A genius is one word to describe Alexander McQueen (RIP). He designed the most beautiful clothes with such creative ingenuity. What I love about Alexander McQueen’s designs is how they are so out of the box. The designs had classic tailoring with influence from other eras and they were always a spectacle.
What I find interesting about Alexander McQueen is his humble beginnings. He gained an apprenticeship with Savile Row tailors Anderson and Sheppard. He moved onto Gieves and Hawkes and then onto theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans. The skills that he picked up during his apprenticeship served him well, as he gained a reputation for his tailored look.
He moved to Italy to work for Romeo Gigli. Upon his arrival back in London in 1994, he applied for a position as a pattern cutter at Saint Martins College of Art and Design. However, he was told that he should enroll there as a student since he had an excellent portfolio.
When he finished his degree, his graduate portfolio was bought by Isabella Blow.
His second collection was “Theatre of Cruelty”:
His third creation was “The Birds”:
Alexander McQueen designed the clothes for David Bowie’s tour in 1996-97.
In 1996, he was appointed head designer at Givenchy. His first collection with Givenchy was a ‘failure’ and he claimed it was ‘crap’. In 1998 double amputee model, Aimee Mullins, walked in carved wooden legs.
In 1999, a single model walked the runway in a beautiful white dress. There were rotating panels on the catwalk that moved her around while she was being sprayed by two paint guns.
His SS 2001 catwalk show, was perhaps one of his most famous and celebrated. There was in a large, darkly lit glass box placed in the centre of the room. This box created the illusion that the glass walls were mirrors. The audience could only see their own reflection.
Finally the lights turned on inside the box and the audience could see that in the middle was a model lying on a chaise lounge (in another glass box, I think), wearing a gas mask. The box was filled with moths. The glass fell and smashed on the ground. This show starred Michelle Olley. Kate Moss also took part.
Erin O’Conner said that Alexander McQueen gave them this guidance:
‘So, you’re in a lunatic asylum. I need you to go mental, have a nervous breakdown, die, and then come back to life. And if you can do that in three minutes and just follow the crescendo of the music.’
On the show:
“Ha! I was really pleased about that. I was looking at it on the monitor, watching everyone trying not to look at themselves. It was a great thing to do in the fashion industry—turn it back on them! God, I’ve had some freaky shows.” – Alexander McQueen.
McQueen promoted MAC cosmetics and his 2007 catwalk models wore Cleopatra style makeup.
His early runway collections earned him the title of “the hooligan of English fashion” as they employed shock tactics. One eyebrow raising item was ‘bumsters’. And an even odder name for a collection was “Highland Rape”.
He was lavish, dramatic and extravagant as seen in his runway shows:
2003 (a Shipwreck recreation).
2005 (Human chess games).
2005 (Widows of Culloden) – Kate Moss was a centrepiece:
(can anyone clarify for me: I couldn’t find the exact date for Widows of Culloden. Some say 2005, some say 2006).
2010 (Plato’s Atlantis) – which was inspired by his own love of Scuba Diving.
While McQueen was clearly famous for his fashion designs, his headpieces and shoes were also incredibly detailed and extravagant. Sometimes it was difficult for models to navigate the runway whilst wearing the headpieces, as they blocked sight. Also while the shoes were beautiful to look at, they were incredibly difficult to walk in!
I would love a pair of these though:
I got the inspiration for this post from the V&A Museum expo about Alexander McQueen. It is called ‘Savage Beauty’ (or more specifically, The Museum of Savage Beauty). It shows how different aspects of art and religion influenced Alexander McQueen. The website explains how Alexander McQueen used a lot of the four elements to imbue ‘his collections with primordial drama’. The website also shows the influence of skulls and death symbols to ‘memorialise the deceased’.
Savage beauty is to me, wild beauty. A sort of beauty that you can’t clearly see the first time you look, but becomes more apparent over time. Perhaps a beauty that is not in your face?
I really suggest you check out the museum expo if you are in London. I would go, if I didn’t live on the other side of the world!
This man was a true artist. Fashion, to me, is art. A form of expressing yourself in a unique and independent way. Alexander McQueen is one of the few designers who I really, truly love and who has shown me the true form of expression, art and individuality in fashion.
This video clip really shows how his designs were beautiful.
One day, I dream of wearing Alexander McQueen.