The Year of Steampunk

IBM have recently announced that steampunk will be the next big retail trend to sweep the western world.  Although not famed for predicting the fashion of tomorrow the American multi-national have used their ‘prediction machine’ and told us to expect steampunk styling in fashion, clothing, accessories and furnishings by 2014. So what should we expect?

An image showing steampunk high highheels

Although traditionally steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction it could not be more different to futuristic impression of Sci-Fi portrayed in films like the Star Trek into Darkness. Steampunk substitutes the future for a neo-Victorian backdrop and the sleek design of the enterprise for cogs, leather and steam power.  Steampunk is modern technology such as an iPad, a smartphone or even something as modern as Google Glass however the difference is that steampunk has an alternative history where no technological development has happened since the Victorian age, meaning all these devices are powered by steam and cogs. It’s what the past would look like if the future had happened sooner. Recently this wave dystopian fashion has slowly started to creep into the mainstream media but this notion of Victorian or wild western technology combined with steam powered gadgets has been around for a very long time.

No retail trend is born in isolation and steampunk holds its roots in with the rest of science fiction in the 1800’s. Books such as ‘The War of the Worlds’ and ‘20,000 leagues under the sea’ help pioneer science fiction but these are written in the Victorian age, set in what was a modern setting apposed to steampunk which tends to be set in alternative history of this era. Fast forward to the 90’s and the birth of steampunk as we now know it. K W Jetter a fiction novelist wrote a letter to science fiction magazine ‘Locus’ predicting the next big thing whilst also unintentionally naming the Sub Genre.

Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term for Powers, Blaylock and myself. Something based on the appropriate technology of the era; like 'steam-punks', perhaps.
—K.W. Jeter

Steampunk slowly started to creep into entertainment media During the 90’s, Will Smith starred in and made the memorable soundtrack to the film ‘Wild Wild West’, this along with ‘The League of extraordinary Gentlemen’ helped give the genre rapidly increasing publicity and popularity.

Today steampunk has started to be found everywhere and not just in the media. Videogames have also unsurprisingly taken to the world of steampunk especially with 2012’s award winning Dishonored and the critically acclaimed Bioshock Infinite in 2013. These do reinforce the image of steampunk only being a genre for fiction but in 2012 two giants of the fashion world, Prada and Dior both modelled steampunk clothing lines, this followed luxury retailers such as Saks displays of neo Victorian windows. Popular musicians are even getting on to the steampunk styling with the world number one DJ David Guetta and even Justin Bieber having steampunk styled videos. 

If you fancy seeing the steampunk revolution with your own eyes why not check out Gandey and Van Buren’s Victorian Wonders Carnival.  Visit the futuristic steampunk experimentation on the 25th May - 1st June in Brighton.

*Guest post by Events Intern James Daniels*