REVIEW | BBC's The Paradise


I can't express how much I am addicted to the BBC's latest series "The Paradise." Perhaps its because I loved Emile Zola's novel Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Paradise),or because it is a period drama, but regardless I am anxiously awaiting the second series. Most important, The Paradise is relevant to what we're all talking about and a marker for how consumerism in fashion got to the where it is. Perhaps I should start with a synopsis of the series.

Large Department Store opens up in 1870s, causing small businesses to suffer as they could not compete with the experience that The Paradise offered women--convenience, luxury, immediate fashion, and a multiplicity of products under the same roof. Enters Denise (played by Joanna Vanderham), who comes to London from Peebles (in Scotland) to work in her draper uncle's shop. We are first introduced to the heroine as she walks towards her Uncle's shop only to be momentarily distracted by the magnitude of The Paradise, which just happens to be across the street from her final destination. She surprises her uncle and tells him of her plan to take him up on his once promised offer of having her work with him. However, due to the lack of customers he cannot afford to employ her, so Denise seeks employment at the larger department store where she has a plethora of ideas, sparking the immediate interest of the owner of The Paradise, John Moray (Emun Elliot).

The series takes you through the newness and excitement that came with the department store, highlighting women's aspirations and self-fulfillment of being a part of something that was bigger than themselves. However, it also highlights the decline of the specialists--the cobblers, the drapers, the milliners--as they struggle to keep their integrity whilst making a living. What I found particularly interesting was the services that the smaller craftsmen offered, which I felt needed to be highlighted more (although this was done in one episode, which focused mostly on them). The fact that a woman always had a bespoke dress, regardless of if the fabrics were shared by everyone, that dress was always made with the individual in mind. In opposition is the department store which triggered women's need to become part of the masses.

To Watch THE PARADISE on BBC iPlayer (UK) visit Website.

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