In memory of Alexander McQueen: his greatest moments
Five years on from his untimely death, the Savage Beauty exhibition, taking place at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, will be showcasing a retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s incredible creations. To celebrate the launch of what will in no doubt be a massive success – noting that the exhibition attracted 700,000 attendees when it opened in New York – we are looking back at the innovations of the controversial designer, also nicknamed the “Hooligan of English fashion”, who in the past, has directed shows featuring fake electrocutions, women wrapped up in plastic and an insane asylum theme. So whilst McQueen may be gone, his work will certainly not be forgotten any time soon.
Before the show, the audience waited, staring at their own reflections in what appeared to be a mirrored box, intentionally making them feel incredibly uncomfortable. As the show began, the box came alight and transparent, revealing what appeared to be a disturbing set of mental asylum patients. The audience could see into the box but the models, including Kate Moss, could not see out. They walked around, incredibly and insanely dressed, touching the glass as though they were reaching out to the audience.
McQueen ended his spring/summer 1999 show by placing model, Shalom Harlow, on a rotating platform, dressed in a white dress and becoming subject to robotic spray-painting arms that the designer had bought from a car factory. The model showed expressions of distress and fear, signifying the link between high fashion and mass production.
The infamous Highland Rape sent the media into a frenzy with controversial designs featuring tears in women’s clothing and the introduction of the Bumster skirt and trousers. McQueen stated: “I wanted to elongate the body, not just show the bum. To me, the bottom of the spine is the most erotic part of anyone’s body, man or woman.” He felt the collection was brutally misinterpreted by the press and said that the theme was about the violent invasion of the English into the Highlands – reflecting on his Scottish heritage.
Named The Golden Shower, models were soaked with water falling from the ceiling, lit by a golden yellow light. Models wore tight white outfits and had make-up smeared down their faces, with the pouring rain adding to the effect. The show featured a young Kate Moss and Gisele Bundchen.
It’s not often that you see wolves used as props during a fashion show. However, in true McQueen style, he had to go that one step further. This collection was very much based on Little Red Riding Hood with use of extreme silhouettes. The show took place in Paris jail, the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette was famously held.
Here models were used as chess pieces in a collection named It’s Only a Game. Each outfit translated to a particular chess piece and the idea was to play a match between America and Japan. The theme conveyed a perfect mash-up between Edwardian and an Alice in Wonderland-type aura. McQueen stated: “[In this collection] the idea of the chess game meant that we looked at six different types of women, women on opposing sides. We had the Americans facing the Japanese and the redheads facing the tanned Latinos.”