Curious Trends


Death in fashion

In fashionable circles, there’s a curious and growing fascination with all things related to death and dying. I'll discuss the origination of this trend in a later post, but this was something I spotted some years ago.

In my 2006 book - ‘Trends Beyond Life: In Search of Immortality’ - I wrote that the Victorians’ obsession with death would return: “Ornate headstones, ornaments and all sorts of vintage paraphernalia will appear alongside graves, in crematoria and remembrance parks.” I also said that old scents and smells that remind us of our forebears would gain renewed popularity and “Sepia photographs, domed displays of waxed flowers, ornamental urns and treasure boxes of our memories will reappear…”  and, "In an age where consumer brands wield such tremendous power, we are just beginning to experience the emergence of designer funerals. This will be a major new growth area."

In a crazy moment in August 2006, I even purchased some rather contrived sounding
domain names, including modeternal,
modimmortal, vogueternal and modeterna, with a view to creating a funeral fashion label.  However, with neither the funds nor the backing to see this through, my visions of black chiffoned vintage style hats teamed with gothic inspired, jet-encrusted crepe and lace creations were never developed further.

In a blog post entitled ‘Fashion in mourning’ (October 2009), I revisited the subject, asking how long it would be before baby boomers "are regularly gathering around a coffin in the living room to show off their most stylish mourning gear?”

Then, in November 2009, Paris Vogue reported that Leonor Scherrer, daughter of Jean-Louis, was “launching her own line...clothes to wear to burials. Incapable of finding anything appropriate enough for Yves Saint Laurent’s funeral, she decided not to go and realised in the process that there was a market for stylish funeral clothes.”

In March 2010, Diane Pernet of A Shaded View of Fashion interviewed Leonor Scherrer and described Leonor Funeral Couture as “an ambitious project aiming to restore the dignity, elegance and romanticism once associated with funerals.”

In early April, the New York Times T Magazine's Stephen Heyman reported that Scherrer’s fashion line will hark back to a time “when a widow’s mourning dress was closely observed, as in Goya’s painting of the Duchess of Alba.

In contrast to this vainly flamboyant show of style, the Victorians’ strict observance of veiled mourning dress was carried out in order to appear invisible to the deceased.

And Ms Scherrer’s romanticized designer funeral couture seems a curiously avant-garde, French way of death... (with apologies to Jessica Mitford).

In addition to her funeral fashion label, Scherrer is recording an album of music to be performed at funeral ceremonies – one of the tracks is a cover version of Schubert’s Death and the Maiden. The fashion line will also have its own fragrance called Maximilia, “after Maximilian Kolbe, the Polish friar who took the place of a condemned man at Auschwitz.”

Anyway, I sincerely hope you’ve no imminent cause to shop for stylish mourning wear, but just in case you’re curious, Scherrer’s store is located at 51 Avenue Montaigne, spookily once known as the ‘Allee des Veuves’, or Widows’ Way.

I wonder how the store will survive - but, regardless of current demand, I'm sure we'll be seeing more luxury funeral brands in the future...
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