Pacific Northwest Haunts: Wells and Verne
The Pacific Northwest is known for its rain, fog, haunting forests, and Bigfoot! All this mist will bring out the Goth in anyone. Let’s throw a little Victorian neo-gothic steampunk in the mix and you have Wells and Verne. One of the best gems in Portland, it’s the stop for clothes, hats, jewelry, and everything in-between. I sat down with owner Chris Lang to dig into the treasures within!
Tell us a little about Wells and Verne. What inspired the store? The theme?
I was laid off and I was working at a local retail store. I thought I’ve got this idea, so I bounced it off some friends with experience. They all said I should go for it. I’d been following “steampunk” and I loved aspects of the Victorian period. I was inspired by one particular designer that I had a few pieces from. A bustle skirt and corset were commonly coming up as pieces ladies in the scene adored in my wardrobe. So I’m trying to bring that into the store. If I like it, maybe someone else does too. The male line has been needed in the community for a long time. They just don’t have enough. It’s hard to find the quality we expect but when we do, I feel like I can sell it because I believe in the designers. I believe in the clothes they are making and I know we are supporting the scene when we ask for handmade items. We have items from all over the world (Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, England, Canada) as well as right here in Portland, Vancouver and Seattle.
I understand your location as quite the Gothic history! Tell us about its strange beginnings.
So the original building housed the Undertaker for Sellwood. It was one of the selling points when we decided to lease the place. We didn’t need to create what already existed.
Talk about the steampunk movement. What does it mean to you? How do you see it growing in the coming years?
I could go on and on. I took over a year to research. I wanted to make sure we were not violating some code. And there is a code to follow. Steampunk as a term has not been around for very long. So in the last 10 year with the invention of the iPhone has really propelled the genre quite quickly into mainstream. With it is a resurgence of the Victorian inspired clothing and literature. Which leads very quickly into why not a clothing store! And like your publishing company, why not DIY publishing. It’s technology that makes all this happen which is core to steampunk. Love of the gadgets, literature and clothing.
If you’ve ever seen Regretsy, you’ll understand. http://www.regretsy.com/2012/08/22/things-that-are-not-steampunk-25/
How does steampunk cross over with other movements, such as Goth?
Literature of course with all the horror romance novels of the Victorian age are seamlessly related. Fashion again, change the color slightly and you have the same Victorian bustle skirt in black but now burgundy or stripes. Note most of the goths love jewel tones as do Steampunks. There’s really not a difference. Now accessories make all the difference. You’re not going to see a Goth wearing a Tesla gun. And vice versa, most Steampunks are not going to wear industrial BDU’s with reflective neon tape.
Where do you want to take Wells and Verne in the next year or so?
We are in talks to do more tv production, as consultants, stylists and possibly more. I’d like to get us out of the red and into the black. We were close at the end of our 2nd quarter. I want us to have more of a web presence. Most of the dreams for the store have come true, we have the clientele we envisioned plus so much more. We offer a physical location for both Goth and Steampunk communities to come and enjoy. We are starting to give back to the community-Rose City Rollers, Individuals in our scene with financial needs for health care, Local schools and artistic endeavors.