Felix Magazine is profiling some of the fascinating personalities who add style and panache to London’s thriving cultural scene. These are people who feel free to define themselves as they see fit. What is their story and how has London helped shape it?
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Cecile’s understated style is the product of decades spent enjoying London’s open-minded attitude and wealth of subcultures where people feel free to express their inner identities.
Describe your current style as you see it.
A Goth with a penchant for Fairy, Steampunk, Victorian, Rococo, Kitsch, Occult, Tribal and colourful clothing.
Where do you come from? Answer as you believe best.
Originally from a little town called Pierrelatte in the south of France but I have been living in London for the past 23 years so really I see myself as a Londoner.
When, how and where did your current style begin to emerge?
I have always been attracted to fashion and into a variety of alternative styles. I always loved putting outfits together, wearing hats, drawing ideas and generally being artistic. I was more into the New Age/ Hippy/ Grungy look as a teenager as I wanted to be Janis Joplin but then moving to London at the age of 19 led me to explore many different styles for a few years.
It was so exciting. One night you could express your inner Britpop in a 60’s dress, the other you could dress head to toes in tie-dyes or put on your army boots to bounce around in some basement metal club. I started to get into Goth music more and more around 1998 and I have been developing my own style ever since.
How has London changed you and your style?
London changed everything. Most importantly here I was exposed to new music and bands all the time. I went from living in the middle of nowhere to a city where every night I could go to gig or a club. On top of that London allows you the freedom to express yourself. Seeing so many styles in the street and being able to get a job despite having piercings and coloured hair was wonderful, especially many years ago when you had vibrant places like Camden or Kensington markets on your doorstep. When I head back to rural France I realise how lucky I am living in such an open-minded and bohemian environment.
Many criticise London as expensive, crowded and polluted. What is your view?
I fell in love with London during my first ever visit when I was 15 and came here to stay with a family and learnt English then kept returning as often as I could until I was old enough to permanently move here. Yes it can be pricey and busy but it also never stops and there are always so many interesting things going on. Also not all events and venues are costly. Many are free if you know where to look.
I am a massive explorer and I adore visiting and discovering new places around the city. My favorite weekend of the year is London Open House (which is free). We are lucky we have the Tube and buses, so we can pretty much get anywhere at any time. Like all big cities there is something for all budgets. I am lucky I was a student before the rent and fees went ridiculous and I used to cycle everywhere.
I do not mind crowds as like everyone I can grumble during rush hours but then in the evening I go to some quirky and unusual events and I forget about the inconvenience. Sadly, like many, I do not really like the way it is changing and I do find having less and less music venues and clubs, independent shops and areas being replaced by bland chain stores quite heart-breaking.
Where would you recommend for going out?
There are still quite a few Goth nights and clubs like Reptile and Slimelight but just not as many as before. Now they are mostly on weekends and in smaller venues. We still have a few rock/metal pubs but we no longer have any specific Goth one, which is a shame as it used to be great to be able to go to the Devonshire Arms In Camden at anytime and always know someone inside (also I used to live around the corner from it).
One thing that has really become popular in the last 10 years are costume balls. Although the music may not be specifically “alternative” or Goth they are very Goth-friendly and a perfect occasion to really dress up and wear more elaborate creations. I particularly like the Goblin Ball, A Curious Invitation and the Last Tuesday Society events. Outside London, there are also lots of great events to titillate the fantasy romantic in you, from faery balls to Gothic balls.
My favorite season is Halloween for going out as we are spoiled for places to go to, especially in the last few years with the rise of The Month of the Dead events, which feature everything from ossuary visits, to candlelit gigs in cemetery chapels, to taxidermy classes and lots of fascinating talks.
Do you think there’s a difference between simply being tolerated and accepted or actually welcomed?
It really depends on what I am wearing. In general I would say everyone is accepted here but there are always the occasional nasty comments and weird looks if you are different from the norm. It always hurts and worries you when you are targeted for no other reason than not conforming. I often prefer to travel with friends or by cars if possible rather than public transport on certain occasions.
However, on the other hand, you can often be surprised when someone genuinely happy and curious about your fashion strikes up a conversation on a night bus. It’s hard to look discreet when you are in a ballgown and horns made out of doll parts on a Saturday rush-hour Tube to go to a ball at the Royal Academy. Still, I feel much more at ease to be myself here than anywhere else.
Is your style your own or a product of a prescribed formula and wanting to be different?
Over the years it has really become my own, I started investigating my “Goth styles” by shopping in the various Goth shops in Camden, and loved my long velvet dresses and pointy shoes. Many years down the line, I have a very different style but it has been a natural evolution. My taste, alongside my age or shape changes all the time. I am always getting new ideas and inspirations from everything around me. Especially when I go out, I usually return full of ideas.
The problem is time and money to act on it. I have always been quite creative. It used to be through the medium of painting and ceramics, then when I started to work full-time as a librarian, my creativity continued in a new medium: decorating hats, making accessories, wigs, and more and more outfits. I like matching shop-bought stuff, second-hand finds and my own creations. I like to see myself as a bit of a chameleon, the same way I like to change hair colours/style (thanks to hairfalls and wigs) each time I go out and I also love to give the events or night I am going to a bit of a thematic in my head.
Are you narcissistic? Are you an attention seeker or can viewers not help but stare?
Yet again it depends as I can be both. One part of me loves to be extravagant with huge dresses, maximalist decoration and crazy headdresses. As my friends always say “discreet, subtle or minimal is not really my style.” Then most of the time, I am just a pretty boring day-to-day Goth going to work, with no make-up and a little skull-fabric dress. Of course I like compliments, especially if it is about something I have created or put together.
Interview by Stewart Vickers @VickHellfire