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#ManchesterFW Opening Night Couture

Natalie in She Shore by Karina So. for Ses Rêveries at Manchester Fashion Week 2016

Tucked away in one of Deansgate's prettier backstreets, no doubt unbeknownst to the starving artists and struggling musicians attracted to its affordable bar scene like bees to a honey pot come happy hour, Manchester Fashion Week 2016 kicked off at the Castlefield Rooms with a modest bang on Monday.

Maryam Bitrus in Shan Clothing Club by Karina So. for Ses Rêveries at Manchester Fashion Week 2016

Monday May 23, 2016

Pandorella by Karina So. for Ses Rêveries at Manchester Fashion Week 2016
From beautiful dancing children swathed in tiers of tulle to the blocked out brows and hot pink lips of the older models, my first official fashion week experience was quite the spectacle. With this only being McrFW's second instalment under the lovely Amanda Moss' management, it wasn't without its teething problems. There were far more people than seats making the hall feel even more like an incubator as the heat took its toll. The music choices and changes were questionable. They could have done with another rehearsal or two, particularly the final walk down the runway and who the host - British television's Jenny Powell, an absolute delight - would be bringing out onstage and when. Some looks were in dire need of a few pins here and there for a better fit.

But tolerance thresholds were high and looking on the bright side was unsurprisingly easy.

Considering the dynamic in the global fashion industry at large today, the biggest achievement by far was the diversity both on and off the runway. If Ms Moss' aim was to make fashion feel more accessible, she can consider Manchester Fashion Week '16 a triumph already. In front of a mixed crowd of media types, real estate agents and engineering postgraduates alike, children's clothing brand Pandorella saw a little woman walk alongside the most adorable little girls in aid of the National Autistic Society while the Wardrobe Boutique had models of all ages and ethnicities walk their designs down the runway to represent their target demographic: "women aged eleven to ninety-two." With recurring Afrocentric motifs throughout and fairer ethnic representation on the runway than we're used to, opening night was perfectly symbolic of Manchester's polyculturalism and, unlike the perceived consensus across the pond in America, our willingness to accept the fact.

Also symbolic of the host city were the prevailing style subcultures on offer. Urban streetwear reigned supreme with designers like My Common Goods and Junq Couture while the Fashion Pony and Pascaline Couture catered to the sophisticated, ultra-feminine glamour of the modern woman.

Kapital in Shan Clothing Club by Karina So. for Ses Rêveries at Manchester Fashion Week 2016
My Common Goods by Karina So. for Ses Rêveries at Manchester Fashion Week 2016

As several beloved established fashion houses adjust to the sudden shifts in their leadership and/or brand identity perhaps to keep up with the times, it's even more refreshing experiencing collections without the dogeared mental encyclopaedia of their aesthetic and storied past to compare it to. A clean slate makes for a wide berth of expectations with plenty of room for surprise, very little for disappointment - a winning combination in my books.

Carly B by Karina So. for Ses Rêveries at Manchester Fashion Week 2016

Another highlight: live music during intermission. Carly B (above), a local upcoming pop singer entertained us first with her own material, an interesting empowerment anthem I believe was titled Runway. The follow-up however was definitely more my speed, Mancunian rapper Kapital (below) who pulled a double act as a model that night as well, with two of his own singles.

Kapital by Karina So. for Ses Rêveries at Manchester Fashion Week 2016

Sponsored by FashionE Retail Solutions, the fairly new jewellery brand Fiyah Jewellery and a host of other local businesses, opening night was a delightful representation of the talent coming in and out of North-West England and more importantly, an indication of Manchester's potential to rival the (fashion) capital.

By the end of the night, despite having stood through nine shows juggling a camera and notebook, I felt invigorated - enough to stay for drinks with one of the investors' representatives and his friends from Zimbabwe as they courted some of the models with a very exciting business proposal I'm actually really looking forward to seeing come to fruition.

Bring on Day Two.


Individual show reviews will be posted shortly.

I was a guest at FashionE Manchester Fashion Week 2016 as a member of the press c/o Amanda Moss and Amanda Moss PR.

photography by yours truly

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