London, the name alone conjures images of underground style and fashion. The British capital has always been the cradle of dynamism and change over the centuries, with a culture of innovation in continual evolution since Victoria, its figurehead, ascended to the throne at just 17 years of age, opening an epoch of absolutely extraordinary progress.
▲ Cover picture, from left to right: Alexander McQueen / Burberry / Erdem / Richard Quinn
While it was but the end of the 19th century between an industrial revolution and a universal exposition, when the City as we know it arose, London, The Big Smoke – its nickname when the smoke of the dark satanic mills blackened the buildings in red stone – has become the most cosmopolitan, multicultural city in the world, with discretion, self-mockery, tolerance and powerful awareness of tradition making it a classic with two millennia behind it.
With just the right touch of eccentricity, the city with Tower Bridge as its diva has always been able to anticipate every new wave of culture, style and fashion.
And it certainly has no intention of stopping… In 2010 the murky waters of Tower Bridge brought the city’s glorious Victorian past back into the limelight, a past that from simple way of thinking has rapidly transformed into way of life that, though a little dusty and bizarre, was actual enough to inspire director Tim Burton to make it his trademark. We’re talking about SteamPunk, the perfect declination of Victorian past and cyberpunk future, moulded and transformed into all-encompassing phenomenon, which` since the fantastical, anachronistic writings of Lewis Carroll has managed to contaminate an entire philosophy of fashion suits, and more.
from left to right: Jean-Paul Gaultier / Thierry Mugler / Valentino / Simone Rocha
This phenomenon talks about, or at least attempts to describe what the past would have looked like if the future had come earlier, with steam as the driving force behind all kinds of sophisticated technology and mechanical contraptions, in a diverting temporal digression that sees us dusting off old lace-up corsets, long skirts, gloves in leather and lace, and late-19th century aviator’s caps all actualised by numerous jewels and accessories, created like the metal cogs in old `vintage cars. The extraordinary characteristics of this future-past have fascinated not only followers of the genre, but costumer designer Grace Smart as well, who for the costumes of the recent musical by Damon Albarn (Blur frontman) entitled Wonder.land at the National Theatre, drew inspiration from the apocalyptic atmosphere the style evokes and created gran soirée costumes, in perfect Victorian style, for all the musical’s stars.
Following on from this, one appointment we certainly need to keep is the 27th of June next, for the inauguration of the Victoria & Albert Museum exhibition dedicated to Alice in Wonderland, designed to give visitors a “mind-bending journey down the rabbit hole”.
Yet another example of how London and its ancestral powers can transform simple remote icons into cultural phenomena through a trend that looks to the past and its cockeyed inventions with grand admiration. A shabby chic style that combines quality fabrics with excellent tailoring, now colonising the cult destinations for spending in the City. From the cheaper ones of the East End and Camden, to the luxury West End ones in Kensington and Chelsea.
No surprise London’s still swinging!