Orientalism today--Mk One

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Posted by HSG on February 19, 2005 at 02:06:13:

While here in North America, Lane Bryant may have produced the most attractive promotion of the spring season, thanks largely to its gorgeous setting, and Torrid may be offering the most attractive clothing (as usual), we should not fail to highlight the efforts of plus retailers across the pond.

A British company called Mk One (www.mkone.co.uk), which features a plus line under the less-than-captivating name "Chapter," has produced a lovely campaign for Spring 2005 that draws heavily on Orientalist influences.

Readers of this forum may recall that elements of the 19th-century art movement knows as Orientalism showed up in the campaigns of several top retailers last spring. We will not engage in a lengthy recap of the specific characteristics of this movement, except to say that it was an outgrowth of Romanticism, and that the Orientalists sought to depict the colour, richness, and atmosphere of the Near East as vividly as possible.

One of the favourite subjects of the Orientalists were Moorish bath-houses, in their depiction of which they lovingly detailed the edifices' intricate Byzantine architecture, as well as the curvaceous beauty of their female patrons--as we see in these two works by the greatest exponent of Orientalism, Jean-Leon Gerome:

The new Mk One campaign, featuring the industry's "other" model named Charlotte (a British native, who is signed with 12plusUK and Wilhelmina NY), prominently features many of the details of the bath-houses in Orientalist paintings, such as their elaborate blue wall tiling.

Note the distinctively Byzantine mosaic in the background of the first image in this post. Note also the lavish use of white marble, and the pillars with their ornate capitals, in the following image:

These features bear a striking similarity to the architectural details in Orientalist paintings such as "The Nubian Guard," by Ludwig Deutsch:

The Mk One clothing may not quite live up to the promise of the location. It is altogether a bit too loose, and a bit too shapeless. It represents a well-intentioned attempt to follow current mainstream fashion trends, but Torrid still does a better job with its very feminine apparel:

But one certainly has to give Mk One credit for presenting their styles in the most attractive manner possible. And the best aspect of the Mk One line may be its rich, elaborate accessories, which add a touch of exoticism to any outfit:

With mainstream fashion continuing to explore exciting, once-and-future feminine territory this season, retailers have no end of possibilities for creating imaginative campaigns that present plus-size beauty in the idealized manner it deserves. We hope to see more artistic promotions throughout the year.

Edouard Debat-Ponsan, The Massage (1883):

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