• #insideout oi oi @cosstores and @currentelliott - who made your clothes??? @fash_rev
  • Last @designerjumble outfit of the day - @saundersstudio jacket, Betty Jackson jacket, Antithesis shirt, @fromsomewhereuk top, Loewe skirt, Luella bag
  • More brilliant @designerjumble pieces @prada top and skirt, Antony Price parachute dress @rupertsanderson shoes
  • Made In Britain pieces by @jameslonglondon and @topshop Who made your clothes? #InsideOut @fash_rev
  • Amazing pieces from a 1,500 collection of Hannalore Smart, widow of Circus King Billy Smart Jr... Alaia,  Gaultier, Comme, Issey Miyake, Prada... All going into @designerjumble soon with some on auction!! Gaultier corset, vintage customised jeans, Prada shoes, CdG skirt - very Meadham Kirchhoff SS13!

I no longer have to feel all guilty and faddy duddy about posting about period dramas now that shows like Downton Abbey have left a veritable cultural sweep of success around the world.  Did I mention that during NYFW in September, the question that I got asked about the most was how does season two of Downton end?  Me, the bumbling Brit is of course duty-bound to love period dramas.  Dutifully, I conform to all cliches.   

That said, Downton Abbey shouldn't be the successful exception in its genre.  Alright, it's got the dramatic twists ("Oh my god, I can WALK again!").  It's got the upstairs, downstairs posh vs. poor element.  And yes, sumptuous cinematography and costumes are a given.  That said for a series that is a touch closer to the subject of fashion and retail, I give you The Paradise, which has just finished airing its first season on BBC 2 on the unusual Tuesday night slot.  What gives credence to the series is its loose basis on the √âmile Zola novel Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Delight), which I once mused about.  Instead of Paris though, the series is set in a city in Northern England.  

The premise is pretty much the same though.  The Paradise is a bustling department store, the first of its kind in the city and it's crushing the small businesses around it.  A new shopgirl Denise Lovett (played by Joanna Vanderham) comes in and inspires the ambitious owner John Moray (Emun Elliott) with her innovative ideas.  This is the kind of fluffy easy-on-the-brain period drama that most people can digest even if it isn't the loftiest acting or scripting. 

Moreover, a whooping ¬£8 million has been spent on the production and in aesthetics, it shows.  The sets are lavish and the costumes are quite memorable, more so than Downton in my opnion.  Screencapping madness takes over.  The store itself is a work of powder puff eye candy – pastel boxes, ribbons, taffeta, silks etc.  Then you have the sumptuous costuming, which is largely centred on the character Miss Katherine Glendenning (Elaine Cassidy), the rich heiress who is out to marry Moray.  She isn't the central heroine nor is she a likeable character but she does have a costume designer who has pretty much gone all out on her wardrobe.  Her mostly cream or pale dresses are always adorned with eye-catching trimmings.  Her hats sit just so.  She fluffs and huffs about with a spoilt demeanour.  She's all packaging and presentation – a beautiful husk of a woman to consume.

For substance though, it's the central plot, which points to parallels between the rise of competitive open-market capitalism in late Victorian England and today, when small independent shops fight against large corporate chains.  The birth of this seduction process of walking into a department store tells us much about how consumerism sways us today.    

Reading Zola's novel would be a good accompaniment to watching The Paradise.  Take this passage for instance‚Ķ

"First of all, a spring of light satins and soft silks: royal satins, renaissance satins, with pearly shades of spring water; and featherweight silks, crystal clear, Nile green, sky blue, blush pink, Danube blue.  Then came the heavier fabrics, the duchess silks, the wonderful satins, with warm colours, tumbling in swollen waves.  And down below the heaviest stuffs reposed as though in a basin:  the thick weaves, the damasks, the brocades and the silks decorated with pearls or gold and silver threads, in the midst of a deep velvet bed – ever sort of velvet, black, white and coloured, embossed on silk or satin, its shimmering patches forming a motionless lake in which reflections of landscapes and skies seem to dance.  Women, pale with longing, leaned over as though to see their own reflections in it.  All, confronted by this bursting cataract, stopped in their tracks, seized by a vague fear that they might be swept up in the torrent of such luxury and by an irresistible desire to leap and to lose themselves in it."

Yup, a whole paragraph just on the description of the silk department.   

I hear ITV is also producing a drama based on the life of Harry Selfridge (the founder of Selfridges) and The Paradise has been recommissioned for a second series.  Bring on the cosy nights in when watching period dramas could almost be classified as *ahem* "research" for the blog.    

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Comments (12)

  1. Angela says:

    I have to say I love period dramas. However, most time I reminded of Upstairs Downstairs and House of Elliot which were period dramas I watched a young age!

  2. kim says:

    Ah, I wish I’d known about this sooner, I would have been hooked! Let’s see if I can find a torrent or something…

  3. Hi! I’ve heard about ‘The Paradise’ some weeks ago. I read an article on Spanish magazine S Moda. An today I’ve just watched the first chapter. It is really interesting because it tells the history of business and fashion and now I definitely want to read Emile Zola’s novel.
    Regards,
    Cristina

  4. Biba says:

    It does look sumptuous, but it’s an insult to Zola’s work, Paradise is absolutely vacuous.

  5. Monica Smith says:

    Please don’t mention it again we may never see it in the USA. Green with envy, maybe netflix!

  6. susie_bubble says:

    Yes, it is impossible to portray the complexities (economic, social and cultural) or Zola’s book in this airy fairy cupcake drama but I don’t mind the airy-fairyness. It’s perfect for after-work brain fodder. That’s why I recommended people watch it and read the book as an accompaniment.

  7. Cdee says:

    I loved The Paradise, can’t believe it’s over already! Looking forward to the second series though. I love all period dramas though so do hope there is more coming soon :)
    Cdee x

  8. Kit says:

    I loved it (hated the ending) and I shall miss it….planning to buy the book.

  9. What a refreshing breeze to the standard dark and ominous BBC Victorian drama! The credibility of a show like this might have been doubtable pre-Downton but there was a definite gap in the market for more something fun and frivolous. A lovely and light-hearted series.

  10. Angela says:

    Wow this looks amazing, I can’t wait till it comes to the US!!

  11. Stella says:

    looking stunning. Beautiful images.

  12. Deadly Bite says:

    Wow… that looks like something I would really like to watch :D
    I hope they’ll air it in Spain, just like they did with Downton.

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