London, Milan, New York, Durham: Durham’s elite charity fashion show raising £230k in a year

Durham University, known for its rich academic past and historical architecture, is host to one of the most prestigious university charity events of the year - the Durham University Charity Fashion Show (DUCFS). Raising £230,000 for charity this year alone, DUCFS is Europe’s largest student-led fundraiser. So where does IP fit in?

Established by students in 1983, DUCFS has evolved into a grand spectacle, drawing in talent from across the university and fashion designers from across Europe. The catwalk collections comprise collections by both emerging independent designers as well as major fashion brands. DUCFS also has major brand partners backing the event, with recent sponsors including Jigsaw, RedBull, Doritos and Reese’s.

Surprisingly Durham is not a creative arts university, yet still it manages to put on a display akin to what may be expected at the likes of London, Milan and New York Fashion Week. See the trailer on its website. The event concludes a year-long campaign, powered by a team of 40 + students in various roles - from fashion directors, photographers and stage managers to marketing teams and models.

There are eight walks during the show, which are managed by five students, hosted across four nights in around February each year. Each walk has a different aesthetic, and once the DUCFS team has decided the creative vision for each walk, the team selects and contacts different fashion brands that come within the creative vision for each walk, following which it curates the collections.

The 2024 show, titled #THEFUTUREISNOW, focussed on sustainability, which today is an urgent issue on most fashion brands’ radar. Each year DUCFS splits the funds raised between charities, with most of the proceeds this year going to CALM, a suicide and mental health awareness charity. Part of the proceeds also go to funding Launchpad, DUCFS’ community outreach division, which has a hands-on impact through creative outreach projects. It hosts different events throughout the year focussed on creative arts, including hiring venues with bands, performers, platform and opportunity. DUCFS even has its own fashion magazine called Thread.

Fashion shows raise a host of IP issues. Due to the fast-paced nature of the industry, with many designs being made each season (particularly centred around the various fashion weeks), design protection is an effective way to protect new garments. Brands can register designs to protect the shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation. Alternatively, unregistered design right arises automatically, which is extremely beneficial for fashion brands creating lots of designs each season for catwalks.

Trade marks are also key for any fashion brands in helping customers to identify with it. Potter Clarkson has provided trade mark strategy advice to DUCFS this year.

Contracts will also be key with brand partners, particularly from brand partners’ perspectives, in ensuring that they retain control of brand image when collaborating.