues took the sheen off the show. Despite a rocky start (and utter failure in the menswear looks), there is no denying that Oxford Fashion Week put on a compelling show to kick off the events to come, that promise to be well worth checking out if you’re in Oxford this weekend.  

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