Percy Lallemang, pictured with his partner, Danielle, at an earlier steampunk convention in Luxembourg
Photo: Percy Lallemang
A steam punk aficionado explains the enduring appeal of this sci-fi inspired costume craze.
Take the steam train to Fond de Gras at the end of September and you will be forgiven for thinking that tunnel was a worm hole carrying you on a magical journey to an alternate history. Instead of the usual tourists, for one weekend visitors will be confronted by colourful costumed inventors, lords and countesses from an imaginary universe, inspired by the works of Victorian writers Jules Verne and HG Wells, known as steam punk.
“You arrive in style when you arrive by steam train. When you step out, it’s like a completely different world,” steampunk devotee Percy Lallemang told Delano, adding: “It’s nice to be part of it for a day or two.”
The convention, which has been held in Luxembourg since 2011, draws from the science-fiction sub-genre popular in the 1970s, imagining a post-retro world in which Victorian-era technology prevailed. It was set up by Minett parc events coordinator Frédéric Humbel, himself a fan of retro costumes, who seized on a way to maximise on the industrial setting for the benefit of a growing movement.
According to the Huffington Post, the first steampunk conventions in the world took place in 2006 while interest in the trend toppled the term “steampunk” into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2010.
Much of the appeal lies in the escapism and role play that comes in creating and donning the fantastic costumes and props of steampunkers. “From the stuff I have at home and my interior decoration, it looks a lot like the home of a Victorian time traveller who has gone to other dimensions and brought stuff back. Maybe I’ve always been a steam punker without knowing it,” Lallemang said.
He and his partner dressed with a few token props for the first edition of the Fond de Gras Steampunk convention, a “humble” event, he said which has since mushroom to the point that last year it attracted around 11,000 people over two days. “We saw quite a few people who were really dressed up for the occasion and were absolutely fascinated by that.”
In the intervening years the couple came into their own, devising ever more inventive outfits made by Lallemang’s partner, Danielle, coupled with gadgets procured from the convention stalls. Last year Lallemang dressed as a steampunk Batman and this year the couple plan to go as steampunk cowboys.
“We noticed that it’s very cross-generational. You have couples who dress up their babies. Then you’ve teenagers, twenty-somethings and people in their 60s and 70s. that’s very interesting.”
Humbel thinks part of the appeal also lies in the fact steampunkers are always impeccably well behaved, making the event ideal for families. “Every year I'm very surprised to see even if we've more than 10,000 people, the atmosphere is really calm.”
He said that the event, now the biggest of its kind on the continent, attracts a diverse mix of cultures, from Germany to Switzerland, Belgium, France and even the UK. Lallemang believes, however, that he is one of the few Luxembourgish people to take part. “The Luxembourgers come to take pictures and like looking at it but being part of it, they are too reticent.”
Indeed, each year the convention attracts scores of photographers eager to capture the other-worldly atmosphere created. “Two years ago we went and felt like big stars—there were hundreds of photographers,” Lallemang said.