Thursday, 25 November 2010

When Goth meets high fashion

At first glance, the world of high fashion would by definition seem to have little to do with the rebellious, individualist anti-fashion subculture that is Goth. But there are few Goths who have not admired the designs of style mavens such as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Olivier Theyskens, to name but a few of the high fashion designers whose collections and imagery have frequently referenced the dark, decaying, and occasionally disturbing themes synonymous with Goth.

The theme of 'Gothic', whether it be the look, the architecture, or the related ideas of death and darkness, has had a strong and important influence on much of contemporary fashion, an influence which, like the subculture itself, just refuses to die down. 'Gothic' fashion spreads have been featured everywhere from The Face to American Vogue, where Goth was described as "an introspective, gloomy alternative to glossy pop tunes. Its drama is spellbinding, and its darkness is palpable."

Gothic (as opposed to Goth) fashion tends to be stark and dramatic, evocative of the femme fatale, or a certain decadent dandyism (the devil is a charming gentleman, as they say). I would hazard a guess that high fashion Gothic is the style of choice for many professional, 'grown-up' Goths who feel themselves past the ripped fishnet stage but would prefer not to step out of the darkness - a step up from corporate Goth, if you will. In fact, Alex Box from Goth-beloved make-up company Illamasqua says, "I like to play with more concepts of what Gothic is, things like Goth Couture. I will wear a completely white Armani suit with a faux fur coat but still have my hair and make-up in those trademark Goth styles."
Make-up looks from a John Galliano catwalk show
Gothic fashion usually makes an appearance during the autumn/winter catwalk shows, when boots and black velvet or leather are at least a vaguely practical option. Although, designers, photographers and stylists all have denied that this dark, decadent look has been influenced by Goth as a subculture: "Gothic meant a bunch of kids in black clothes and white make-up. I never subscribed to that. For me it was always Gothic horror, like an Edgar Allan Poe-esque vibe," said fashion photographer Sean Ellis. Because, obviously, horror and Edgar Allan Poe are in no way associated with the Goth subculture. Of course not. *facepalm*

Gothic high fashion (or Goth Couture, if you like) holds many other visual themes in common with the world of Goth as we know it: vampirism, danger, androgyny, horror and erotica. Famous 'pieces' include the Shaun Leane/Alexander McQueen silver ribcage corset and Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali's collaboration, the Skeleton Dress. And in 1977 designer Karl Lagerfeld held his famous Soiree Moratoire Noire party - the invitations proclaiming, "totally black tragic dress required."

Not all high fashionistas look down on Goth itself as a kitsch, outdated subculture. John Galliano describes Gothic as, "dark, vampy, mysterious... The Gothic girl weaves a web, has a sting in her tail, is inspired by black magic and voodoo... She is tantalising, after-dark trouble that dresses in the shadows of the night." (Why, thank you.)

High fashion, like Goth, can be playful, enjoys pushing boundaries, is extraordinarily creative and garners a mixed response of awe and apprehension in its audience. No wonder, then, that the two occasionally intermingle. Having said that, it's far easier to imagine Goths dabbling in the world of high fashion; expanding their elaborate wardrobes with dramatic, intricate designer pieces, than it is to imagine the fashion elite exploring the riot of uninhibited innovation and imagination that is Goth.

Maybe I'm biased.

If you've been intrigued by the combination of Goth's dark allure and high fashion's edgy drama, you might like to check out Gothic: Dark Glamour by Valerie Steele and Jennifer Park - I found it at my local library; it's really interesting and has some GREAT pictures.

Also, this Tumblr (Macabre Mode) is where I sourced the pictures for this post, and combines some stunning images from both Goth and high fashion.

By the way, I handwrote this post yesterday whilst suffering from one of my infamous migraines, and typed it up today whilst cursing and hitting my malfunctioning modem. Now that's loyalty...

Listening to: Hong Kong Garden - Siouxsie and the Banshees


Nora Tijerina said...

I'll put it as simple as this: I've just founded my genre! Though I can enjoy some of the new trends, like electro goth or aggro noise, I get bored of it after half hour ... but when it comes to Siouxie or Sisters or the Batcave... yeahhh! I smile and yes I adore Illamasqua too! Greeting from Mexico! :)

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