Diary Of A Runway Show At Fashion Week

Diary Of A Runway Show At Fashion Week

There’s something magical about a fashion show. The excitement… the anticipation. What we see on the runway is the culmination of months of hard work, sweat and tears. So how does a fashion designer carry a collection through from idea to catwalk? I was delighted to talk to founder of GWEN&SYD, Eve Tokens, long-time Offset Warehouse customer, to explore her catwalk experience. Read on as she discusses participating in Brighton Fashion Week and everything that led up to it.

Eve’s commitment to sustainability in fashion is evident, but what I also love is her gentle approach to the theme of decay and death – something we ought to consider not only in regards to our own mortality but to those of our surrounding ecosystems in the midst of a fast fashion whirlwind.

Eve Tokens’ Diary of a Designer at Brighton Fashion Week

In 2015 I was able to show the most recent collection for my sustainable fashion brand GWEN&SYD at Brighton fashion week. It was an exciting time for me, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed! I had looked into showing collections at other locations around the world – there is also the Ethical Fashion show in Berlin – but nothing stood out to me as being as small and as eccentric as Brighton Fashion Week. Brighton is also recognised as one of the most ‘green’ places in the UK, heightening it’s appeal.

I showed my collection ‘Shinigami’ on the Sustain catwalk. There were quite a few of us committed to being fully sustainable, and it was great to see such innovation and experimentation throughout the different collections, utilising a range of approaches from upcycling and recycled fibres to natural dyes.

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A look by Eve for her line Gwen & Syd’s collection ‘Shinigami’, made with organic cotton.


Getting Ready

I worked hard to have the 2D designs completed and ready to send through to the Brighton Fashion Week team quite early, as they needed to know the styles of all the collections to work out the show’s running order. Once I had the collection planned and patterns cut, I had to consider the measurements of each look in order to select the model group I wanted to use. This side of planning was like a jigsaw. We had model information consisting of bust, waist, hips and shoe size, and a photo too, but nothing else. No fittings would take place until the morning of the show!

I had decided to use a frayed, distressed effect throughout the collection, inspired by the paintings of Fuyuko Matsui. In Japan people used to be to hang grotesque or supernatural paintings above the entrance to their home. This was to ‘terrify’ anyone inclined to creep into the home while the men were away, thus acting as protection. The tradition died out, as did the style of painting, but Fuyuko Matsui is keen to bring it back to contemporary Japan.

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‘Carved Limbs on an Altar’ by Fuyuko Matsui – the Japanese painter that inspired Eve’s collection

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‘Scattered Deformities in the End’ – Fuyuko Matsui

This is why there are frayed and worn sections on my garments; some have hems trailing the floor as if the skin is worn and dragging along. The maxi dress has ‘veins’ growing organically across it. There are three pieces in the collection which have been sewn with the wrong sides together, and the seam allowance then hand frayed to look like the puckered raised surface of healing wounds.

This hand distressing was the most time-consuming aspect of the collection, and I was still fraying seams up until show time – which only served to increase the excitement!

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Photo by Malcolm Tam

The Day

Show day itself, I was a mess. A friend had booked me a room at a hotel in Brighton as a surprise, so that I didn’t have to travel down early on the day, but I still barely slept. The excitement was just too much! We had to be ‘on set’ for 9am with our collections, but I think I arrived at about 8am, just to ‘be sure’.

The main backstage room was divided up into three areas with dozens of hanging rails. The place was filled with nerves and anxiety, I unpacked my garments and loaded them onto the rail. I had prepped the night before, and labelled everything – numbered the different pieces in each look, organised the styling; everything was properly labelled based on the models I had been assigned a week or two before. Other than some time spent hand fraying more seams, I was all set. Or so I thought.

Then it was fitting time, and I discovered that some of the model measurements I’d been given weren’t quite accurate, and that one of my models hadn’t even shown up. I was given a new girl, this meant rejigging the entire collection, reallocating looks to different models.  The fitting and change of models meant I was hand sewing darts, hems and fastenings as well as hand fraying up until a moment or two before the show, even following a model around the back stage room pinning lose straps in place, and ‘jiggling up’ the frayed seams.

One of Eve's looks, using one of my favourite of our ikats

One of Eve’s looks, using one of my favourite of our ikats

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One of Eve’s looks, using one of my favourite of our Thai handwoven ikat textiles. One of our most popular fabrics it sold out in a few weeks! But we have lots of beautiful, new fabrics in the shop.

Show Time

Finally, it was show time. I had three of my models still walking in the first of Brighton Fashion Week’s two shows, so I had with me a dresser, and we were planning on stripping the girls as soon as they came off stage and throwing my pieces on them. My first model to walk out was Maika. She was wearing my favourite piece from the collection – the spliced dress, made in a loosely woven organic cotton. Unfortunately, she was one of the last girls to come off for the previous collection.

The music was called Satto, an instrumental piece by Katsutoshi Nagasawa, with a slow, sombre feel. It had a nice long introduction which meant the audience were kept waiting. It worked though, as the introduction built up suspense while I quickly changed Maika into her dress!

Standing backstage, watching the screens as my models walked down the catwalk was incredible. I had participated in other shows, the other notable one being Graduate Fashion Week, but this one was the best yet. To see something which you have been completely in charge of come to life in the way you envisaged is such an amazing feeling.

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Gwen & Syd hits the runway!

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‘Shinigami’ on th runway.
Photo by Malcolm Tam

Sustainable Choices

The choice to use organic and fair trade fabrics was made early on, before I had even designed the collection. I made the decision to make the entire collection in white. The only colour came from the handwoven Ikat from Thailand, which was a pale taupe and navy. For me, it was important to use pure fabrics, for two reasons. Firstly, it rang true with the collection’s concept. ‘Shinigami’ in Japanese means death, and death in Japan is represented by the colour white. The second reason was that, since graduating from my fashion degree, and working in the industry, I was becoming very aware of the waste and exploitation that comes with fashion.

When you are studying fashion, you can get caught up in the creation of it, almost as though fashion is ‘art’. But there is no art form I know of that creates as much waste as the fashion industry; that creates so much environmental damage as the fashion industry; that creates an environment of exploitation for workers, like the fashion industry does. As such, I decided that if I were to continue working within the field of fashion, I would have to be doing it differently. But how could one person make a difference to this global issue?

What Now?

Each of the designers I showed with at Brighton Fashion Week were ‘just one person’ doing their bit. And enough of us working together made an impact. We all went our separate ways after the show, and have continued making an impact in our own individual endeavours.

My experience at Brighton Fashion Week did leave on overall impression on me; I realised that what I wanted to do more than anything is teach and inform others. I set up my new business with the aim of teaching and inspiring those who’d love to make their own fashion – but for themselves. Yes there are hundreds of sewing blogs out there. But my site The Creative Curator not only teaches sewing skills, but aims to develop those skills to a professional standard. I’m for a sewing revolution, where we go back to the old ways of making beautiful fashion pieces for ourselves, and we can all feel like individuals again.

I hope you enjoyed Eve’s Fashion Show Diary as much as I did! Whether you’re climbing a career ladder in the design industry, or setting up your own brand, I started this blog to help designers be successful. If you like these articles, then please do sign up to our monthly newsletter, where I roundup all the latest posts.  You can tweet the article using the tweet buttons throughout the article and below.

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  • […] seriously meticulous sewing skills and an inspiring commitment to sustainability. You may have read my blog post back in January in which Eve describes her experience of showing her collection at one the world’s only […]

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