Don't walk: two words that most people would never associate with fashion, let alone a fashion show. Nonetheless, it is this very name that has become prominent in the small town of St Andrews, notorious for its infamous parties, fashion shows and most importantly its tendency to raise controversy in a setting of seeming tranquillity.
DONT WALK was born as an organization in the year 2001. Sparking a flashbulb memory among most of us, this year stands for the time when, as a generation, we witnessed history unfold before our very eyes. It took 102 minutes for the traumatic events we have come to call '9/11' to progress, subsequently changing the way we perceive the world and its threats. Far away from it all, a group of students in the middle of nowhere got together and rather than mourning, they chose to celebrate New York and its characteristics. Consequently, our name was inspired by the city itself - by the street signs you see at every corner.
Although we found our inspiration in New York twelve years ago, the organization today has little left to do with New York per se. Instead, it is more a philosophy that we have adopted and developed over the past years. DONT WALK has always been an organization dedicated to philanthropy through art, fashion and creativity. Realizing the power and relevance that both fashion and art have in the discourse of political affairs and daily events, we have chosen to use these as the means of communication between us and our audience. This precise component is what remains DONT WALK's most distinctive characteristic. Having the academia and history of St Andrews as our backdrop only adds to our unconventional nature as a fashion show. DONT WALK has encroached upon the traditions of this historic town, standing in direct contrast to it, allowing an unorthodox way of raising issues and controversy.
DONT WALK prides itself on the fact that it throws some of the best events in this town, yet it is this particular aspect that has consistently been exposed to scrutiny. Simultaneously, it is this particular criticism that raises interest among DONT WALK's committee members. Our charitable aspect and our element of celebration seem to be a combination that people have perceived incompatible. Yet it is precisely this point that we disagree with. This distinct contrast between two colliding worlds is what we have come to find as the most powerful means to orchestrate a message. We use elements of a world we are all familiar with and set them against something that we may perceive as unfamiliar. It is then that a discussion is created through the work that we do. Quite consciously we exploit the contrast that is naturally created between the world that we live in and the world of the individuals whom we support. This allows us to highlight the inequalities and growing inconsistencies that exist and that should command people's attention.
We have dedicated ourselves to not only providing an outlet for young designers and artists but also to using our name to put on one of the most anticipated performances in St Andrews. During the show, we invite our audience to consider and engage with the abstract discussion we initiate about the political agenda we support. We assume a theatrical approach, where people become our canvas, and where fashion becomes the means through which we tell a story. For this very reason our show is divided into two main sections, our openings becoming the most important component of the show. It is at the start of each section that we plant into the minds of our audience a thought of something we want them to leave with. Whether the discussion is appreciated by those who come to watch the show, or whether it is dismissed, does not lessen its importance and its presence. Any art form can have an overwhelming feeling once people allow themselves to be consumed by it, as it has the tendency to break its way into our thoughts in a manner that is uncontrolled. DONT WALK uses visual art such as photography, film and graphics in combination with music and fashion to intensify the experience, hoping to stimulate emotions and reactions. When we achieve these things, we have done justice to what we aim to do. Whether it is a positive or negative reaction remains irrelevant. Art that doesn't get people to think, that doesn't evoke a reaction, does not matter. Thus, our purpose has never been to create something beautiful, but instead to create something critical, something that pushes our comfort zones. Within this context, art becomes a language of its own: it converses in ways we may not initially understand but it nonetheless vocalizes matters in a very unique way.
Developing and producing everything 'in house' not only allows us to showcase the talents that we have so close to home, but more importantly it gives us the rare chance to portray the message we want to convey to the public in the exact manner we intend to. Being in control of the process allows us to distinctly establish a message on behalf of the agendas we support; we guide the direction we want people to think in. That is not to say that we hope to impose a certain manner of thinking, quite the contrary, it is the diverse reactions we evoke that become the most interesting aspect of our work: all we hope to do is facilitate this discussion.
Certainly, our approach is controversial, but it is this controversy that we thrive on. By causing discomfort we simultaneously create the opportunity of a new realm to think about certain matters. We all have the ability to think, we all have the capacity to create, yet the fact that we all go about it in such different ways creates the diversity we aim to highlight. Once you have managed to converse on a topic in an unorthodox way, you have created the opportunity to engage with the subject in a new manner. To be inspired and to inspire is all anyone can wish for and it is this rare chance that we have been given. That is what those two words - DONT WALK - have come to stand for.