Sunday, 23 June 2013

#ESPspotlight Review: Rip The Runway UK, 9th June

Let me start off by saying, that if there was one thing that rang true and evident throughout this year's Rip The Runway UK fashion and music event, it was that a lot of staff put a lot of time, energy, heart, and dedication into the overall effort. It was very clear that the goal in mind was to provide a platform that many artists and designers would not have had access to otherwise; another fact impossible to miss, throughout each of my encounters with the very friendly and helpful staff on the night.

That being said, I'm sure that with the help of social media, the world now knows that the UK equivalent of the US hit show, did not go at ALL according to plan. And the reason for the lack of overall success, was because the organisational structure - or lack thereof - was clear and obvious for ALL in attendance to see. The lack of visible control over proceedings meant, that the wrong people came under fire for the public confusion. This hugely baffled me, because I watched a portion of the rehearsals and the stage management seemed - for the most part - to be under control? The reality of the situation boiled down to this: the stage management was not remotely tight enough, and the result was an overpacked, ill-timed programme, that started so late, and ran so long that audience members either left to catch their last mode of transport (which I missed) or, plain fell asleep trying to soldier on to the end (...which I did).

Had I not ignored my sense of foreboding when I arrived, and had to wait almost 45 minutes for my access wristband because the box office had run out, and the poor staff on the desk couldn't reach anyone to request more...or when no-one was assigned to provide the large crowd that had amassed with any information about designated seating and interview areas...or when I was informed (by a fellow attendee) that the 'red carpet area' was actually just one roped-off half of the foyer I had been waiting in, with four banner stands...well had I listened to my gut, then yes, I suppose you could say, that I had ample forewarning of how the night would pan out. What can I say in my defence, beyond I really try to give the benefit of the doubt...?

Now I wouldn't dare pretend I'm an authority on catwalk shows; but even I've attended enough (and watched enough ANTM) to know, that a mish-mash of models are not supposed to be walking without musical backing, either with live performances, or pre-recorded tracks. So at this point, I have to send another round of kudos to the models who bravely (and repeatedlywalked with no rhythmic accompaniment beyond the clicking of their own heels. A few of them half-naked to boot (yes I do mean footwear). Well done guys and gals - those of you able to disguise your annoyance and confusion did so with Academy Award-worthy brilliance!

Now that we've covered what was so ( wrong with the show, let's talk about the good points, of which there were many. Most of the stallholders I met were a great bunch of people, with a boatload of talent and important messages to showcase.

The ladies of apparel company iwhoretees provided some of the best entertainment of the night, just by being their funny, welcoming and down to earth selves with everyone who passed their stand including Yours Truly. Not a sour face was insight, instead leaving the grumbles to a few of their competitors, who shall remain unblogged. A word of advice to anyone fronting an exhibition stand, at any event: it doesn't take a rocket scientist to deduce that if you present yourself with an unwelcoming expression and body language, you will succeed in driving foot traffic exactly where you're sending it - in the direction of your far friendlier competitor. I'll take this opportunity to thank you misery guts for your lost sales on their behalf.

Kenza had some gorgeous large jewellery pieces that I would be lying if I said I wasn't partial to; and Nizz Cosmetics were on hand to provide model makeovers for those on their own fantasy catwalk for the night. After all, what's the point of a weave convention...(ahem) fashion show where the everyday girls don't get a chance to strut too? The most attention-worthy event of the entire night though, had to be the WAM Campaign stand, where I spoke with Michael, who educated me on their 'What About Me' programmes, dedicated to asking those in a position of influence, or with access to services of any kind, to volunteer with their registered charity and provide assistance and opportunities for Ghanaian children in need. They don't have, or need a Pugsey, or even your money (unless you want to donate); just your time, attention and care, for children who deserve many of the luxuries that us Westerners take for granted. Be sure to visit their website and see if there's something, anything that you can do to assist.

Colour Riot Nails were also on literal hand to continue the VIP experience, while Ghana Escapes provided the fantasy element for those inspired to globe trot post the night's runway experience. All the while one DJ Melody Kane expertly weathered one hell of a stormy night; unfairly bearing the brunt of audience blame for the obvious timing lapses throughout the show. Irrespective of the evident lack of communication with the SB:TV / Chelsea Football Club DJ, she did her best to cover her fellow stage team by dropping tune after hardcore tune, to distract from the incessant delays and mistimed walks

Opening act, Project G were one of the night's few success stories. The all-female dance troupe did a great job of placating an audience who had waited patiently for a good 90-minutes past the show's scheduled start time. 

With no programmes provided before, during (unless you count the microphone cattle calls), or after the show - despite requests  - it was absolutely impossible to credit the many, many designers for their work. You can however, get a look at some of what was showcased in the event's photo album, which you can find in the usual spot, on the ESP Ltd. Facebook Page.

All that's left for me to tell you about are the performers - the only other highlight on the night, barring one common gripe. What singular error could so many professionals make in the same show, I hear you ask? Simple: almost all acts, including hosts Kojo and Jade of Choice FM Breakfast fame, failed to recognise that a catwalk has TWO sides that they are required to perform to, in the name of fairness. Neither going backstage and asking one of the stage management team to share a reminder, nor asking Kojo directly, had any effect on the amount of backs that my side of the audience saw. The packed house meant that there was no better vantage point to nab, the barefaced cheek at being forgotten. Clement Marfo brought serious energy with surprise guest, Ghetts, as did J SoL with support from CashtasticPW Artist, G Frsh, Lady Lykez, BEV Gang, and P Money; who all found favour with those in attendance. Absolutely stellar sets came from vocalists Rachel Kerr, J P Cooper, poet Suli Breaks and headliner Angel; the latter casting quite a spell on the females throughout the building if the screams were anything to go by. Performance highlights can be found when you visit ESP on YouTube...

It's really not often that I throw the spotlight in a negative fashion; that isn't the intention, nor a pun. Unfortunately, it does become quite hard to turn negatives into positives in the usual way, when quite frankly, those positives are in such short supply.

I can only commend the Rip The Runway UK team for giving it a go at the 2300-seater venue, and wish them MUCH better luck for next year which, I'm afraid I can't make, because unfortunately, I'll be...washing my hair. In Siberia.

Until next time...
ES ;)