The idea of the unknown endlessly fascinates the human race. Never more so than when we look up at the sky and wonder - what is out there beyond our reach? Can we get up there? And are we really the only planet in the universe that has life?
As the Frenchgate Centre celebrates its 50th year, we’ve decided to look back at one of the biggest influences our lives (and retailers) have been given – the discovery of outer space.
As of next year it will be 50 years since Neil Armstrong uttered the now famous words, ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. These past 5 decades of space exploration have taught us a lot. Satellite communications have developed allowing us to pinpoint climate change and global disasters - as well as benefitting us on a domestic level with the ease of access to satellite TV. Shuttle missions began in 1981 and ran until 2011, helping us further understand our Earth’s orbit. August 2006 marked the end of Pluto’s life as a planet, while Mars appears to be our current obsession with NASA’s aim to send people there by 2030. Just last month it was announced that signs of a large lake of liquid had been spotted beneath layers of ice near the planet’s south pole - a good indication that there really may be life on Mars. Then there was July 28’s blood moon, a total eclipse accented by a striking shade of red seen in countries all over the world. It lasted one hour and 43 minutes, the longest lasting eclipse of this century.
The more we discover, and the more we dream about what is out there - the more our imaginations run wild. These fantasies have leaked into our everyday lives; with space inspired fashion, beauty, homeware, music, film, TV, video games, toys and even food. Whether it’s an obvious planet reference emblazoned across a product or a subtle nod to futurism, you can’t escape the space age theme - even at our very own Frenchgate centre.
Fashion for women, men and children have been inspired by space since the 60’s. Most of the classic shapes reminiscent of the era: the shift dress, stocking boot and oversized mod sunglasses can be linked to astronauts and the vision of space. 2016’s Met Gala used the theme ‘Fashion In An Age Of Technology’ which brought out hoards of celebrities decked out in sci-fi related outfits. And company’s like Apple introduced us to wearable technology.
The Frenchgate centre nods to this trend providing women with sequin covered tops and dresses, metallic racer stripe accents, moon rock earrings and star sign pendants in New Look and Topshop. H&M have assorted colours of 60’s style sunglasses and emblazon the NASA logo across t-shirts and sweats. Schuh offers glitter covered heels and Dr Martens as well as galaxy printed bags by Hype. Debenhams and Pandora create twinkling night skies on statement charms, tops and dresses with delicate scatterings of moons, planets and stars.
In menswear, it’s all about combining the logo trend with the great unknown. Socks are embroidered with aliens at Next, simple t-shirts are given a modern edge in Topman appliquéing a single sedated planet to the upper left side. HMV stocks a range of TV, film and music related tees, while H&M’s NASA logo crops up in the men’s section too, this time on hoodies.
Kids definitely get the best picks when it comes to those galaxies far far away with everything from t-shirts, shoes and pyjamas at Next and Debenhams, who also provide duvet covers. Back to school accessories – notebooks, bags, pencil cases and lunch boxes are available at Smiggle and WHSmith. As well as colourful aliens and Star Wars inspired bears ready to be rehomed over at Build-A-Bear, and squishy galaxy slime at the stall just above the bus station.
In terms of beauty, there is something at near enough every Frenchgate store. Trending and Lush offer amazing gift opportunities in the form of the most yummy smelling bath bombs. Lush even provides their very own spa day ‘The Planets’. Dazzle, Superdrug and Boots have some of the best body, hair and face glitters and gems - ideal for the festival season. The latter even have a range of space age looking epilators, hair dryers and curling tongs. Thierry Mugler is one of the biggest space lovers in the design world. Head to Debenhams to get hold of their fragrances, Alien, Angel and Aura.
For home and gifts, think stars, metallics, shapes and quotes. Next, Wilkinsons and Debenhams have a myriad of these to choose from: tiny silver stars adorn glass sets, light fittings have shapes reminiscent of stars and rockets, trinket trays are covered in moons and shooting stars - there’s even glitter covered toilet seats available. Starbucks have some amazing metallic flasks and angular mugs. Whilst Clintons and Waterstones offer cards with quotes relating to the universe, astrology style note books, money boxes with ‘Save For The Stars’ etched in, star sign mugs and Star Wars memorabilia like a ‘From Vader’s Little Princess’ lunch box.
Probably the biggest impact space discovery has given us, is that to the film, TV, music, book and video game industry. Aliens have been imagined to be both friendly and frightful, space missions have been portrayed realistically and futuristically and comets have gone from being bad omens to beautiful. David Bowie created the iconic character Ziggy Stardust and sang songs Starman, Life on Mars and Moonage Daydream. Muse has album cover artwork based around planets, one entitled Black Holes And Revelations. Even Arianna Grande’s latest music video for single, God Is A Woman, involves her hula hooping the universe. Head to HMV, Game and Waterstones to discover (or rediscover) the likes of ET, Apollo 13, Alien, War of the Worlds, Guardians of the Galaxy, Interstellar, Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, Ratchet Clank, Battlefront 2, Destiny 2, Starfox Zero and coming soon, Starlink.
If you want to catch up on all of the current goings on with astronomy and astrophysics check out the newspapers, magazines and Brian Cox books available in WHSmith and Brookfields. Why not grab a snack while you’re there and prepare for a cosy read with a bag of Space Invaders, Mars Bar, Galaxy or Milkway - your choices are endless. Don’t fancy any of them? There’s always a bag of flying saucers from the American sweet shop outside Boots, or good ol’ Spikey Mikey, the chocolate star biscuit, from Greggs.
Whatever you choose from our space age selection, celebrate 50 years of space alongside 50 years of Frenchgate!