Fashion in Ruins

With Riss Vandal of FASHION VANDALS

Photo Credit:  57NOPhotography

Goth ARooftop Anime Glam @

Fashion Vandals

It’s been said that “nothing has the power to tell the truth about an age quite like fashion”.  That statement has never been more accurate than it is today, in the era of the fashion blogger.   Just as blogging has been challenging the control of public information as wielded by big, corporate owned newspapers and broadcasting networks, independent fashion bloggers have been usurping the influence of traditional high fashion magazines.  That’s not to say that a “Devil Wears Prada” Miranda Priestly-type magazine editor still can’t declare an entire line a catastrophe by simply pursing her lips, but as she’s seated in the front row line-up at Fashion Week, amongst the fashion bloggers and their laptops, her point of view is no longer necessarily the first to reach the fashion-hungry masses or the throngs of chic-hunter consumers.  

Photo Credit:Carlos Phillips Images

Goth B

Endless Autumn @

Fashion Vandals

Just as Big Media has been losing journalists for years when they run out of formats and room for their ideas, a new breed of fashion reporter is turning to the internet to bring a different kind of fashion news coverage to their audience.    Marissa Phillips, aka Riss Vandal, is the lady who runs the show at Fashion Vandals.com.    When asked to explain the role of a fashion blogger to the uninitiated, Vandal explains, “It’s a blogger who focuses on some aspect of fashion or style–whether through tutorials, trend-reporting, outfit posts, interviews and features, or even people with lifestyle blogs that happen to have notable personal style end up being considered fashion bloggers. It can take a lot of forms. The main idea behind Fashion Vandals is to highlight designers, models, and brands that are making bold statements and taking chances, and to celebrate styles that lie outside the mainstream.” 

Goth C

Robert Smith and Siouxsie Sioux Had a Visual Kei Baby @

Fashion Vandals

While designers taking risks is hardly anything new, the cultural/historical trends and artistic expressions of any era always help to influence the fashion risk-takers of that current age.  During the height of World War II, for example, Paris fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli famously collaborated with well-known artists of the Surrealist movement, such as Salvador Dali, to transform something as ordinary and mundane as clothing, into strangely beautiful and contradictory works of art.  Her designs were considered outrageous and outright shocking.  But the women who dared to wear Schiaparelli’s designs morphed from mere mortals into surreal apparitions.  For the first time in history, life was literally imitating art!  Even today, Riss Vandal definitely agrees with that sentiment, “If you’re someone that dutifully follows trends, or simply dresses for comfort or to suit a certain situation, I guess fashion can be seen as a hobby or simply something utilitarian. But for those who use fashion for expressive or transformative means, I don’t think fashion is similar to art, I think fashion IS art.”

I asked Vandal what she thought about popular culture’s current obsession with death, which may not be completely surprising, given that we’ve lived through more than one apocalypse last year!  Since even romance is reflected via the undead in the youth of today, I wondered aloud if it is in some way, a metaphor about modern life.  Riss responded,” I feel like I can really only answer this in terms of my own experience…and when I was younger I was first drawn, I wouldn’t say to death culture, but to dark culture, because finding inspiration from the darker aspects of life is one way I sort of made sense of it all and came to terms with it.  And really, I think most people are looking for signs that there’s more to life than what it seems, a sort of magic or mystery beneath the surface, and so at times society’s attentions turn to ghosts, or magic, or aliens…just now it happens to be undead creatures such as zombies and vampires.”  

Goth D

Daywalkers Don’t Model For Lipservice @

Fashion Vandals

This pop culture death obsession is definitely reflected in Riss’s Fashion Vandals blog.  “I wouldn’t quite call it a Goth blog,” she explains, “but it certainly has a dark fashion focus.”

“Goth” or not, it is a vibe that is channeling its way into the mainstream fashion arena, and even creeping into the collections of haute couture designers like Alexander McQueen, with designs that are blatantly TWILIGHT-inspired

I asked Ms. Vandal what she thought about the fact that mainstream designers are now attempting to deliver a Goth-edge to department store consumer goods.  She states, “For the past year or so, every day has felt like Goth Christmas when I’ve went out shopping. It’s never been too easy to find affordable dark styles–but at the same time, I’ve never seen the market so inundated with horrid, cheesy takes on Goth style–do not get me started on bedazzled pentagrams and crucifixes.”

I wondered what inspired Vandal to become interested in alternative fashion.  She said, “I was incredibly shy as a kid, but I remember always wanting to visually stand out, and gaining some sort of defiant confidence through that. Then when I was 12, I went to my first punk show, where everyone was fearless and rocking wigs, and spikes, and tri-hawks…and I instantly fell in love and decided I wanted to be surrounded by that forever.  I feel like I’ve pretty much had the exact same style since I was 15, now it’s just a bit more polished.”

Photo Credit: Carlos Phillips Images

Goth E

Skeletal Distinction @

Fashion Vandals

I’ve noticed that people who are into Goth/alternative fashions also seem to share a fascination with the Victorian Era.  I asked Ms. Vandal to explain why.  “There’s such beauty and drama to the era, but also a definite darkness…especially in terms of the mourning culture,” Riss said,  “I’ve just always found the visual pageantry, but also the contrasts, so fascinating. And Victorian-inspired fashion has a huge impact on Goth style–corsets, parasols, fingerless gloves—are all major aspects of Goth fashion.”

Photo Credit: Cassie McDonald

Goth FThe Wayward Ones @

Fashion Vandals

Another thing Victorians and Goth fans have in common is the cemetery.  “For those who search for inspiration in death and the darker aspects of life, how can it not be fascinating to reflect on an era that assigned exact periods of time and intricate outfits to mourning the dead? And while some people dismiss cemeteries as morbid, others view them as tranquil and beautiful. A beautiful means to come to terms with life’s greatest darkness…which I feel ties in with both the era and the subculture”, explains Vandal.

Goth G

The Blues of Ms. Vondasblut @

Fashion Vandals

Since fashion does posses the power to tell us about the age in which we are living, I asked Riss what she thought fashion was telling us about the era we live in right now.  She thoughtfully explained, “I think we’re a confused, cynical age that glorifies the past and wants to be covered in head-to-toe irony.”

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the reason I choose to interview Riss Vandal for my own blog about modern day ruins—- this  “cynical age that glorifies the past”, as we allow the structures of our history to just tragically rot away, like abandoned corpses, without hope of restoration or the dignity of an expeditious burial.  I asked Vandal why she utilizes so many abandoned buildings with historical significance for her fashion photo shoots, and why she thinks ruins are so popular as settings for photographers today.   “I like contrasts and I enjoy finding beauty in decay and deconstruction,” she said, “ I also like locations that have a sense of history, even if I don’t know exactly what that history is…because then it allows me to come up with my own story. And I feel as though the latter, wanting a place with a sense of history, is a feeling shared with many artists/photographers.”

Goth H

Urbanite Vamp @

Fashion Vandals

I personally have to admit, I was a little lost when it came to understanding some of the trendsetting descriptive terms used in the Fashion Vandal blog, so I asked Ms. Vandal to explain the main differences between Punks, Neo-Victorians, Goth Debutantes, and Glam Rockers.  I also wondered if there is an age cut off for any of these looks, given that I may or may not be a few decades….years….older than she is!

 “Spikes, petticoats, combat boots, and hairspray?”, Riss attempts to clarify, “There are both a billion differences and a billion similarities between highly stylized subcultures, but what I meant by the statement in my blog description about “building a world where punks, Neo-Victorians, Goth Debutantes, and Glam Rock Kids can all walk hand-in-hand” is that we should all just find unity through our shared love of loud, dramatic fashion. As for a cut off age–if you can pull something off, then you can pull it off and numbers are arbitrary. I consider fashion a form of artistic expression…and is there an age cutoff for creativity?”

Goth ILess Vamp, More Metal @

Fashion Vandals

I wondered, if the hallmark of Preppy Dressing is always looking the same no matter what the era or fashion dictates, what is the first rule of alternative fashion?  Riss answered, “That’s a tricky question for many reasons, though mainly because alternative fashion encompasses so much–Goth, rockabilly, steampunk, etc…Just anything that isn’t quite mainstream. I think there’s no choice but to say that the first rule is that there are no rules…”

I wanted to know if there are simple ways for everyone to add a little alternative fashion flair to their wardrobe, even if they tend to dress in a way that would be described as “classic” or preppy.    “For simple ways to add edge to a look, in terms of makeup, I’d recommend switching up your usual eyeliner application and try a bold cat eye liner application, or experiment with a pair of dramatic false lashes.  In terms of wardrobe, the next time you see something that makes you think “man, I wish I could wear something like that,” stop thinking about it and just buy it–there’s really nothing edgier than that,” was Vandal’s answer. 

You can follow Riss Vandal on Twitter, Facebook and at Fashion Vandals

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    • Frank
    • March 6th, 2013

    Cheri!

    Re: Fashion in Ruins: Just note the dwindling sections of Men’s Clothing in most of the upper-end stores such as Nieman Marcus, Nordstrom’s, etc.! “Casual” in men’s clothing is now defined as anything you want to wear!

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