By Cynthia Darman, GIS Student
Over the weekend, I purchased 3 different editorial magazines: Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire and ELLE. Picture this: Me clutching them against my chest as I race up the stairs into my bedroom, slamming the door behind, feverish with an excitement to indulge in what my new September issues have to offer me. After fifteen minutes of flicking through them all, it was growing difficult to avoid something. It was like a raspy itch at the base of your throat; you’re trying to cough it out, but it just won’t budge. Then, after flicking back through the magazine I saw what was monotonously, and so boringly chiaroscurist, splashed over numerous pages: Neo-Victorian style.
Let’s kick it off with Marie Claire’s feature page titled ‘Nouveau Victorian.’ Presented with a cut-and-paste layout kookiness (totally unrelated to the style), it praises this season’s muse with ‘going back centuries’ to find inspiration. I can’t help but scoff at the sense of desperation and lack of creativity that the title exudes. The only saving grace is the last two words: ‘modern twist.’ I’ll tell you why: In the past decade, designers have been known to be inspired by the archaic and whimsical aesthetic of the older eras, incorporating details and beauty in garments you usually see in wooden-framed oil paintings of museums. Take Dolce and Gabbana, a name you most likely have glanced at while strolling Pavilion. I remember last year’s A/W 2014 Collection, the regality of it all was simply mesmerising . . . and so cruelly ancient. It was as if I was sitting, front row, of a coronation in 1600 England. Despite it being on every social media platform, it lacked excitement because of the sickening pining and attitude of admiration that the industry held towards it. We get it, a lot of gold mosaics and jewelled head-wear with a breathtaking elegance, what’s new?
I’m going to stick to the radically innovative concept of Nouveau Victorian and why it has been the cause of my eye-rolling recently. The colour black is timeless, versatile, and every woman’s best friend. Naturally, there is no issue with black, until you overdo it. Head-to-toe black paired with Victorian embellishments and corsets— the entire thing is so blasé, not at all impressive, and I’m looking at you Givenchy. My eyes fell on an ad with Givenchy models posing stiffly, donning the doom and embodying the very essence of tragedy. The entire setup was a tragedy. The leg slits of the dresses were Riccardo Tisci’s (Givenchy’s creative director) humorous attempt at modernising the garments along with the masculine silhouettes that lacked a touch of effervescence. The contrast between the garments and background confused the mood and atmosphere, and didn’t market the products in any shape or form. Perhaps my view is a little biased seeing as I am not exactly their target market, but if I was a mentally disoriented and a mourning Victorian looking for a flashy outfit to a funeral, this would be my exact pick.
Moving onto Chanel (its campaign pages printed in both ELLE and Marie Claire), I’ve got to admit that this was a little more thrilling to experience. Yes, alright, head-to-toe black but this one had dimension, innovation and a specific aura. It did present that inevitable archaic burden, but its abstract element superseded its dragging bore, conceiving a much more enticing and elaborate garment. Even the way the model was posed showed quality editorial content, something that made me stop, stare and admire with a gaping mouth. Her outstretched arms flaunt the beauty of the coat, the texture of the pattern varying in the lighting. We see an amalgamation of Nouveau Victorian, thrown in with postmodernism; the entire ensemble is wholly contemporary. Only Chanel can bring out the best of black (I’m sure Anna Wintour would agree, despite being an avid protester of all black outfits). I identify the short, choppy hair positioned wild and scruffily androgynous; something that I hoped the fashion industry will take to the catwalk more often. Also, the smoky charcoal background centers the attention on the clothing while subtly expressing an ominous and certainly au courant disposition.
When people ask me what I like the most about the fashion industry, I say it’s the nature of constantly producing innovative ideas. But when I take to the magazine, occasionally I end up dumbfounded when I struggle to discover evidence of idealistic future trends. Do you think Nouveau-Victorian is an adequate example of modern style? What’s your opinion on fashion’s tomorrow?