While an eco fashion show raising money for Comic Relief in an Oxford nightclub may not sound as glamorous as front row seats at Marc Jacobs' first London Fashion Week show, the Ethical Fashion Forum did their damndest to make sure it was as close to the real thing as possible.
The show started nearly an hour later than expected - although guests were mollified with a range of canapes - and there was enough chaos front of house to keep any fashionista happy. Separating the Oxford venture from the world of high fashion was the homely touches: coltish students practicing their model walks along a line of white tape on the floor, proud parents arguing over the operation of their digital cameras, and groups of boys wolf-whistling at every sashay.
The clothes themselves were an interesting mix of vintage and eco-designer, and while it was good to be reminded that eco includes vintage - reusing is better than recycling, people - it seemed bizarre to waste catwalk space on clothing from Oxfam's vintage selection (at least 15 outfits) when the original eco designers only showed four or five pieces each. The vintage point would have been as well made by the shoes and accessories the models carried as by the endless stream of achingly trendy outfits artfully assembled from racks of old clothes.
**Suchi'**s showing was one of the more modern sections of the show, filled with textured fabrics, crochet, and ethnic prints. Particularly stunning were a crochet top with bell sleeves, and a Grecian-style crochet dress.
The Sari Dress Project 2006 was the next line featured, and as the name suggests leant heavily on the use of sari fabrics in their designs. Most of the clothes shown were tops, and while the sari detailing worked beautifully in the strappy tops - some had corset lacing at the back, others were made entirely from sari fabric while others had strips as accents - a notable failure was a one-shoulder top that looked like a cushion. It was so hideous that it broke the camera, as that frame came out black.
Then came the designs from Amira, which seemed from the selection on display to be fairly samey - lots of belted shirt dresses in Aloha prints (that's Hawaiian shirt fabric, fact fans) and a printed A-line sundress with spaghetti straps. More beachwear than anything else, and even then only on the world's most touristy beaches.
Emma Design showed next, and while the designs may not be to everyone's taste her collection stood out as it was the only one to use eco fabrics and practices to make modern designs that showed any awareness of the fashion zeitgeist. While it wasn't the high-end clothing of Fashion Weeks around the world, it was the geek chic look seen on the streets of Britain - high halterneck tops in Argyle prints, wool bandeaux tops with mid-length skirts, strapless A-line babydoll dresses, and tunic tops that looked like sleeveless cardigans. All very Ugly Betty - in the good sense.
Other exhibitors included the vintage department of Oxfam's first shop, based in Oxford's Broad Street; Debbie Little, who makes clothes from recycled parachutes in true Blitz fashion; Amira Harris, who designs garments using organic Indian cotton; and Judith Condor-Vidal, from Trading for Development.