College fashion shows are ten a penny in the second term at Durham. Traditionally held in February, they are a highlight in the Durham social calendar. Yet, despite their notoriety and popularity, little is revealed about what it’s like to run such events. In this piece, I’ll lift the lid on what it’s been like for me to direct my college’s fashion show, hopefully encouraging you to get involved in your college’s fashion show as well.
It’s okay to get things wrong
Throughout directing, I got plenty of things wrong. I organised a club night which was barely attended. I didn’t decide on a venue until Christmas. I didn’t plan any choreography. The list could go on. Yet, whilst these weren’t my finest hours and my skin still crawls with second-hand embarrassment from them, it was okay for me to make those mistakes. They are hallmarks showing I cared.
A strong network is everything
I could not have done it without my friends and family. Regular phone calls home and big hugs anchored me, reminding me of life beyond the fashion show. A strong network supports you through the good, the bad and the occasional ugly cry. My network was there to lean into when times got tough and when it was time to celebrate.
There is a difference between opinions and advice
A lot of people told me their opinions: I hadn’t done this or I should have done that. Opinions cluttered my mind. What I really needed was advice – how could I have organised that better? What could I have done differently? It was in this time of need, that I learnt opinions are put across differently to advice. Advice often comes from a place of wanting to help. Opinions come from a place of I could do better than you did.
Good feedback is worth its weight in gold
A few weeks before the show, I was stressed and doubted myself. I could not tell how I was performing as a director so I asked my right-hand man, my treasurer for some feedback. To which he responded ‘Zoe you don’t understand people who work as hard as you.’ It stuck with me as I needed to respect my team so in the final few weeks that’s what I did. That piece of feedback was worth its weight in gold.
Internal vs external validation
Whilst I was packing away the final bits of the show, I chatted to the comperes, one of whom reminded me I should be proud of myself. To which I screwed up my face: I didn’t feel proud of myself. I focused on our missed fundraising target and analysed everything I could have done better. In the subsequent weeks and months after, I’ve been racked with those thoughts but I’ve learnt an essential lesson – no amount of external validation will ever make you feel proud of yourself. It has to come from you. Whilst it may take me a little time to feel fully proud of myself, I am very grateful for this crucial lesson.
As is evident, I’ve learnt lots of things from directing this fashion show. Many of which I didn’t expect to learn. Thus, college fashion shows are the perfect place to learn not just about how to organise these events but also to learn more about yourself. So as fashion show exec application season opens, give it a go: who knows what you might learn!
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