As the curtain closed on London Fashion Week last Tuesday, critics worldwide concluded that the city had firmly re-established itself as one of the fashion capitals of the world. After a decade or so of stultifying soul-searching, it seems the industry is finally moving forward with young designers like Christopher Kane joining established, loveable hacks like Paul Smith, Stella McCartney and Vivienne Westwood.
In the context of this revival is a welcome re-emergence of another kind: namely, that of Alan Moore, author of genre-defining graphic novels such as Watchmen, true visionary, and quite possibly the ‘right hand of God’, as he labels himself in the introduction of his latest work, Fashion Beast.
The history of Fashion Beast is an odd one. Originally it was envisioned as a screenplay for a project spearheaded by the late, pop-culture impresario Malcolm McLaren, but it was neglected, eventually emerging as a comic series last year before being released in its entirety in graphic novel form earlier this month.
Loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, Doll (you can see where this is going) escapes the dimness and drudgery of civilisation seemingly on the brink of an unexplained apocalyptic collapse by becoming the face of omnipresent fashion house Celestine and the muse for the eponymous chief designer. The deeper Doll becomes embroiled in this parallel world, the more it becomes clear that appearances are not all they seem; the ‘beast’ is in fact a devilishly handsome genius, men are women, women are men (for no obvious significance) and the agenda of those at the forefront of the industry is elaborately insidious.
Aesthetically, Fashion Beast is a treat, with contributions from artists at the forefront of their field, including long-term collaborator Antony Johnston. The narrative’s origins as a screenplay are obvious, yet it’s easy to see why it never made it to the big screen: visually it’s wildly ambitious, thematically it’s controversial and its subtexts are incredibly involved. All of which plays precisely to the strengths of the graphic novel, which can accommodate the visual splendour of a movie without compromising the nuance and character development of a novel.