What is most obvious upon arriving at the Glasgow University Fashion Show (GUCFS) introductory shoot is the contrasts: the models are wearing simple, neutral clothes that accentuate the striking red of their makeup, and the shoot is pared back with the accessories limited to red gauze, rose petals, and a step ladder. The urban background of the Stevenson’s squash courts feels at odds with the elegance and poise of the models, yet all this serves to create an intimate atmosphere with a focus on the creative team (David Morley and Larisa Hamilton) assisting Anna Dunlop in photographing the models. The mood is still light, with Kim Farren (one of two fashionwear coordinators) shooting behind the scenes shots and joking around to help welcome the models. This year GUCFS aims to focus on empowerment and resilience to strengthen the message of Glasgow Women’s Aid (a local charity that supports women, young people and children who have been affected by domestic violence), and this is clearly reflected in the first introductory model shoot.
GUCFS is the largest student fundraiser in Glasgow and, as such, was always going to attract attention. As it returns for its sixth year, people know to expect big moves from GUCFS. Since forming in 2014 for their first show in 2015, GUCFS has raised more than £85,000 for its charities, with last year’s donation coming in at £34,130.79 for Simon Community Scotland. Creatively, the opportunities GUCFS provides include the show itself and numerous photoshoots, such as the introductory model shoot.
One of the models, Nathan Stringer, explained why he got involved with GUCFS, highlighting how everyone was “obviously doing it for a good cause”. GUCFS is focused on attracting first years into positions as brand ambassadors and models through their Freshers’ Week events. Brand Ambassadors and models serve to promote GUCFS and its chosen charities, whilst taking part in fundraising and other events GUCFS hosts. These roles can often lead to committee positions, and this year GUCFS has made a conscious effort to widen its reach across campus. Despite it being his first shoot, Nathan is excited to see where the rest of the year takes him explaining that “as a fresher I don’t really know anyone…you feel welcome straight away”.
GUCFS’ Creative Director David Morley reinforces this message, highlighting how he wants to “showcase the beauty and diversity of the student body”. David was a model in last year’s show and, after enjoying his experience, was keen to get more involved in the society. Following critiques of the society’s practice of scouting, GUCFS has moved away from model scouting to focus more on encouraging everyone to apply for model castings through the opportunity to nominate your friends, and a bigger focus on PRing castings in general. Through this, GUCFS has attracted 26 models from across campus that highlight the diversity of Glasgow’s student body. David notes this has moved away from scouting, explaining models were chosen based “mainly on fundraising ideas and keenness to help out with the charity”. However, he acknowledges that there are still steps to be taken in terms of encouraging a wider range of people to come to castings. GUCFS’ president, Beth O’Shea backed this up, reiterating “we want GUCFS to represent the student body of Glasgow and this year, by opening anonymous model nominations for everyone to get involved with, we’ve really been able to lay the foundations of making castings a place where everyone, no matter who they are, feels comfortable and confident in their ability”.
As creative director, David is particularly excited for this shoot. From modelling last year, he remembers his admiration for the previous Creative Director, Fiona Hanna, and her ability to make sure her vision was visible in every aspect of the shoot. This shoot is David’s first chance to set the creative tone for the year to come following a “whirlwind transition”, and the pressure this creates is balanced by the excitement in finally being able to put creative pen to paper. With 26 models to direct, the operation needs to run smoothly and the stress of this is evident, but the team still manages to have fun, taking the chance to snap behind the scenes photos of each other and laugh with the models.
Perhaps that’s what feels so exciting about being on set at the shoot, as the feeling of growth and renewal permeates everything about the shoot. The models are encouraged to inject their personality into the shoot and this feels like their chance to make a statement about who they want to be in the society. GUCFS holds charity in the centre of what they do. Every member of the committee, the Brand Ambassadors, and the models are all required to individually fundraise for Glasgow Women’s Aid, and GUCFS also runs fundraisers (like Jailbreak and Open Decks) aimed at increasing involvement from the wider student body throughout the year. The values of the charity are intertwined with the creative expression of the show: David aims to reflect the inner strength and courage of domestic abuse survivors.
GUCFS is, as much as any other society, a product of its past. This is somewhat of a double edged sword: its reputation for pulling off one of the largest events on campus has no doubt helped it achieve its massive annual growth in donations, but its past mistakes are equally prominent. The student body remembers the criticisms levelled at GUCFS over their history of model scouting, lack of diversity, and initial difficulties in setting up the show. Yet, part of what is so exciting about university societies is the way each year’s committee inject their own personality into the direction the society takes. With a new committee comes a new sense of purpose and motive. This year, GUCFS is focused on growth. They’re striving to do better and trying to be the best they can be, something that is much needed amongst the uncertainties of the chaotic outside world. This growth is focused on embracing inner strength and beauty, ideals that are deeply rooted in the work of Women’s Aid and that are reflected in the theme of the society’s work this year. The introductory model shoot is GUCFS’ first chance to show this off, and hints at exciting things to come.
[Catherine Bouchard – she/her & Courtney Hughes – she/her]
[Image: Kim Farren]