"You've got to know the rules to break them. That's what I'm here for, to demolish rules but to keep the tradition."
- Alexander McQueen
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
Located in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, New York, 'Savage Beauty' is a celebration of the late Alexander McQueen. Organised by the Costume Institute, this fantastic contribution showcases his work from his 1992 postgraduate Central Saint Martins collection to this final runway pieces.
Here are a few of my favourites...
'Oyster Dress', Irere, S/S 03
Made from hundreds of layers of silk organza, this creation was from McQueens S/S '03 collection which told a story of a ship wreak at sea. For me, the dress is a perfect visual metaphor for such a situation. The lightness of the fabric, paired with its delicate pleating and frayed quality, builds the impression of a weightless underwater scene created by the natural growth on the sea bed. An imperfect perfection with effortless movement and freedom.
Highland Rape, A/W 95/96
“[This collection] was a shout against English designers . . . doing flamboyant Scottish clothes. My father’s family originates from the Isle of Skye, and I’d studied the history of the Scottish upheavals and the Clearances. People were so unintelligent they thought this was about women being raped—yet Highland Rape was about England’s rape of Scotland.”
- Time Out (London), September 24–October 1, 1997
The Horn of Plenty, A/W 09/10
“It is important to look at death because it is a part of life. It is a sad thing, melancholy but romantic at the same time. It is the end of a cycle—everything has to end. The cycle of life is positive because it gives room for new things.”
- Drapers, February 20, 2010
The raven is the romantic symbol of death and I admire McQueens representation of 1950s houte couture in this creation. The exaggerated play on proportions leads me to think of the femme fatale, who is often considered to be the dangerous and luring woman. Such costume and extremities speak for themselves: a powerful and impactful structure in the name of fashion design.
Harvey Nichols, London, recently showcased a few of McQueens designs in windows dedicated to the Opening of 'Savage Beauty'. Standing on white podiums with sporadic white pleated draped fabric as the only different points of interest, the McQueen creations were certainly centre of attention. It was as close as I was going to get to the exhibition, so I took the opportunity to appreciate what was on show. I know some would say that this is not fashion, not something you could wear, but this is what I call art...in the fashion sense. Each piece has a story that is told through its structure, with the ordinary and the expected turned into something grand and ultimately unique, challenging conceptual expression of culture, politics and identity.
Anyone from America who manages to get to see this, I'd love to hear about it or see any photos, so please get in touch!