A recent article in Burbank Leader told of how a company called Clockwork Couture based in Burbank, California has moved the steampunk clothing store from the ground floor of the property on Main Street to the upstairs space. In place of the store that sells steampunk related accessories and such like, owner Donna Ricci has opened up a tea shop for “nerds, geeks and anglophiles”. Named “Geeky Teas”, the café is inspired especially by Doctor Who and the entrance is through the blue Police Box doors of the T.A.R.D.I.S.
According to the article, Ricci has based this massive change in direction on the IBM reports in 2013 that predicted steampunk to be a buzz word for 2014, hitting mainstream and essentially having people clamouring for brass, leather and whale boned goods. Ricci has also seen a decline in the amount of times the word “steampunk” has been searched on Google. Because of these two factors, she has assumed that steampunk is dying out and has decided to change tack because of it.
From where I sit here, I can only think that the complete opposite is happening. In the UK, steampunk events are springing up all over the place, Weekend at the Asylum is getting bigger and from a personal point of view, the Steampunk Journal is still rising through the Alexa ranks as it gains more and more popularity. In the USA, the Steam World Fair is as popular as ever and the new television show Steampunk’d has begun to air. I can’t think a television company would invest in a genre that is dying out.
What Ricci seems to have failed to understand is that the reason that steampunk wasn’t the buzz word that IBM said it was going to be is because massive corporations have misjudged steampunks. We’re not shallow, vain or egotistical (well some of us are and in some small doses that’s perfectly acceptable) and to give in to large corporations goes against the punk outlook of anti-establishment, not selling out and the DIY ethic. I wrote an article about how we’re too clever for big businesses. We’re not the sort of people who will queue up for a new Apple phone because we have the common sense to see that it’s identical to the last model. We won’t buy a T-Shirt for $165 just because it has a corset drawn on it (yes, that was a thing) and we’re shrewd enough to know when someone isn’t actually a steampunk but is trying to be one to sell something to us. Maybe that’s why Clockwork Couture isn’t doing so well? If she was a steampunk, she wouldn’t give up so easily, drop the company and turn to geek fandom. If she’s not a steampunk, that’s OK but don’t expect us to come and shop at as steampunk shop that isn’t run by steampunks. We want to know that the same love and attention has gone into the items we buy than the ones we make.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. The Tea Shop is holding a Dr Who event on the premiere evening of the next series and will be showing the episode on a projector.