When I told my friend that I was attending a model casting, the sheepishness in my voice was audible. A professional model herself, she took part in the show a year previously, and I was desperate for advice. Compared to her, I felt like a wannabe hellbent on a level of rejection that bordered on masochism. She was more optimistic, suggesting what I should wear and wishing me luck. Despite my nerves, I decided to attend. I reasoned with myself that it would be useful industry research, something I could mention in future interviews. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for anything that demands high heels as the dress code. Whatever the reason, on 28 October, I headed down to The Whistle Stop Barber Shop to find out.
As the climax of Edinburgh Fashion Week, the Edinburgh Charity Fashion Show (ECFS) is now the largest student-run catwalk show in Britain. With up to fifty models involved in their events, wearing top designers from Charlotte Olympia to Topshop, you need only glance at their films or editorials to understand the level of work, creativity and professionalism that goes into constructing each show. The high energy and visual impact is intoxicating, pulling you into a world of neon lights and beautiful, smiling people. The 2017 show, taking place in March, promises to be even better.
There is something refreshing about stripping back your appearance to the bare minimum: Black jeans, grey top, clean face, and combed hair. As I walked up to (or stumbled – heels don’t fare well on Edinburgh’s cobbled streets) the casting location, I expected to feel exposed without my typical affectations. Instead, I felt excitedly naked, which did nothing but hinder my attempts to walk in a straight line.
ECFS is notable, compared to other fashion events, for the charity work at its heart. The new charitable partner for 2017 is Place2Be, a leading children’s mental health charity that counts the Duchess of Cambridge as its royal patron. The organisation works with primary and secondary schools to provide support to young people struggling to cope with a wide range of social issues.
The connection to Kate Middleton is perhaps fitting, as many people’s first exposure to the world of student fashion shows is the photo of the Duchess wearing that dress on the catwalk whilst attending St Andrews University. Connections to elitism and stories of cattiness have done nothing to make these shows feel more accessible. As someone who wants to work in the fashion industry, I have contemplated its flaws many times: the obsession with youth; the lack of diversity; a widespread disregard for environmental issues; its reliance on consumerism. I couldn’t help but wonder if, by auditioning to be a fashion model, I was condoning, or even perpetuating, these issues. I doubted I had anything new to offer.
My fears were instantly dispelled when I entered the casting. The friendly team asked questions about what we studied and our future career aspirations. I felt like a human, not just a blank canvas in a pair of heels. We discussed the theme of the show, ‘The Future of Fashion’ – a topical choice that can be interpreted to cover a whole range of areas, from technology to politics. I noticed immediately a focus on the personalities of the models (they even laughed when I panickily answered a question about my favourite cocktail with “Aperol Spritz”. Not my coolest moment).
As part of the process, I was asked to walk and pose, tell them my height and dress size, and have my photograph taken for them to refer to later. I was only there for a maximum of twenty minutes, and although my heart didn’t stop pounding, I left feeling reassured that it was a worthwhile experience.
ECFS’s interest in showcasing the artistic side of fashion is inspiring, and one of the reasons I love the industry. The fact that the event is in aid of the Place2Be charity only adds to the desire to be involved. Although I’m not convinced all model castings are as friendly, I would certainly recommend the experience to anyone with an interest in fashion. And did I get cast? You’ll have to come along in March to find out.