Typically your final year in college is a time spent worrying about literature reviews, library opening hours and job prospects. Instead, I have found myself in a position where the things keeping me awake at night are clothing insurance and stage construction. This is because the Dublin City University Fashion Show 2014 is a mere fortnight away. As chairperson of the university’s Style Society, producing the annual show is the most daunting but exciting experience of my life. A seminal and reputable event in the DCU events calendar, with 700 people in attendance on the night – what could possibly go wrong?
The annual fashion show, which takes place in March is the bread and butter of the Style Society’s events calendar. The show unites students from different schools with diverse backgrounds, incorporating the talents of 30 models, 6 stylists, two choreographers, accessories designers, set designers, an abundance of retail stores and countless backstage assistants.
This year will see the 9th show since its inception. In 2005, Mikey Robinson noticed the eagerness of students to model for the first issue of The Look, the on-campus fashion magazine. DIT and UCD had their respective fashion shows, and Mikey set out to organise the biggest event that DCU had ever seen. “We were ambitious beyond our experience from the very start,” Mikey says. “We knew that a Style Society was going to come under some flack, which it certainly initially did. Drama tended to be dominated by the expressive School Of Communications students, RedBrick was full of School of Computing students but we hoped the fashion show would have a broad appeal.”
Mikey was driven and determined. The Style Society was conceived and fixed its sights on The Helix as the venue for the inaugural show, ignoring staff and students advice to start off small. There was no doubt in the committees’ minds that this event was going to be anything less than stellar. The first show based on the Seven Deadly Sins took place in The Helix’ Mahoney Hall, a first for a student-ran event, on March 8th 2006 sponsored by FM104 and Elizabeth Arden.
It was never plain sailing, as Mikey recalls, “I remember one night in our flat staying up with Deirdre Moran (vice-chair), Eoin Byrne (model) and Laura Whitmore (secretary), and just thinking ‘we’re mad’, we’re in our final year of our degree, trying to do a thesis – why on earth would anyone invite such a massive distraction into their lives…we definitely thought ‘this is too big, too new, there’s no safety net, no blueprint’ maybe we should cancel.”
This overwhelming feeling has been plaguing me for weeks. Organising an event of this calibre is no mean feat. Dealing with sponsorship, finances and funding aspects in particular is a major hurdle. As Hannah Bowler, who produced 2011’s ‘Cobble Couture’ show says, “You are faced with something you have no experience with, I didn’t know the standard price for set design or a sound engineer so budgeting was difficult, plus a production of that size is expensive and raising that kind of money is hard work.”
College fashion shows are regarded as pioneering and innovative platforms for emerging talent, and in the past corporate sponsors have given funding of up to €20,000 for a single event. In an unstable economic climate, the ethics of spending such a phenomenal amount of money on a show that will be over in less than 90 minutes are questionable. However, the four main university fashion shows (DCU, DIT, Trinity and UCD) remain pivotal events in the Irish fashion industry. Each year, the productions evolve, aided by technology and the desire to break boundaries. This year, we were unable to attain sponsorship, which means we will have to be extremely resourceful to pull off an equally impressive event.
Being involved in the fashion show is certainly a learning curve, instilling experience that cannot be taught within lecture halls. The show gives all students involved the unique opportunity to expand and develop their creative, marketing, promotional and organizational skills. Andrew Crook produced 2013’s “Powers of Paradise” show based on the evolution of society. He recalls, “My self-confidence and my people management skills weren’t great before the show…The best thing about such an undertaking is the amount you learn about yourself and other people and how you can take this with you for the rest of your life.”
One thing that is apparent is that the night remains the fondest memory past chairpersons have from their time in college. Mikey is now a digital content creator living in London, still in touch with his Style Society committee members. He says, “It felt like a huge achievement then and it still does now. I learned so much from that show and I know so many of the people involved did too. I even know a couple that got married that met as models in the show!”
Wonderland: The DCU Fashion Show 2014 takes place on Thursday March 6th (Doors 7pm) in The Wright Venue. Tickets are priced at €10 and are available online at www.eventbrite.ie