If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed my slight obsession with Alexander McQueen. You might be sitting there thinking, ‘who isn’t obsessed with McQueen?’ and while that is true, my obsession is a devoted one. I think that anyone who lays eyes on McQueen’s designs takes the risk of experiencing severe increase of heart rate. Surreal, captivating and with a story to enchant you, McQueen’s designs were haunting when the designer himself was there to present them in his catwalk shows, but since the tragic death of McQueen, his designs continue to haunt as the designer continues to speak through his designs. The Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition is a spectacle that every person should experience. Although Victoria and Albert Museum in London presents the designs amazingly, McQueen’s designs could very well be placed in a remote field and still provoke reaction and emotion. This being said, V&A creates a chilling exhibition with great detail to each room – from McQueen quotations boldly plastered on the walls, to bones plastered from top to bottom in a cavernous room, the encasing rooms of the designs help to add to the atmospheric enchantment. The exhibition is so reminiscent of McQueen’s catwalk shows as creative director Sam Gainsbury (producer of the majority of McQueen’s runway presentations since 1996) recreates the kind of atmosphere that McQueen would be proud of. My favourite room was the ‘cabinet of curiosity’ – a room plastered in McQueen’s designs from the ceiling to the floor. In cabinets, the designs hung from mannequins, partnered with footage playing from Samsung screens close by, showing the garments in action. Animalistic noises interjected the music, ghostly and chilling, which created atmospheric detail.
There is no mystery in the fact that this exhibition sold tickets like wild fire when the event was first released – everybody was dying to see McQueen’s designs because with each garment you discover an aspect of McQueen personally. Each collection was developed from an idea or a concept, making McQueen unique as he pushed the boundaries of creative process and development. McQueen was not merely a designer, he designed like an artist, with each design fuelled with artistic expression. Although it is nearly impossible to select my favourite collection by McQueen, Plato’s Atlantis will never fail to stun me with its intricate patterned detail - the injections of colour and shape and form that intrigue the eye. With each collection, the concept of beauty is explored and the concept pushed – the ugly becomes beautiful and the beautiful becomes breath-taking. The torture of the experience in the exhibition, however, was the ‘no photo’ ban. Understandably so, V&A adopted the rules of many museums – keep the cameras away. However, when there is such astonishing, exclusive beauty before you your iPhone and camera become your enemy, as you resent them and social media for your impulsive instinct to snap every square foot of the exhibition. This is usually the point in my blog post where I would share an array of photographs that I’ve taken but unfortunately it was forbidden activity to even think about a camera lens, so I can only share some images that I took outside of the exhibition and that some lucky souls managed to take themselves (credited of course!).
On reflection, the exhibition experience was probably one of my favourite encounters with fashion. McQueen will always hold a special place in my life as it was he who captivated me with the art of fashion. Ultimately it isn’t the nice clothes and Vogue trends that fuel my obsession with the industry, it is the artistic expression of designers like McQueen who use clothes as a physical canvas of exterior, fabricated, emotional expression.
I would highly recommend that any artist or person who is remotely interested in fashion takes a trip to London to experience McQueen’s designs as they come to life before you, allowing his story to unfold before your eyes. The exhibition is emotionally touching as it is reminiscent of McQueen’s story, pieced together with the progression of each collection.
Alexander McQueen edited by Claire Wilcox £29.95 – I highly recommend this book as it analyses the development of McQueen’s collections with captivating photographs and exclusive comments and information on McQueen. Visit V&A’s giftshop or click the Amazon link above! You need this on your bookshelf asap!