Oxford Fashion Week 2011

A week (28 Feb - 6 Mar) of fashion shows, exhibitions, discussions, models, couture, sales, and up-and-coming designers. Oxford Fashion Week "challenges Oxford to explore fashion, to recognise its depth, to think about its purpose, to engage with its creators, to celebrate its inspirations and to delight in playing with its creations". Tickets from www.oxfordfashionweek.co.uk (click image below); all events listed below.

March 4, 2011

The Lingerie Show @ Malmaison Hotel, Wed 2nd March 2011

The Oxford Fashion Week Lingerie Show was, this year, held (as usual, I believe) in the Oxford Castle's converted-prison concept hotel, Malmaison. The evening was designed, you could tell, around fun, frivolity, and not an insignificant amount of decadence - which is what pretty underwear is all about, after all. Even after the hour-long champagne and canapé reception in one of Hotel Malmaison's wide corridors, with staircases rising from our floor at intervals to the floor above made out of what looked like it could have been, had it been a lot smaller, some kind of precious filigree. Instead, it was probably iron, painted white. It was very pretty nonetheless! There was artwork on the walls and comfortable leather sofas to perch on - and seemingly no end to the circulating canapés and photographers' flashing cameras.

The transmission through to the runway show, which was held in a packed, high-ceilinged hall with dark walls and bright lights, went smoothly, with the Fashion Week team meeting guests at the doors and directing them to their seats.The show began with a start: Emma Appleton, the first model on the runway and the face of Oxford Fashion Week 2011, strode down the runway in silence, wearing one of Sonata's lace bodysuits and loud (in the aural sense) heels. When the runway was clear and the room quiet, the music started: an unlikely combination of tinkling melody and insistent baseline - chosen well, as the first few pieces were lacy and frilly, over some of ther later pieces' definite harder, edgier (strappier) take on lingerie.

The models' make up was girlish, with dark eyes and candy-pink lips, but their poses weren't overly soft: there was a steely sort of attitude in most of the girls' walks and the choreography was seamless, if very occasionally a little stilted, and left room for models to implement their own takes on a basic structure. The timing was clearly very tight, and some of these girls may have been on a catwalk in front of so many people (in such little clothing) for only the first or second time. Nerves would be understandable, and that the show ran so smoothly and looked so professional (I noticed no major slip-ups at all) is very impressive, and the kind of high standard that Fashion Week audiences have come to expect over the Lingerie Shows' three-year evolution.

The show was varied in many ways: from the collections featured (corsets by Velda Lauder, killer bras by Bravissimo, and frilly bra-tops and skirts (!) from local Oxfordshire designer Emilia Penny's range, La La LouLa) to the models themselves. All were beautiful, and all clearly chosen because they looked good in underwear, but beyond that the range of body shapes and sizes was probably larger than in most runway shows. One of the show's producers, Rosa Schiller Crawhurst, says in the show program that the producers' aim was to create a show "where every woman who watches it feels that she could look and feel amazing in any of the clothes displayed." I can't speak for every woman, but the range of underwear, body shapes, and all-pervading sense that these models were confident that they looked as great as they did, all contributed to making the show accessible to many more people.

Except, that is, the men; last year, the Lingerie show featured a couple of male models, as well. Now, given that my (male) companion to the show, whilst appreciative and so forth, came out of it and asked "Do people ... really bother with underwear that fancy? I mean, what's the point of it?" perhaps this was a wise move. Perhaps men's underwear hasn't yet undergone the kinds of innovations that women's has (perhaps it shouldn't). On the other hand, one such comment is probably not a large enough sample to make any sweeping conclusions on behalf of mankind. I still ask, therefore, where were the men?

After the show there were yet more canapés ('dessert' canapés this time); unfortunately I didn't try one, but they were very attractive, and more champagne was circulated back in the 'reception corridor'. For £25, which is how much a ticket costs, the Malmaison Lingerie Show delivered a lovely evening. If you like fashion, or just pretty underwear, then I would reccommend putting this event on your calendar for next year.

March 2, 2011

The Concept Show @ The Regal, Tue 1st March 2011

Marking the first of the week’s five runway events, the spectacular Concept Show last night hailed the start of Oxford Fashion Week 2011.

The Regal's grand art-deco interior provided a fitting setting for a show that prides itself on wowing the audience with bold fashion creations. Startech Productions framed the runway with a trio of impressive, if somewhat pixelated, LED curtains which bore the names of the designers as their explosive creations were modelled.

Before the first model took to the runway, an unseen, off-stage band introduced the show with a long instrumental track. In keeping with the night’s ‘atomic blast’ concept, the futuristic and slightly ominous music was smattered with distorted and robotic samples (reminiscent of the queue for Space Mountain). When the start of the show was heralded by a loud countdown to a rocket-launch, the music evolved into a strong and funky War of The Worlds-esque dubstep soundtrack that continued throughout the night.

The show got off to a bold start, with Ki Ching Cheung & Ka Wai Lo’s collection channelling the atomic theme by way of bare bodies caged in futuristic, geometric mesh structures. The barefoot models held expressionless Oedipus-like masks to their faces, adding to the inhuman feel of the collection. The collection also featured woollen monk-like robes, rendered futuristic by exaggerated hoods, sleeves and pockets and rigid collars, and urbanised by their juxtaposition with angular eyewear.

The models wore neutral makeup on their cheeks and lips, but their eyelids were boldly streaked with electric blue, which contrasted powerfully with the natural, earthy shades of the fabric.

To the beat of the unrelenting dubstep soundtrack, the collections came thick and fast. Highlights of the evening included Mi Kyoung Kim’s stunning gowns: feminine pastel shades and inflated sleeves wonderfully offset by angular protrusions around the waist and hips.

Another standout collection was delivered by Capouche, whose collection of snoods and centurion-like furry hats brought the show’s only male models onto the runway. Yu-Hsuan-Liu is also to be congratulated for a striking collection that saw models wearing only flesh-coloured undergarments – creating the illusion of nakedness – as a way of accenting the designer’s commanding footwear.

The student models displayed an impressive professionalism, although ranged in their ability. While some of the girls would not have looked out of place on a Milan runway, others carried themselves a little clumsily and rushed their poses.

This year’s Concept Show lived up to its reputation of displaying outrageous and sensational creations. Taking the audience into the fashion equivalent of an atomic blast, all the designers on show last night blasted away traditional concepts of form and unleashed their creativity with spectacular results. Oxford Fashion Week 2011 has been launched with a bang. Four runway events remain. Watch this space.

March 1, 2011
Oxford Fashion Week 2011 opened officially on Monday 24th February with Oxford's Fashionable Night Out, a two hour late-night shopping affair with champagne and discounts in a number of High Street stores. If you were there, why not review it? We were at the press launch in the O3 Gallery at the Oxford Castle, where the Oxford Fashion Week Photography Exhibition runs until the 20th of March.
We walked into a room of beautiful people and beautiful pictures at the Oxford Fashion Week 2011 press launch last night; it was in the O3 Gallery at the Oxford Castle, and usually the backdrop for the 2011 Photography Exhibition. Pictures of catwalk shows and behind-the-scenes shots lined the circular wall of the Gallery - and everywhere else, there were people. Polka Dot Catering provided canapes (including tiny Virgin Mary cocktails with an even tinier stick of celery) and fizz, and the Oxford Fashion Week team and models provided the style and enthusiasm. 

This year the Week will be longer than ever before, with the Photography Exbition running for a month (from 19th February to 19th March) and their Style Show at the Oxford University Exam Schools on Saturday 19th of March. There are more events this year than ever before as well, with discussions on topics such as 'Is fashion bad for society?' and 'What is ethical fashion?' slotted in between their main runway shows, clothes-swapping evening (!), and clothes fairs. Executive Producer Carl Anglim, who has been involved in Oxford Fashion Week since its inception in 2008, and for whom this will be the last event as Producer, said also that not only has the team not "taken a single penny of public money" to fund a number of free or cheap events, but also no member of the team profits from any money raised: this year, proceeds from the Couture Show and auction will go to the Oxford Thinking Campaign to help fund scholarships and student support.

For the first time, the Fashion Week team will be moving out into East Oxford - to the Regal on Cowley Road, an Oxford institution - which will be the venue of the Concept Show (see pictures to the right) and afterparty. Carl Anglim said the team thought "it was time we had a presence in East Oxford - and what better way to do that than with our craziest event?" As our office has been on Cowley Road for the last two years, we'd have to agree. The full line-up of events is on their website (click on the banner at the top of the page) or you can look at the blue box on this page to see some of what's going on. - Needless to say, if you've been to anything yourself and want to write a review ... we always like to hear your opinions!
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