The ninth annual Aberdeen Fashion Week made a colourful return to the Granite City’s live events calendar last week with a runway show at The Aberdeen Altens Hotel, and Jacqueline Wake Young was there to see it.
The red carpet has been rolled up, the hair straighteners have cooled down and the make-up remover has done its job.
Aberdeen Fashion Week is over for another year and while the models massage their weary feet and the designers fold their clothing, some of those involved talk about their passion for design and why they think it matters.
After a digital-only showcase in 2021, this year’s live runway show was a high-energy affair at The Aberdeen Altens Hotel with designers and models from across the UK.
In total 21 designers took part in the fashion week, which also included an online, international showcase with designers from as near as Ireland and as far away as the Philippines.
It took an army of hair, nail and make-up artists to get everyone ready, with GlamCandy make-up academy sending students and tutors from its Aberdeen and Edinburgh centres and The Studio at Union Point creating a key sleek hair style that worked for all designs.
Last Saturday’s live event saw work from 12 labels, including Kemunto by Lydia Cutler, who founded Aberdeen Fashion Week in 2013 with the aim of promoting local and international artists.
Lydia Cutler, founder and managing director of Aberdeen Fashion Week
Designer Lydia Cutler decided to set up the event nine years ago having showcased her own work on the international stage, including shows in New York, London, Melbourne, Nairobi and Port Harcourt.
Originally from Kenya, she moved to Scotland 20 years ago from England where she had been studying for her Masters Degree in Education.
“I met Russell in Leeds and got married; we are divorced now, unfortunately, but are still very good friends. We moved to Aberdeen in 2002,” she said.
She has “three amazing boys” – Franklin, Stallone and Halton – aged 24, 22 and 17, and now lives in Peterculter.
“I just decided to start a fashion week here to promote our local designers. I wanted to promote fashion designers at home and also internationally.
“I am extremely passionate about what I do; it’s hard work but I am always up for a challenge,” she said.
“My colleagues Bench Bello, Claire Louise, Ali Campbell and Stallone Matini always help to the best of their capacity, this way we get to have an amazing show.”
Lydia’s interest in fashion started at a very young age.
“I started sketching at eight years old, then did fashion design and tailoring at high school.
“I did a few short courses here and there and started making and trading as a fashion designer in 2008.
Travelling the world
“My work in fashion took me to Australia, England, the USA, Kenya, Nigeria and several shows in Scotland.
“I had a bridal shop, Kemunto on Castlegate, Aberdeen. It’s now closed due to personal reasons.
“I work with passion and love for what I create, I also make crochet dresses besides bridal wear.”
Lydia has showcased her work at the UN headquarters in New York and last month was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Art and Culture by the United Nations Global Marketplace – a trade and development arm of the organisation.
Lydia is editor in chief for Fashion Art Media Magazine and has a YouTube channel called Fashion Art Media TV.
Since 2017 she has honoured creatives from around the world with her Fashion Art Media awards.
And in between all of that she has been a high school teacher for Aberdeen City Council since 2002.
Asked which designers she most admires, she said: “I think every designer that creates a piece that is worn is amazing, however I do admire our local designer Angela Thouless.
“She started her fashion design journey at Aberdeen Fashion Week but now sells in several countries around the world. Such amazing talent in art as well.”
Asked why she thinks fashion is so important, Lydia said: “Everything we wear daily was made by a fashion designer who was focused enough to make it happen.
“Fashion is a universal language and a very beautiful one.”
Paulina Siembor-Smith, creative director at GlamCandy
GlamCandy teaches courses including SQA and SCQF accredited courses with bases in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dunfermline.
Students experience working on photo shoots and fashion shows for brands such as Netflix, Specsavers, Gok Wan and London Fashion Week.
This year GlamCandy added Aberdeen Fashion week to its portfolio, with graduates doing make-up at the event led by tutors Rhiannon Soutar and Morgan Milne as key artists.
Paulina explained what makes fashion show make-up different and the creative process involved.
“You can really enhance models’ features with natural but super-glowing make-up but also you can be very creative and think outside the box as an artist if the designer or organiser requires so,” said Paulina.
“There is always a lead artist and for this show it was myself who designed the make-up looks.
“The lead artist works closely with the designer or fashion show organiser and provides them with make-up ideas, with mood boards and face charts to suit the style of clothes for the show.
“Once they are happy with the chosen looks, the team of make-up artists is put together to do these looks alongside the key artist.
“Lead artists always have one or more key artists that supervise the whole team and ensure that looks are to a very high standard and meeting the given brief.
“When you design a look for a fashion show you have to keep in mind the theme of the show and the style of the designer and their collection.
“Make-up looks have to enhance the garments and not distract from the designer’s pieces.
“A fashion show is a very fast-paced environment so you have to be super fast, great at multitasking when executing precise make-up looks in very little time and you have to be strict with timing and detail oriented.
“Most of the time you are doing make-up on the model and at the same time the hair stylist is doing hair and the manicurist is doing their nails.
“You have to be confident to work around this and work as a team. So it’s almost the most stressful and most rewarding experience at the same time.
“There is this adrenalin rush that helps you power through all that hard work and to see your looks on the main catwalk makes you feel that it was all worth it.
Asked how she became involved in this line of work, Paulina said: “Since I was a little girl I loved crafts and art; I was a ballroom dancer so for the competitions I had to do my own make-up and absolutely fell in love with it.
“I decided to study fashion make-up because when your passion turns into a job you will never feel that you worked a day in your life.
“I’ve been a freelance make-up artist working for fashion magazines, commercials, adverts and music videos.”
“I moved to Scotland from Poland 18 years ago and worked very hard on approaching people in the industry for photoshoots and fashion shows and so on, and it did pay off.”
Jade Duffield, designer
After studying Communication Design at Gray’s School of Art, Jade, 23, launched her own business, Jade Elizabeth, in 2020.
Her products, which include hand-sewn and eco-friendly accessories and gifts, featured at this year’s live event for the first time.
She said: “It started as a project throughout university but I chose to continue it as I truly loved what I was doing,” said Jade.
“My aim was to create sustainable fashion accessories using organic or recycled materials and encourage the world to shop locally and more sustainably.
“I have always loved fashion, I have been conscious of what I wore and how I styled things for a long time.
“It started with my auntie, she used to wear these over-sized leopard-print sunglasses with a black jumpsuit and had the longest acrylic nails always done up.
“She always wore quirky jewellery and I admired her style, it stood out to me and matched her fun personality.
“As I studied I realised I was drawn more to fashion itself and wanted to have my designs on everything fabric; it began with cushion covers but soon I realised I wanted to wear my work and learnt I could have it printed and sewn into different things. I started with my obsession – scarves.
“Fashion and design is important in creating individuality, it encourages people to express themselves in whatever ways they please and supports people to feel safe, warm and protected.
Power to change
“Design itself plays a huge role in the world; as designers we have the power to change how people think, use or act with a garment or product.
“We even have the power to change people’s mindset when designing ethical ways to better the world.
“Without designers we wouldn’t have the fashion, technology or even equipment that we have to this day.”
Jade is originally from Yorkshire but moved to Aberdeen “a long time ago” with her family.
“Ironically, I never studied fashion and textiles. In fact the last sewing ‘course’ I did was back in school in England.
“I went down the route of pattern designing, I learnt branding and developed skills in graphic design, I realised it was setting me up to build my own brand.
“The joy of being able to do something I am passionate about means a lot.
“It lets me live a life with a little less stress doing something that I truly believe in.
“For upcoming designers I recommend taking the leap and trust in your own work, I think the hardest part of design is believing in yourself and putting yourself out there.
“It’s a vulnerable thing to do, but people don’t need to fear it. Designers should make as many connections they can and get out there; the best way to do this is social media, we have the tools in front of us, we just have to use them.”
Joanne Stewart, model
Mum-of-three Joanne, 29, from Peterhead, has been modelling since she was a teenager and this was her third year at Aberdeen Fashion Week.
She described the rewards and challenges and even revealed the secret of how models make walking in heels look easy.
“My first taste of modelling was at Gray’s School of Art and from there on I always wanted to do modelling, I just felt so comfortable in front of the camera,” said Joanne.
“I enjoy many aspects of it from the amazing make-up artists, amazing clothes to the photos afterwards. It’s something I just love, seeing the finished project.
“It’s very demanding and you have to be willing to put in the work and also to have the energy to keep going as shoots and shows can be all day long.
“I’ve been very fortunate to be able to have done photo shoots all over Britain and taken part in lots of different shows and shoots.
“Being in a fashion show is a lot of things – it’s hard work, it’s fun, it’s exciting.
Running in heels
“The days can be long but it’s all worth it. You have to get fitted for the clothes, have your hair and make-up done and also you sometimes do have to run in between changes, so being able to walk and sometimes run in heels help – the shoes are easy to walk in if you practise enough, which I do around the house every day.
“Modelling can be a hard industry to get into. There are many ways to get into it from being scouted to going to castings.
“A lot of models are also self-made. But you have to never give up. Also modelling classes are a great thing to partake in as you learn valuable skills on how to pose and how to walk and so forth.
“My most enjoyable moment from modelling has to be the first time I got to model in Aberdeen Fashion Week – we had designers from all over the world and it was just amazing being able to walk the catwalk in some gorgeous pieces.”
Style report straight from the runway
Aberdeen Fashion Week in pictures