DUCFS: The Student Experience

Darcey Sergison and Cara Balen, both students at Durham University, give their perspective on the annual student fashion show.

Durham University Charity Fashion Show (DUCFS) is the largest student fundraising event in the UK. Every year tickets sell out faster, the event grows in its following, and it raises even more money for charity.

Students around Durham anticipate the array of events put together by the entirely student-led team. The ongoing platform of the show is the ultimate creative expression of a year of build-up, all with the intention of bringing awareness to incredible charities.

This year, they included the Fashion Revolution and Stop The Traffik. These two charities bring together fundamental understandings of how fashion needs to change in the future, bringing together problems of workers’ rights and environmental damage. We believe that DUCFS has spread awareness of these issues among Durham via various methods, from giving away reusable coffee cups, which proved very popular on campus, to a sustainable clothes swap at the DUCFS weekend.


As students, we have seen the incredible effort and skill that has been put into the events and show itself. Chloe Smith, the President of DUCFS, said: “It truly is such a unique thing to be a part of and so much more meaningful than I think a lot of people realise.”

In particular, the cohesion of the branding and graphics for the show was incredible, bringing together the fundamental values of DUCFS. Every year the show brings together four core values: collaboration, innovation, altruism, and creativity. All of these values were very clear on the night, with everyone attending being stunned by the scale of the event.

The students were encouraged to wear ethical and sustainable outfits to the fashion show. When speaking to many of the men attending the show, we learned they wore suits either borrowed or inherited from family members, showing the longevity and stories these suits gain. Meanwhile, the women dazzled in dresses and jumpsuits, with a lot of them using Hirestreet to hire new outfits or re-wearing outfits, encouraged by DUCFS. Hirestreet offered students an exclusive 10% discount, with a further 5% going towards the event’s charities, encouraging the sustainable use of clothing hire.


My favourite part of the work DUCFS has done this year is how the messages of the charities have been interwoven into the runway itself. From the brands chosen to the ‘chapters’ of each walk, the key messages of environmental protection and worker’s voices and rights were heard. The concept of ‘chapters’ was used to separate the different parts of the DUCFS vision.


The show started with a powerful video expressing the aims of the show and bringing awareness to the problems that we, as students, can help to change while at university and beyond. President Chloe Smith said the choice of supporting two charities was due to wanting to make “an effort to do justice to the scope of the issue. Human rights injustices do not just occur in one area of the world, and they do not just occur in one industry – it is such a multifaceted problem that appears in so many different forms.”

My two favourite chapters of the show were the second and fourth, focused on industrialisation and worker’s voices. The second chapter represented ‘THE AMPLIFICATION’ of industrialisation using the brand Analisa Atkinson. This avant-garde first collection highlighted DUCFS’s eco-conscious view, using upcycled materials incorporated in workwear and uniform.

In the fourth section, ‘THE SILENCE’ of the workers was addressed, with striking silhouettes storming the stage. The men’s clothing brand Math was ideal to represent the anonymous workers, with the model’s heads being masked creating a shocking difference from what had been seen on the runway before.

These silhouettes, similar to Richard Quinn’s AW 2020 collection, featured on many students’ social media. One student described this feature as “striking and powerful” in that it made them concentrate on and consider the work the show has delivered to bring awareness to their cause.


Attending a fashion show which was run by students, for a student audience, has to be one of the highlights of my university social calendar. It is a chance for students to dress to impress, as it is understandably hailed as the most fashionable event in Durham student life. Spanning across three evenings, the fashion show draws in students for many different reasons, whether it be an interest in fashion, a passion for the charities that DUCFS partners with, or simply for a fun and unique experience.

DUCFS really pulled out all of the stops this year, working with multiple brand partners such as Domino’s, Red Bull and Rebel Kitchen, whose products were offered to the audience throughout the night. The runway walks were also interspersed with showcases of Durham societies, such as Troupe, Durham University’s official performance team, which really highlighted the diverse sides of the university’s student life.

A lot of students go in order to support their friends who are part of the many exec members, models, or volunteers that dedicated time and effort towards such a massive project. This creates a new dimension to the evening, as there is an atmosphere of camaraderie and support.

The aspect of the campaign which struck me the most was the role played by the creative marketing team. One glance at their Instagram page shows the incredible way that the campaign, which ran for almost half a year, has been tied together thematically, with atmospheric photoshoots and eye-catching graphics.

As someone who is interested in film making (watch this space), I really enjoyed watching the promotional videos that were released in the build-up to the main event. Set on what look to be the rolling dales of County Durham, the use of props and equipment such as flares and drones gave them a professional quality. All of this has been thoughtfully designed to whip up an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation; and it definitely worked, with all of the tickets selling out pretty much immediately on their release.

The total raised by DUCFS 2020 was a whopping £171,000, which just shows how incredibly popular an event it is.

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