When the retrospective work of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen was exhibited at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2011, tickets moved quicker than Naomi Campbell’s mobile during a hissy-fit.
London is where McQueen was brought up, where he drew his inspiration and where his heart was. It’s about time Savage Beauty travelled over the pond and came home.
Whether you drape yourself in Vuitton and Gucci, don gingham shirts and 501s or you’re simply a hip-Primani-junky, the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition is much like Pavarotti. The incredible talent can be appreciated even if it’s not your cup of lemongrass and tung ting oolong.
Manolo Blahnik sporters and New Bond street walkers are aware of east-end-boy McQueen’s massive impact on the fashion industry. This exhibition will enlighten those not in the know.
Savage Beauty takes you on a journey, displaying some of Alexander McQueen’s trashy early works from the Highland Rape AW 1995 – 96 collection, featuring the green and bronze synthetic lace dress that has a hole where the crotch is. To his iconic hooded black, dyed duck feathered ensemble from the Horn of Plenty AW 09 -10. And the infamous trouser and skirt that made a builder’s-bum fashionable – the bumsters.
The selected haute couture garments are much more than just catwalk extravagance. McQueen’s precision, experimentalism and imagination combined with Savile Row tailoring and pattern cutting, powered by McQueen’s army-like work ethic made him a fashion genius. Hunger SS 1996 was clumsy and lacked demure but the snakeskin playsuits from Plato’s Atlantic SS 2010 deserves a permanent home behind a red-rope barrier at The Louvre.
Each room is printed with biographical information covering McQueen’s career. His apprenticeship on Savile Row; mastering design at Central St Martins; his five year stint at Givenchy to his final collection which was 80 percent finished before his death.
McQueen’s clothes, although at times controversial, empowered women and instilled fear upon onlookers which is perfectly characterised in Cabinet of Curiosities, one of the themed rooms. It’s walled with black square and rectangular shelves housing McQueen’s more sadomasochistic and fetish outfits and accessories.
Dominating the centre of the room is the No.13 SS 1999 white cotton muslin spray-painted dress. Plus, the video footage of the memorable moment when two robots squirted yellow and black paint at said frock worn by model Shalom Harlow.
It’s clear McQueen was Inspired by his surroundings: It’s a Jungle Out There AW 1997 – 98 crawled onto the catwalk post a trip to Africa. The Highland Rape AW 1995 – 96 collection oozes his Scottish roots and influences from Bethnal Green.
McQueen’s tortured soul is apparent in much of his work. The morbid Eclect Dissect AW 1997 – 98 and Dante AW 1996 – 97 collections are dark and gothic-infused. The pieces are perfect funeral clobber and would go down well at any sacrificial goat slaughtering ceremony.
The black leather bondage-style ensembles from The Horn of Plenty AW 2009 – 10 seep ghoulishness but like every one of his pieces retain femininity and exude sex.
Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum
March 14th – 2nd August