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“Buy less, choose well” – the return of the Oxford Fashion Gala

When, last year, I discovered that Oxford was to hold a fashion gala, I, with many fellow lovers of all things sartorial, was thrilled at the chance to see a real catwalk take place in Oxford. This Trinity, the Fashion Gala is back, for a reprise on an evening of patchwork, glamour and campiness, all within walking distance of the RadCam. 

The second week event is set to feature a dazzling parade of carefully-stitched fabrics and colours, designed by Oxford student creatives and worn by student models. Fashionistas and those with only a moderate interest in the garb alike will be able to come together in Oxford’s glitziest venue – Freud – for an evening of appreciation of fashion in all its forms. The choice of the chapel-turned-nightclub as a venue is certainly apt for its central walkway, which is set to become a sparkly runway for the night.

I spoke with this year’s co-Creative Directors, Shaan Sidhu and Harvey Morris, on their vision for 2023’s Gala and the process behind bringing it to Oxford students in Trinity term. 

The theme for the gala is a quote: “buy less, choose well”. The memorable advice comes from the late designer and fashion legend Vivienne Westwood, who passed away in December last year. Shaan and Harvey are striving to connect the ethos of the gala to the intent of Westwood’s iconic quote; as Shaan states, she and Harvey are keen to “encourage people to use what they already have” when compiling their outfit for the gala. 

This is partly to prompt the sustainable use of items of clothing, especially given the amount of waste that has been produced by the fast fashion industry in recent years. As Shaan explains, it is about “being mindful about what you choose and how much you buy”. Equally, the theme is intended to allow guests to flaunt their personal styles of dress, and make the gala “a creative experience for everyone involved”, Harvey says. 

The Fashion Gala team has been working with a group of student designers, who number almost twenty. Some of the designers are working closely with their models, while others are modelling for themselves. Guests of the gala can safely expect a tantalising assortment of designs. 

As for the evening itself, Shaan and Harvey emphasise the importance of the event being open and welcoming to all. Indeed, Harvey explains that the event does not have a specific dress code, being neither “necessarily formal” nor “necessarily casual”. He expresses that “fashion can feel very serious and constrained sometimes, and we want it to feel fun and inviting to everyone”. 

Shaan indicates the evening’s intention to be a “spectacle”, and a “showcase of designers and the creativity of people in Oxford” – of which there is certainly plenty. It will be “celebratory and joyous”, Harvey adds.

As well as the main catwalk event, there will also be a live music act and DJs. Shaan is aware that the gala is the day after May Day – but she assures that it will be a very different sort of event. “Please do both”, she jokingly encourages. I know I will be.

The Oxford Fashion Gala will be held on Tuesday 2nd May at Freud. Tickets will be available here.

Image credit: Coco Cottam. Courtesy of Coco Cottam and the Oxford Fashion Gala.

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