Manchester unites for Gothic Manchester Festival fashion show

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Gothic Manchester Festival 2017 presents a North West street style catwalk devoted to extraordinary goths and steampunks​

By Pruthvi Khilosia
Photography: Charlotte Rudd

The people of Manchester gathered in force for Gothic Styles Street/Fashion Show in Exchange Square on Sunday. The show was part of Gothic Manchester Festival V: Gothic Styles, presented by Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Met in association with Manchester Fashion Institute and Halloween in the City from Manchester BID.

This spectacular showcase featured street style alongside designs from student and alumni of Manchester Met’s Manchester Fashion Institute and presented the pervasive influence of Goth sensibilities in contemporary design.

The event opened with a performance by Hebden Bridge based drummers Drum Machine, before real life Goths, punks, steam-punks and other assorted ‘weirdo mosher freaks’ strutted, stomped and paraded their individual dress sense for the public of Manchester. A dramatic atmosphere was conjured up through the heart-throbbing beats that vibrated through the audience.

The haute couture element encompassed student work from Macclesfield College, The University of Salford, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Westminster.

The ambiance of a professional fashion show was felt through the funky soundtrack by Goth music, introduced by two queens of Gothdom – Rosie Lugosi the Vampire Queen and Manchester’s monochrome drag par excellence, Liquorice Black. Both were dressed to impress and conjured up a spooky Halloween atmosphere. From pitch-black bridesmaids to androgynous menswear, the catwalk was full of personality and vibrancy featuring extraordinary performers, including some show-stopping vogue dance.

But in the words of Rosie Lugosi, it wasn’t all “glitter and spotlights”. Inclusivity was key to this Gothic Manchester Festival event, which invited guest to reflect on the tragedy of Sophie Lancaster, “murdered for being a Goth”. Identity and individualism is what Manchester stands for. Its sense of opportunity is what makes it a striving, welcoming city for many. Sylvia Lancaster, mother of Sophie, took the stage and welcomed the celebration of culture on display and encouraged the community to embrace difference. She said, “Tonight has been fabulous. I’m happy to be here and honored to be asked to come along. My daughter was murdered in 2007 for being a Goth. We set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation just to raise awareness. You need to stand up there like tonight and celebrate that difference. It would be awful if we all looked the same, be proud of who you are”.

Humanity Hallows caught up with Julie Dawson, a mixed-media artist who is also an active member of steampunk and gothic communities, as she was getting ready to walk the catwalk with her family. She said, “I’m a bit nervous, never done anything like this before. We do a lot of steampunk events but kind of more on the Goth side of that, we like more… black.”

Jennifer Richards, Lecturer in Fashion Promotion at Manchester Met and curator of the student haute couture section of the show, said: “It’s been a real celebration of the Gothic culture and how people can be inspired in so many different ways and translate that into their own individual personal style”.

Audience members came far and wide to see the show including Sadina, who travelled from Liverpool. She said, “I like to dress like this as much as possible but when it comes down to it, you can’t wear this to work. It’s about being with other people who wear it, the community feeling. Being with our tribe.”

Event organiser Helen Darby, Research Impact Manager for the Faculty of Art and Humanities at Manchester Met said, “This event is about celebrating a very special part of Manchester life – its longstanding love of subculture. Manchester has had an alternative scene from long before the labels existed. We wanted to show how welcoming and fun that subculture can be, and I think we succeeded!”

For more information about the Gothic Manchester Festival, visit

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