SAVING SOMETHING SPECIAL for the week of my birthday, a favourite exhibition of mine that is moving from the US to my hometown of London, England. A few years ago, in the summer of 2011, I was one of the lucky 5 million who queued up at the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art to witness the limited edition, haute couture Savage Beauty exhibition from the late designer Alexander McQueen.
A faultless collection that proved to be extremely popular with a record attendance, the experience was one that has permeated my memory and become my own personal token of appreciation for the incredibly talented designer. I, along with many others, am elated that the exhibition will now be coming to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum next Spring.
Born in the South-Eastern borough of Lewisham, London, the son of a taxi driver and teacher and the youngest of six, Lee Alexander McQueen knew from an early age that he wanted to be designer. A daydreamer at school, he left school during his sixth form year around the age of 17-18 and later on became an apprentice at Savile Row tailors, Anderson & Sheppard. There, he learned the ins and outs of the fashion industry and was known for his impeccable cutting skills.
From there on, he became a theatre costumier, pattern cutter and subsequently was offered a place at the prestigious Central Saint Martins (CSM) MA Art and Design program where he began his ferocious, yet sublime affair with fashion. After having dressed clients such as Mikhail Gorbachev, David Bowie and Prince Charles, McQueen, who at this time still went by his first name Lee, was appointed the head designer at Givenchy by LVMH, succeeding John Galliano. Here, he produced his most famous runway shows [with Dress No #13 from SS 1999 displayed below], but later departed in 2001 after claims of being creatively constrained.
Afterwards, with the guidance from his dear friend and mentor, Isabella Blow (also an incredibly reputable fashion editor), McQueen decided to go forth with starting his own label, under his middle name Alexander, with the help of Gucci Group and the rest is they say, is history.
Showrooms from Bergdorf Goodman in collaboration with the MET’s ‘Savage Beauty’ show
A truly conceptual visionary who fully absorbed inspiration from all elements of moving life, McQueen’s work brought together profound thoughts into his delicate creations that were cinematic, compelling and captivating. Some of his greatest ideas have been extracted from the roots of his culture, identity and nature, and in such a way, that his collections have reflected the same unpredictable, slightly sinister spontaneity of the changing elements.
Known for his lavish unconventional runway shows with juxtaposing elements of fragility, strength, modernity and tradition, the greatest shadow swept the world on the 11th of February 2010, when the designer was pronounced dead at the mere age of 40, at his London home after taking his own life following a turbulent history of depression, anxiety and drugs.
However despite his tragically timed death, the legacy of McQueen still shines on with much celebration over his two staggering decades of work in the exhibition Savage Beauty. Organised by the MET’s Costume Institute and curated by Andrew Bolton & Harold Koda, over 100 ensembles and 70 accessories were displayed to the public commemorating the late designer’s most sensational contributions to the fashion world.
Featuring pieces from the extensive archive of his work, prominent pieces from McQueen’s private collection, runway shows, London fashion house and Parisian couturier, Givenchy, have all been on loan for this limited viewing. The title of the show, ’Savage Beauty’, harks back to McQueen’s monumental and challenging life that passionately manifested the intricate designs and radical collections over his career, injecting fantasy and rebellion in a way spectators grew to both love and be shocked by.
Displaying his thriving interests in what constitutes death, sex, nature, love, history and religion, his credited flair for extravagance and fashion was shown in 6 separate galleries that were each allocated by theme with their own mood and soundscape.
His 1st major collection from his graduate studies at CSM named ‘Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victim’, through to his work with Givenchy, and his last fully-realised collection ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ Spring Summer 2010, where the controversial armadillo shoes teetered down the pristine aquamarine dream of a catwalk, are all included in the exclusive exhibition.
Plato’s Atlantis, SS 2010
The six galleries included; his ‘Romantic Mind’ reflecting on his early work in the 1990s, the ‘Romantic Gothic and the Cabinet of Curiosities’ , an exploration of the Victorian Gothic era, an examination of his Scottish and British nationality in ‘Romantic Nationalism’ and ‘Romantic Exoticism’ and ‘Romantic Naturalism’ that look to outside integrations of non-western influences, nature and technology on his contemporary collections.
“An absorbing, astounding walk through the extraordinary convolutions of his mind, and the technical virtuosity he could summon up in order to turn his ideas and thoughts into reality” – Hilary Alexander, The Telegraph
Romantic Nationalism, Alexander McQueen
Known for driving fashion as a vehicle that would change the fundamental requisites of clothing and fashion as a whole, McQueen challenged the status quo by amending the use of particular fabrics (leather, wood, plaid, shells & feathers), obliterating features whilst exaggerating new silhouettes, and staging performance art and techno-theatre in the fashion capitals of London, New York and Paris that hadn’t been done quite the same before.
SAVAGE BEAUTY: V&A Museum, London
Offering a chance to visually experience famous collections and pieces first-hand, the ‘Savage Beauty’ Alexander McQueen retrospective is moving from the MET to the Victoria and Albert Museum (known here as the V&A) from March 2015 until mid-July. Standing as the first and largest McQueen exhibit to be presented in Europe, the most famous fashion exhibit has found its new home. —Anita
[Images: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13]