After sweeping through New York, London and Paris, Fashion Week is coming to Oxford. Brought by Oxford Fashion Studio, this is the event’s 10th anniversary, and it looks set to deliver glamour, innovation and a few – or more – surprises.
On Monday 10th October Carl Anglim and Tiffany Saunders, the creative forces behind Oxford Fashion Studio, set things in motion. No. 9 High Street, location of The Varsity Club, hosted the casting of models for the imminent runway show only hours before the much awaited press launch. Gleaming silver studio lights projected spotlights onto the dark wood floors. Seduction, mystery, and heightening suspense – this was the mood of the evening.
Other attendees of the launch are unmistakeably Oxford’s fashion people. The general tone clearly stands a level or two above that of the students I worked alongside at the library on that same afternoon. No one is overdressed, the vibe is smooth and effortless. I speak to a girl with fabulous shoes, and wonder how early in the conversation it is acceptable to drop a compliment. I spot two girls with impressive cheekbones nonchalantly sipping a cocktail. I wonder if they are models. The members of the OFS team are easy to identify: they engage with bloggers, reporters, and photographers with ease, exuding confidence and control.
Carl Anglim, the director and producer of OFS, taps his wine glass and the buzz of the on-going conversations dies down. This is the moment everyone’s been waiting for. He (needlessly) introduces himself, and draws attention to the highlights of the catwalks to come.
Caterina Schmitt, creative director of Kraken Counter Culture, is presenting a collection designed for the modern transgender woman, characterised by the innovative ‘K’ sizing system. Glimpses of her work are featured in the promotional images for the event. Intrigued by the creative cuts and flashes of silver, I make a mental note to google her the second I get home.
Local designer Olivia May is sponsoring the shows of two MA Graduates. Their collections will feature alongside her designs at the Friday event. This tribute to fresh talent is a continuation of the theme of innovation that animates the event, reinforcing the increasing promise of surprise and excitement.
Anglim’s final highlight is the opening launch itself. The launch will take place in nine (!) locations. All ears in the room prick up. Several shops on the Oxford High Street are involved in a late night opening that promises promotions, prosecco, and a mysterious hunt for ‘golden’ front row tickets to the runway event. The launch then culminates in the official launch party at The House Bar. The location is frequented by Oxford’s most stylish, and has attracted the attention of Vogue and Elle – a fitting choice to start up the most fashionable week of the season.
These are only a few highlights of what promises to be a dynamic week from beginning to end. On Tuesday 18th a panel of industry experts, journalists and lecturers is discussing cultural appropriation. This is a topic at the forefront of recent fashion discourse (I recall the controversy surrounding Marc Jacobs’ use of faux dreadlocks in New York a couple of weeks ago). It also initiates wider debate about the place of artistic intention, and the power dynamic between designers, models and protestors.
I feel as though I have stumbled upon a trove of hidden fashion gems. This feels a world or two away from my afternoon in the library. Yet the element of ‘discovery’ is an illusion, as OFS is not my discovery at all. It is a worldwide operation, now seeking to expand its global reach. A member of the organising team informs me that, at its 10th year, this year’s Fashion Week has been the smoothest to execute so far. OFS is growing in expertise and confidence. From where I stand, Oxford Fashion Week 2016 looks also to be the brightest.