Events

A Night at the Cambridge University Charity Fashion Show

This year, The Cambridge University Fashion Show raised money for the charitable organisation Drip by Drip and featured the work of up-and-coming designers on student models. The theme this year was CHILDSPLAY, and the show was held in the iconic Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Two models ready for the runway. Image: CUCFS.

We were excited to partner with CUCFS this year, both by including our bags on the catwalk and by donating an Emily in French Grey as a raffle prize; all proceeds went towards the charity.

The evening was a great success. Read our interviews with Sana, president, Caitlin, vice-president, Sayma, creative director and Christian, Temi, Sanah and Matthew, models, to find out more about CHILDSPLAY!

Sana - President

Sana (bottom middle) with the CUCFS committee. Image: CUCFS.

The Cambridge Satchel Co.  

Could you start by introducing yourself?

Sana 

My name is Sana, and I'm a third year Land Economy student at Cambridge University. In terms of academics, my interests lie in development economics, primarily, but outside of studies, I love watching runway shows and being inspired by fashion. I love painting, too.

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What is your role as president for the fashion show?

Sana 

It's a unique one. I don't have one specific task, but the biggest part of it is motivating my team to run each different piece of the show and to make sure that everybody's on track with the timeline. It's very much a managerial role.

At the same time, being President is a bit more distant from other day to day jobs in the committee. I’m more involved in generating ideas, talking to people and asking them what they're doing to solve a certain problem. 

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The theme for this year's show is CHILDSPLAY. What does this theme mean to you? 

Sana

CHILDSPLAY describes a period of experimentation and identity forming that comes with growing up. I think that, after the pandemic, many of us incurred a lot of personality changes, just from spending so much time at home and not having the opportunity to interact as much with people. 

For me, it was a period of self reflection, and I think that following it, I had this opportunity to experiment in terms of my interests, now that I had the opportunity to be able to do different things again. Since the lockdown has ended, I’ve been able to spend more time with friends, but I’ve also seen myself grow a lot more confident in spending time with myself. I've seen myself appreciate the different stages that I am at in life, and just be more reflective of the day to day events that occur. 

So I think that CHILDSPLAY is especially important right now, because a lot of people are going through those changes, and I think, more than anything, that it's a celebration of whichever stage you are at in your life.

A model wears The Pushlock in Bubblegum. Image: Ama Otuo.

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That leads really well onto my next question, because I've noticed that there are three different ‘stages’ in the show. Could you explain them to me?

Sana

We defined CHILDSPLAY as being divided into three stages.The first stage represents a blank slate, and the way that we've represented that through clothing is through lots of whites, pastels, symbolism of the moon and the sun - something that's very abstract and very easily permeable. 

Our second stage represents a period of experimentation and eccentric tastes, and the way that we've represented that is with a lot more sharp cuts in the clothing, neon colours and contrasting colours. 

The final stage is about settling into yourself and being comfortable and confident in your personality. The way that we've represented that is through very masculine cuts: lots of shoulder pads, blazers, structured looks. We have some looks that have a lot of bamboo in them, and I think that's representative of the permanence and structure that you have once that personality trait is ingrained within you.

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Can you tell me about the charity that you're raising money for this year, Drip by Drip

Sana

Each year, we support a different charity, and this year, we first had a list of around five to ten different charities that were involved in sustainable fashion within the UK and Europe. We then looked at them as a committee before coming to a vote to decide which cause we wanted to support. I think it was really important for us to choose a charity that was very representative of our interests, because in a sense that's what is motivating us to put on the show and to put in the hard hours. 

Drip by Drip supports sustainable fashion and raises awareness of water usage within the fashion industry, and I think it's very relevant with talks surrounding climate change, especially post COVID, when we saw a lot of reversals in the climate. 

A lot of the clothing that we wear on a day to day basis, especially within fast fashion, uses a lot of water, especially jeans. You use gallons and gallons of water to make them, because you dye the fabric and wash it over and over again. All of that water is then contaminated with dyes, which get released into the environment. So it's a very specific link, but I think a very important one that people aren’t quite aware of yet.

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Do you have a favourite designer who is featuring their collections in the show?

Sana

We have a collection called The White Collection by Zhenwei, and that one's really my favourite, because I think it's very ethereal. I also really enjoy fabrics that are draped, and this one is draped in a very flattering and beautiful way. 

He uses a lot of mixed materials as well; the base is often made with white cloth, but on top, we have a jacket made of a plastic-looking material. He uses these mixed materials to create structure, but in a way that also makes them seem very flowy and almost angelic.

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Do you have a favourite Cambridge Satchel bag?

Sana

I love The Mini Poppy in Honeysuckle. I like its closure, I like how it's really small, and I like how the top is a bit narrower and the bottom is a bit bigger. It seems very easy to style, and since I’m someone who likes neutral colours and colour blocking, I feel like you can dress it up and dress it down easily. 

Caitlin - Vice President

Cailtin (left), before the show. Image: CUCFS.

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Could you start by introducing yourself?

Caitlin  

I'm Caitlin and I am currently reading Human, Social and Political Sciences at Trinity Hall College, Cambridge. I absolutely love to read and I also love photography. 

As I’m specialising in sociology, I love the kind of fashion that explores meaning, what clothes mean to us and representation in fashion, which I think this show is perfect at being able to allow us to explore. 

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What's your role as Vice President?

Caitlin 

Being Vice President is an interesting one, because a lot of it is overseeing the logistics of the show. I enjoy it because I get to dabble in the creative side, as well as my primary duty, which is more on the side of working with our charity. 

The main reason we want to do this show is to raise money for charity, so a large part of what I do is to make sure that we have sponsors that align with the show and its values, as well as the values of our chosen charity. 

Creating a really nice environment for our models, our makeup team and our photography team is also an important part of my role. 

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Could you tell me a bit more about your chosen venue, the Fitzwilliam Museum?

Caitlin 

First of all, the Fitzwilliam Museum is beautiful. Every time I've been there, I think how crazy it is that I'm able to have access to it, because I just think it's incredible. It’s an iconic Cambridge sight, and we’re trying to do something new and fresh with the space.

The whole committee really liked the idea that we could situate our theme, which focuses on time and transitory periods, in a place where things are preserved in time. This, alongside an idea of experimenting and moving through time, just seemed like a perfect juxtaposition.

In terms of how we were looking to transform it, we wanted to be able to do as much and as little as possible at the same time, because we wanted to make sure people were still able to see that they were in the Fitzwilliam Museum. We allowed ourselves to experiment with lighting and sound more than physical space because these elements are a lot more changeable than big centerpieces. I think we were able to combine the essence of the old and the new very well.  

A model wears The Emily in Bay. Image: Ama Otuo.

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What does fashion mean to you?

Caitlin 

Part of my fascination with fashion has always been about representing something. This is the least scholarly reference I could make, but whenever I say this to people, I always think about the scene in The Devil Wears Prada - that scene with the cerulean sweater where there’s a monologue on how everyone makes fashion choices without realising it. It’s a great example of how fashion really shapes who we are in so many different ways, whether we acknowledge it or not. 

I think that with this theme, especially with our wonderful designers, it's so interesting to be able to see how the individual garments have stories, but then when we bring them into the show and into Cambridge, or put them on certain people, that can add another dimension to what they convey. To me, the magic of fashion is that the more and more you engage with it, the more meaning it can have for you.

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How do you think that the fashion world has changed since the start of the pandemic?

Caitlin

What it's really proven to me is how much the fashion world responds to consumer needs. One of the most interesting ways to witness this is how clothing trends have shifted towards looser, more comfortable clothes, even incorporating loungewear into streetwear and day to day wear. 

There have obviously been unbelievably bad consequences as a result of the pandemic, and it has been horrible. However, and I think the fashion world illustrates this beautifully, I think it has made us collectively aware of how we are able to adapt to things, how we have this inherent resilience. 

I think the way the fashion industry has moved along, whether that’s engaging more with e-commerce and online shopping, or even the rise of smaller businesses, is a really great testament to that idea that things are constantly changing. 

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Why did you choose to partner with The Cambridge Satchel Co.? 

Caitlin 

We loved having a company that was Cambridge based. Our show was very wide reaching; it welcomed a diverse audience and included work from designers who are from all over the place, but at the end of the day, this is a Cambridge based show. We wanted to work with a brand that really captured the essence of that and the creativity AND drive that can come out of Cambridge. 

A bag is the type of product that has this symbolism or iconography of something that becomes more and more meaningful the more it is used. You take it everywhere with you and it grows in terms of the story it tells, and that story-telling aspect aligns really well with the message that we have this year. 

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Finally, is there a bag in particular that you like?

Caitlin 

It’s funny, my mum is actually a huge fan of The Cambridge Satchel Co. and she has been since I was a kid. So when I first got to Cambridge, she saw the shop and we went in. I remember seeing The Mini in Vintage and I thought ‘that bag is perfect’. I love all of them that are in Vintage, but The Mini in particular - it’s a classic. 

Sayma - Creative Director

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Please could you introduce yourself?

Sayma  

I’m Sayma and I am the Creative Director of this year's fashion show. I study architecture at Clare College, Cambridge and I'm in my final year.

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What is your role as Creative Director?

Sayma  

To begin with, my role consisted of coming up with a concept as to what we wanted this year's show to embody. I definitely knew I didn't want it to be COVID related, and I wanted it to be something that could resonate with everyone. I also wanted everyone to have a different take on whatever the theme was. So I came up with this concept of CHILDSPLAY, which moves between childhood, adolescence and the most mature stage, adulthood.

The role is about trying to navigate what colours and styles should be used for each of these stages and what they mean. The fashion show’s take on it is what it means to the committee, but it's also what it means to the models and what it meant to all the guests that came along too. 

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Do you have a personal style?

Sayma 

My style has recently changed in terms of colour palette, but it’s very classic. Last year, I wore a lot of whites. This year, it's gone more into black and darker tones. I turned 20 this year and I’ve decided to embrace the colour back, you know, it's a universally flattering colour, everyone looks good in it. I’m enjoying my black wardrobe.

A model prepares to walk. Image: The Cambridge Satchel Co.

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Why do you think the students should get involved in the Cambridge University charity fashion show?

Sayma  

It’s a great way to get experience if you want to pursue a career in fashion. Before this, I had no experience in the industry. It's also such a great way to connect with other people; it’s made me realise how small the university community is. There's like a role for everyone, so if anyone wants to model or apply for next year's committee, please do!

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And finally, do you have a favourite article of clothing from your personal wardrobe?

Sayma  

I'd say currently, it's a dress that I have from Sandro, which is one of my favourite clothes brands. It's a silky, beige, very classic dress that cinches in at the waist and it has a layered skirt. I’ve worn it way too many times and I can’t get enough of it, but those are the best kinds of clothes!

Christian - Model

Christian in one of his fashion show outfits. Image: CUCFS

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Could you introduce yourself?

Christian  

My name is Christian and I study Human, Social and Political Sciences. I go to St John’s College, and in terms of passions, I do hip hop dance as well as public speaking and debates. I'm also quite big on TikTok.

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What does CHILDSPLAY mean to you?

Christian  

As a Cambridge student, it’s a question you aren’t asked a lot, because people tend to ask what your aspirations are for the future. CHILDSPLAY, to me, is about getting in touch with your inner child, so to speak, especially with dance, because it’s all having fun. When you do it, you don’t care about your degree, you’re just having fun dancing to pop songs. So having that space to be uninhibited, just flowing with the music and being in your own body - that’s what CHILDSPLAY means to me.

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Tell me a bit about your fashion show outfit.

Christian  

One of my outfits is a black leather coat which is open chested. It has this really cool detail on both sides of the arm where it's held together with blue string. It gives it a constricted look. In terms of the bottom, the great thing about it is that the hip area is covered in a black fabric, but it's made of a material that you would wrap precious cargo with; it looks like a bubble. After that, it's just a nice flowing pattern that flares out at the bottom. I'm pairing that with accessories and my own higher shoes because I'm too short!

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Do you have a favourite designer or brand?

Christian  

Other than the wonderful designers we have tonight, one of my favourite brands is Alix. It's really minimal and works a lot with shapes and lines. My colour palette is either monochrome, so black and white, or earth tones. Alix is very black and white, and every piece obviously has their logo, but it’s mixed with coordinates and numbers. A lot of their silhouettes are really cool as well. 

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Why did you want to take part in the show?

Christian  

There were two main reasons. The first is that I always saw these runway looks on my Instagram that were immaculate and amazing, and you don't usually get the opportunity to wear that sort of clothing ever.

The charity element is also very important to me. Knowing that the proceeds go to a charity that’s seeking to support sustainability in fashion is very commendable.

Sanah and Temi - Models

Sanah on the runway. Image: CUCFS.

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Could you both introduce yourselves in a line or two?

Sanah

I’m Sanah, I study History and I'm one of the models in the fashion show this year - and I’m extremely interested in fashion, of course!

Temi  

I'm Temi, and I study English at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. I'm very much interested in fashion as well as dance. 

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Could you tell me about what you’re wearing tonight?

Temi

Tonight, I'm wearing something from the Amber Collection. It's a bikini type structure with a cropped jacket, with a little less than quarter length sleeves. It’s got a really cool collar, I’m very excited about the sash (which reads ‘Miss Blackpool’), even though I’m not from Blackpool! I'm just excited about this whole idea of fashion being so free; it’s a space where you can make statements that will resonate with people and spark interesting conversations.

Temi, model, being interviewed. Image: CUCFS.

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Did either of you play a part in choosing your outfits, or did you accessorise them in any way?

Temi 

I quite like the freedom that came with being comfortable and transparent with the whole process. What I'm wearing is very revealing and I’ve felt very confident in speaking up and choosing what I’m comfortable wearing in the show. It made me feel like a powerful, confident woman, and it made me so excited for the show. I had a say in whether or not I wanted a jacket or no jacket, a bodysuit or no bodysuit. I really feel like I've been able to tailor the outfit to my personality.

Sanah  

The piece I'm wearing and how I’m tailoring it is very much my style. With some pieces, you can really make them your own, and that’s the approach I’m taking with mine.

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Do either of you have a favourite designer or brand?

Temi  

Vivienne Westwood. When she did the tartan printing on corsets, I was obsessed. Vivienne Westwood for sure.

Sanah  

I like a range of designers, both local and global. A lot of suits that I wear have come from Greater Manchester designers. My tastes vary a lot depending on what mood I’m in.

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What has been your favourite part of being in the show so far?

Temi  

Meeting new people that I probably never would have met. It’s so nice to share the anxieties and the fun. Those moments where we’re practising our walks and there's a vibrant atmosphere of people encouraging each other are amazing. 

Sanah  

I really enjoyed the new opportunities, I think. Taking the initiative with this is something that a lot of us may not have done before. It’s also for a good cause and it's at the Fitzwilliam Museum, which is a great place as well. The whole package has been pretty cool!

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Is there anything else you want to add?

Temi  

The show is absolutely insane. There's a diversity of walks, a diversity of people. It feels like fashion, as a space, is becoming this thing that everyone can have access to. This event in particular has made me feel like I can really take up space, as a black woman specifically.

Sanah  

I completely agree with what you said. For me, this show mixes the old with new. It's a reinvention of fashion held within this particular space, the Fitzwilliam Museum. There’s a bit of everything, and I really hope people enjoyed the show.

Matthew - Model

Matthew on the runway. Image: CUCFS.

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Please introduce yourself in a few lines.

Matthew

I’m Matthew, I go to Downing College and I study Human, Social and Political Sciences. Pretty broadly, my interests are travel; I love travelling around the globe and I’ve been to 33 countries now. I’m also very interested in Politics, hence my degree.

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What does CHILDSPLAY mean to you?

Matthew  

To me, it just means freedom to wear what you want, what you're comfortable with. Break through any norms you want and wear what looks best on you. 

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What was the casting experience like for you?

Matthew  

I was walking back from the Porters Lodge where I was collecting mail one day, and I saw the sign saying ‘Casting’ for the fashion show. The building was by my accommodation so I saw it by chance. I walked in, waited for five minutes, did my walk and got in! I'm very much of the opinion that you might as well try things. 

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Why did you want to take part in the show? 

Matthew

Good Instagram photos.

A model on the runway. Image: The Cambridge Satchel Co.

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Thank you to CUCFS for having us, and thank you to the committee and Ama Otuo, photographer, for providing us with images.