Kerri Mercer is taking her show on the road. The recipient of the prestigious KW Arts Awards Special Jury Award, one of the organizers of this year’s successful Cambridge Zombiewalk, owner of Black Orchid Designs Alternative Coutere, Mercer continues to make her mark on the fashion scene.(Mercer counts celebrities such as Courtney Love and Emilie Autumn among her customers.)
Five years ago, not a lot of people knew what steampunk was, or what it was all about. But now, it’s becoming a mainstream genre in today’s fashion industry. Kerri Mercer, an artist and designer who recently moved to Hespeler from Kitchener, is working hard at keeping steampunk alive by making it the theme of her next trunk show.
“I always tell people to picture steampunk as Mad Max mixed with the Victorian era,” said Mercer.
There have been many disagreements as to how steampunk should be defined, but it’s usually seen as a subgenre of science fiction that takes fashion, style and jewellery from the Victorian era, and combines it with technological aspects from the 19th century.
Examples of literary works incorporating the genre include The Difference Engine by William Gibson, and The Peshawar Lancers by S.M. Stirling.
Mercer got into steampunk about eight years ago during a trip to England. She discovered the genre online by accident, when she was searching for Victorian clothing for her designs.
“England is big on it because they have a rich history of the era,” she said. “I wasn’t even searching for the genre. I just came across it.”
Although she was already designing themes and products mimicking steampunk, she never knew what it was actually called. They were mainly things she envisioned in her style of clothing, and put together in her garments. When she discovered the name of the genre, she decided she would make a market for it.
“It took me a while to figure out how to market it, because it was so new at the time,” she said. “I just started marketing it five years ago. It wasn’t big here, but it was online. But now we’re seeing become more popular here.”
Mercer’s trunk show is held bi-annually, and advertises local shopping, and promotes artists and local talent. She believes it’s important to recognize talented artists in the community, because without them, she thinks would be no culture.
“We’re seeing a decline in supporting artists, and even local shopping,” said Mercer. “I started the trunk show as a way to fix that.”
The show is held in the winter around November or December, and in the spring around April or May. Mercer holds them as a way to bring the fun back into people selling stuff from their trucks, and artists displaying their talents.
The next show will be the “steampunk edition,” because not only does Mercer want to promote the genre more, but she’s noticed several vendors are already catering to the steampunk theme.
In the future, Mercer hopes to run her trunk show for several days at a time, rather than just for one. If enough interest in the genre can be created by next spring, she will try to hold the show for two days, and have more vendors and performers.
“Performers have a short block of time, so I want to grow that as well, because we get new performers every year,” she said. “No one’s ever wrong when they try to define steampunk. It’s how you interpret it and how you would add ‘punk’ to the Victorian time period.”
Mercer is the owner of Black Orchid Designs in Kitchener, where she designs clothing for gothic and steampunk fashion. Her next trunk show will be held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on December 9 at the L Lounge in Kitchener.