Back in 2011, when Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty debuted at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the critically acclaimed retrospective displaying the late designer’s work broke attendance records at the Met and became one of the most-visited exhibits of all time. Now, four years later, Savage Beauty returned to McQueen’s hometown and opened March 12th at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
McQueen creatively and financially flourished within the industry he compuslively attacked and ridiculed, proving he was a one of a kind genius. Lee’s counterculturalism reinforced his incredible imagination and proudly reformed previous fashion clichés. Whether you like or dislike Mcqueen’s dark and satirique style, you cannot deny that McQueen had a pioneering and extremely creative vision all of his own. Alexander McQueen’s collection were consistent, varied and spectacular masterpieces and will always be undeniably unforgettable. Here is my top 8 Runway Moments of Alexander outstandingly prolific career.
1. Fall/Winter 1998 – Joan
McQueen was often inspired by women who he called “doomed women” throughout history, such as Catherine the Great, Marie Antoinette, and in the case of this specific collection, Joan of Arc. The collection itself had many references to Joan of Arc, with garments inspired by menswear and some made out of chainmail. The finale of this runway extravaganza involved a model wearing a red hooded catsuit, emerging down the runway as a creature of flame. As the model centered herself on the catwalk, a ring of fire sprung up around her, burning live on stage. This show accurately defines McQueen’s tremendous sense of showmanship and provocative elements.
2. Spring/Summer 1999 – NO 13
The finale of this show was part live art, part catwalk, with supermodel Shalom Harlow acting as a muse as well as a canvas. Dressed in a voluminous A-line strapless white dress, Harlow strode down the runway and stepped onto a wooden plinth. As the plinth began to rotate, two flanking robots were brought to life and covered feverishly her white dress with black and green paint. This spectacular ending allowed the creation of an exceptionally exclusive piece of fashion right in front of the audience’s captivated eyes, making this moment instant fashion history.
3. Spring/Summer 2001 – Birds
For this legendary show, McQueen seated the audience around a giant mirrored box meant to evoke the troubled setting of a mental asylum. Even though some disturbing elements of a psychiatrist hospital’s uniform suck as nurses’ wear and suggestive bandages used for headdress, the taxidermy birds and feather-adorned garments used throughout the collection suggested a hopeful visual metaphor of flying over the asylum and escape gracefully from this insanity. When you think nothing could ever top the shocking contrast between insanity and elegance, Alexander McQueen proved once again his shows were nothing short of monumental. Within the psychiatric inspired runway decor, another glass cube opened and shattered on the floor, revealing a portly nude woman surrounded by fluttering moths with her face covered by a mask, breathing only through a tube. It was a truly shocking and enthralling moment in fashion history
4. 2004 American Express Show – Black
‘Black’ marked McQueen’s return to the London catwalk after a three-year absence in June 2004, for one night only. In association with his long-term sponsor American Express, McQueen elaborated a black-themed fashion show to celebrate the company’s new Black card McQueen has designed himself. This show is iconically remarkable due to its beginning of the proceedings with an outstanding dance duet performed by McQueen’s renown collaborators, Scottish choreographer and dancer, Michael Clark, and supermodel Kate Moss. With such an opening act, McQueen had to spectacularly close the show. The show ended with models in extremely sheer white fabrics disappearing into the blizzard and torrents of rain, softly deluging them.
5. Spring/Summer 2004 – They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
This sensationally breathtaking show was set in Salle Wagram, a ninetieth-century Parisian dance hall, lightheartedly reenacting Sydney Pollack’s Depression-era film They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?. The opening scene of this show featured women dressed in floral tones and free-flowing shaped in chiffon dancing and relying on the arms of muscle-bound sailors. This performance choreographed by Michael Clark was the result of two weeks of intensive rehearsals in London.
6. Fall/Winter 2006 – The Widows of Culloden
The eerie three-dimensional holograph of Kate Moss hovered momentarily above the runway before disappearing like a ghost. Inside an empty glass pyramid, a mysterious white smoke appeared, slowly transforming itself into the twisting shape of supermodel Kate Moss enveloped in a pale cascade of multiple organza ruffles. In a dream-like apparition of fragility and beauty, a state-of-the-art hologram piece created by the video maker Baillie Walsh and art-directed by McQueen was brought to life.
7. Fall/Winter 2009 – The Horn of Plenty
As many designers were preparing for financial uncertainty due to the recession starting to bite, collections showcased featured safe colours and classic shapes and silhouettes. McQueen took this this downfall as an opportunity for incredible showmanship. This collection was meant as a last-stand, destructive wave against the embarrassingly difficult state in which fashion and consumerism found itself. Even though McQueen’s collection did not push fashion anywhere new nor improve the economic situation of the time, his collection was actually pointing at and ridiculing the state of a collapsed economy that doesn’t know how to move forward. The set was a scrap pile of debris from the stages of McQueen’s own past shows and models were walking on a shattered glass runway. Some will say this collection was theatrically painful and misogynistic, but what is admirably remarkable about this collection is not the opulent clothes or the feathered, sculpted headpieces; but the high-drama satires of the unconsciously disproportionate consumerism and the extreme artificiality of twentieth-century landmark fashion. Indeed, McQueen create fashionable parodies of Christian Dior houndstooth New Look and Chanel tweed suits.
8. Spring/Summer 2010 – Platos Atlantis
The initial concept of live-streaming this outstandingly innovative runway who on Nick Knight’s SHWOstudio.com, collapsed when Lady Gaga, famous singer followed by one million followers twitted about the event, resulting into the crash of the website. During the show, models, sporting short digitally printed dresses and grotesque armadillo-shaped shoes, strode down a sparkling, illuminated runway, in which two sinister, robotic movie cameras on gigantic black booms ran back and forth, displaying live images of the runway looks and the audience. McQueen had as inspiration an apocalyptic forecast of the future ecological meltdown of the world. According to the designer, “humankind is made up of creatures that evolved from the sea, and we may be heading back to an underwater future as the ice cap dissolves”.McQueen’s message throughout this collection was essentially submerged into development of his engineered sea-reptile prints. Each dress was a work of computer-generated art mixed with McQueen’s signature couture silhouette and tailored cut. This ultimate collection definitely puts him at the leading edge of change.
What was you favorite McQueen’s runway moment?