The Genteel
July 3, 2020


DON'T WALK 2012 models. Photograph by Alena Jascanka.

The lights dim. A pounding beat begins to swell and fill your ears. A spotlight appears and pulls your eye to the end of the catwalk. A model struts out from backstage, saunters down the runway, and strikes a pose. 

And then she breaks into dance.

As the audience cheers, the parade continues. The next model emerges, high-fiving members of the crowd as he makes his way through the flashing lights of the cameras.

DW 2012 models. Photograph by
Alena Jascanka.

Ten short years after Kate Middleton famously strode through the first 2002 show in her notorious see-through dress, DW has raised over £100,000 for various charities. Funds from this year's show will go to Zamcog, a charity dedicated to raising funds for the Shitima School in Zambia. The school provides education, shelter and food to over 300 orphans, former street kids and other vulnerable children. The funds raised by DW 2012 will go towards building a Sixth Form wing, where students will be prepared for the chance to go to university.

DW's fight for individuality and self-expression is also fought on behalf of these students, says the show's creative director and St. Andrews student Soukaina Ben Ali. Zamcog aims to give these students the same voice of individuality that resonates through DW's shows each year by giving them a chance at education, says Ben Ali. Children who would otherwise be living in great deprivation are given the chance to fulfill their potential and change their lives.

The fight for freedom of expression has been one of the 2012 show's biggest inspirations, says Ben Ali. The revolutions of the Arab Spring have inspired a running theme of the individual human experience. Ben Ali explains that the emphasis on expressing oneself is an important idea, but also one that has allowed everyone behind DW 2012 to have fun along the way.

Kate McFarland: Why did you get involved with DW?

Soukaina Ben Ali: In my first year at St. Andrews, I met then-Creative Director Sophie Cole and was really inspired by her. To be honest, university charity shows weren't something I really had too much interest in. But as soon as I heard about the charity, which was Invisible Children, I fell in love with it and really wanted to be a part of DW. I started out as a model. Each year I fall deeper and deeper in love with the show.

Photograph by Alena Jascanka.

KM: In your own words, how would you describe DW 2012?

SBA: Real and relaxed. Each member of the committee takes their role very seriously, but never too much to impinge on the fun we have along the way. Similarly, the models see DW as an opportunity to have fun, express themselves and give back, rather than as a beauty pageant.

KM: What were some of the inspirations behind this year's show?

SBA: This year I have been inspired by revolution - Arab Spring for example, which has lead to notions of human experience and individuality. A constant theme throughout our photo shoots this year has been that of the individual and his relation to society. Ultimately the aim has been to accentuate the individual and to capture individual human experience. We have found that the only thing that really matters is what we experience; conforming to ideals that don't interest us seems futile. We therefore think that fighting for the right to express oneself is of paramount importance. This fight for freedom has been a constant inspiration for me.

KM: How is this year's show different from previous years?

SBA: This year I decided to commit to using analogue photography, which ironically was quite a new concept compared to previous years. This choice has allowed us to really accentuate the complexity of the models as individuals. There is an undeniable element of film photography that is more authentic and human. This year’s show is going to be much more theatrical than ever and we aspire to translate concepts that have been present throughout the year on stage.

Photograph by Alena Jascanka.

KM: What do you think makes DW so unique?

SBA: I think the fact that we are not necessarily part of the fashion industry but are committed to creating new concepts through art and fashion makes us pretty unique. Instead of creating a generic fashion show, simulating industrial catwalk shows, we endeavour to mix things up and in the end produce a show created by 'real' people which is enacted by 'real' people.

KM: What's your favourite part of DW? 

SBA: The privilege of giving life to ideas and images I have swimming around in my mind is one I will never forget and will forever be grateful for.

KM: Why do you think Zamcog and the Shitima School are important causes? 

SBA: It's so easy to think of places like Zambia as being so far away, and to think that our help won't go very far. But after visiting the school, I am a firm believer that every little thing you do helps. We not only spent a lot of time with the younger residents of Shitima, but we also got to know quite a few of the older students too. They have so much potential and very few outlets to fulfil it.

As young people who have such an amazing platform to unleash our creative potential, I think it very appropriate that we try to help give the same opportunities to those who do not have them. After visiting Shitima, I really hope we are able to build a music room for the pupils and get some instruments in there!

Photograph by Alena Jascanka.

KM: What are some of the challenges in putting on the show?

SBA: Quite honestly, the biggest challenge is getting people to listen to us, or to look at what we do! To convince people that what we are doing says something about youth culture, and that we are relevant! 

KM: What has been the most interesting part of putting DW together so far? 

SBA: Collaborating with artists outside of St. Andrews has been the most interesting part of the process! Meeting [photographer] Alena Jascanka and having her meet all the wonderful models! Most of my fondest memories are of our shoots. During her first shoot, Alena was trapped on a rock, knee deep in the North Sea, insistent on getting a certain shot of one of our models, Mossy. And on our last shoot, I had the idea of going into our local tattoo parlour and asking the artist if he would mind letting one of models tattoo a client of his for our shoot… he was surprisingly compliant! And we got the shot!

KM: What do you hope to see in DW's future? 

SBA: I hope to see DW continue to push boundaries and create new paths, to continue to represent youth culture and never sell out.

Learn more about DON'T WALK and this year's show on their website.



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