Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty At The V&A
‘I’m a Romantic schizophrenic.’
A few weeks back when I was in London I made to sure to attend the long awaited exhibition, Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty at the V&A. The first and largest retrospective of McQueen’s work to be presented in Europe.
Jellyfish ensemble and Armadillo shoes Platos Atlantis SS2010 – Model Polina Kasina, © Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE
I’ve always been a fan of McQueen’s work, his ethos was always about empowering women. He had a romantic sensibility which propelled through his creativity.
Duck feather dress The Horn of Plenty AW 2009-10. Magdalena Frackowiak represented by dna model management New York.
Savage Beauty is presented in a series of 10 rooms which showcase the dominant themes and concepts of McQueens amazing career. The sections showcase a selection of McQueen’s womenswear collections, from his MA graduate collection in 1992 to A/W 2010, McQueen’s final, unfinished collection.
The first section of the exhibition, London, focuses on the raw creativity of three of McQueen’s impactful early collections: The Birds (S/S 1995), Highland Rape (A/W 1995) and The Hunger
View of Voss at the Victoria and Albert Museum
‘London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration.’
(S/S 1996). Some of the pieces have not been on display since they were originally shown on the catwalk.
McQueen’s traditional tailoring experience is the focus of Savage Mind. Garments on display demonstrate signature McQueen silhouettes – including that of the ‘Bumster’ trousers which truly highlights McQueen’s innovative cutting techniques.
Savage Mind gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Then we have Romantic Gothic. McQueen’s frequent references to the Victorian Gothic tradition are particularly drawn out in this section. The display also includes pieces from McQueen’s final, unfinished collection.
Romantic Gothic gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Romantic Primitivism explores McQueen’s fascination with the animal world, something that has always inspired him throughout his career.
‘I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.’
McQueen’s fascination with his Scottish heritage, ancestry and the colonial past also plays a part in the exhibition known as Romantic Nationalism.
One of my favourite highlights from the exhibition is The Cabinet of Curiosities, it totally blew my mind. This forms the heart of the exhibition and is presented in a double-height gallery. It showcases more than 120 garments and accessories. There is so much to take in, completely overwhelmed it is impossible to register every single piece. You will also find lots of screens that show film footage from McQueen’s many catwalk presentations.
Cabinet of Curiosities at the Victoria and Albert Museum
A fun part in the exhibition was the recreation of the spectacular Pepper’s Ghost, which provided a memorable finale to The Widows of Culloden (A/W 2006) catwalk show. Using technology popularised in the 19th century, the spectral form of Kate Moss appears In a small viewing area – you cannot help but be captivated by it all.
McQueen’s longstanding interest in Eastern cultures is examined in Romantic Exoticism, in an arrangement of designs that draw inspiration from traditional Japanese dress forms such as the kimono, and decorative motifs including the chrysanthemum.
‘Fashion can be really racist, looking at clothes of other cultures as costumes. That’s mundane and it’s old hat. Let’s break down some barriers.’
Romantic Naturalism represents McQueen’s lifelong passion for nature and the inspiration he drew from its beauty and fragility.
Romantic Naturalism gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum
McQueen’s last fully realised collection, Plato’s Atlantis (S/S 2010) is the finale of the exhibition. Set within a futuristic narrative where the ice caps have melted and humanity has had to devolve in order to live under the sea, the dramatically original collection fused McQueen’s interest in nature and technology in what was widely considered his greatest achievement.
‘People find my things sometimes aggressive. But I don’t see it as aggressive. I see it as romantic dealing with a dark side of my personality.’
Butterfly headdress of hand painted turkey feathers Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen, La Dame Bleu Spring Summer 2008 © Anthea Simms
I was totally immersed and mesmerised by this exhibition. Seeing McQueen’s emotional journey throughout his collections brought it all to life. A true romantic with a dark troubled side which is exactly what makes every piece so unique. He combined a profound grasp of tailoring and eclectic range of influences with a relentless pursuit to challenge the boundaries of art and fashion. Savage Beauty is the perfect tribute to mark this designer’s amazing career. A bittersweet end and far too short but a legacy he leaves behind.
Savage Beauty at the V&A 14 March – 2 August.