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It's A Love Story (or is it?)

By Bee Beardsworth


The start of a new year is always a strangely liminal time. Of course there’s the initial momentum of January - the hungover resolutions scrawled in your Notes app as you lie in bed lamenting the nearing end of the all-too-brief festive break, the half-hearted resolve to attempt Dry January broken as easily as a child tempted by chocolate during Lent, and the bizarre anachronism of the first month of the year that both speeds by and never seems to end. January is a bookend month. On one side there’s the obvious jubilation of Christmas and New Years, and on the other the promises of February.

What are these “promises of February”, I hear you ask? Well, the first (and the best) is that it’s the shortest month of the year. Following that, it’s when the weather is edging towards spring in the gloomy Northern hemisphere, with smatterings of sunny blue skies and buds pushing through the soil. Thirdly, and most contentiously, February holds the first widely commercialised and canonized holiday of the year: Valentine’s Day.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus stained glass window at All Saints Catholic Church, St. Peters, Missouri.

Also known as Saint Valentine’s Day, this holiday is celebrated annually on February 14th. The celebration originated as a Christian feast to celebrate the eponymous saints - apparently martyrs were commonly named Valentine in the early AD’s, and there are three contenders for this title. Valentine of Rome was martyred in 269, and his relics have been spread far and wide over the last millennia, with his “flower-crowned” skull in Rome (the yassification of St. Valentine?) and some other parts of him in Ireland. Valentine of Terni was martyred in 273 under the persecution of Emperor Aurelian. A third, mysterious Valentine was martyred in Africa, but all that’s known about him is that he was recorded as actually dying on February 14th. A historical ménage à trois.

Moving on swiftly, we come to the 18th century when a British publisher issued a set of cards with romantic poems inside, aimed to aid the young lover unable to find literary inspiration. The Young Man’s Valentine Writer initiated a trend that quickly gained momentum, with newly industrialized Victorian printing presses churning out “mechanical valentine’s”. These simple illustrated cards morphed into Fancy Valentines in the 19th century, adorned with ribbons and real lace. Love quickly got swept up in the capitalist urge to quantity through ornamentation. In 1868, Cadbury’s launched the first love-theme chocolate box, inscribing a tradition that has become intertwined with the amorous celebration.

English Victorian Era Valentine Card c. 1860-1880, Museum of London collection.

Today, Valentine’s Day has become a multi-faceted spectacle complete with mass-produced teddy bears, cheap candy and a dozen red roses. Despite half of the UK opening their wallets up for V-Day in 2015, it’s also widely known that a third of all marriages end in divorce, and that young people are lonelier than ever. Is it fair to wonder if this romance themed holiday has just become another opportunity for people to display their forced happiness and excessive wealth on social media, for the consumption and validation of others?

In an article entitled “Why Is Modern Love So Hard”, renowned relationship therapist Esther Perel muses that the contemporary relationship entails a “litany of expectations” that “is a grand setup for failure.” I have to agree - however single I am this February - because it only takes going to one wedding and hearing the vows or scrolling back in your text messages with your now-blocked ex to remember that we are all fools in love. Our once logical brains can be quickly clouded by the hazy fog of infatuation, and I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that most of us think, whether consciously or unconsciously, that by making the unrealistic and over-the-top proclamations of our favourite poems, films, or Frank Ocean songs we will forge a spell, crystallizing our love into something as enduring and meaningful.

Eschewing the commercially encoded need for “someone to love” to make us seem whole, Valentine’s Day has another side to it. The symbol of the heart has been around for years, widely known to represent love and affection, coming in varying shapes and sizes, from the anatomically correct to a bite-sized emoji. The oldest examples of heart-shaped decorations have been found on ancient vases, and were thought to gain popularity as they became associated with romance and fertility.

Gold and Faience Heart-Shaped Pendant, India, 300-100 BCE. Source:

This Valentine's Day, the newest iteration of heart-based functional fashion is being brought to us by Urban Sophistication. The NYC-based brand is instantly recognisable thanks to their puffer-cases, whose popularity is evident via the amount of celebrity endorsed selfies featuring their tactile phone case. The brand was launched in 2015 by Isreali siblings Neta and Elad who wanted to build a streetwear label that represented their desire to storyboard pop culture with a permanence that outlives the “famous for 15 minute” sartorial cycle. Urban Sophistication has gathered a loyal following through organic social media traction, which isn’t surprising considering the ease with which their squishy designs communicate a sense of warmth and humour both on and off screen.

The brand’s LOVE. STORY. Valentine’s Day collection features their Dough Puffer Cases (£59) in heart, kiss and chocolate themed editions, matching red, pink and brown Dough Puffer Hats (£68) and a vibrant red heart patterned Puffer Vest (£207). The design duo created the collection as an homage to the paradox of loneliness that saturates many people's experience of Valentine’s Day, a theme that can clearly be seen in the campaign imagery which has a heavy focus on the role that phones now play in the modern love triangle.


The main theme we explored in the campaign is relationships and how they are projected online - the relationship of a couple, the relationship one has with themselves and the relationship they all have with their audience while watching the portraits of their relationships online. We rarely aim for people to feel a certain way about our work, we just hope they will feel something. - Neta & Elad Yam

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