Even while he was still in school, Alexander McQueen got a kick out of kicking it on the runway sans safety net. For his graduation show from Central Saint Martins in 1992, Jack the Ripper stalked his victims. Another catwalk collection saw the models smeared in fake blood and staggering in the torn threads of "Highland Rape". PIles of clutter, refuse and props from past shows highlighted the theme of recycling for "Horn of Plenty", while in "Scanners", robots sprayed paint on a model trapped on a spinning platform. A striking hologram of model Kate Moss held center stage at "Widows of Culloden" and in his final show, the amazing "Plato's Atlantis", slithery humanoids (or maybe humanoid slithery-things) were dressed to brave the melt of the polar icecaps and return to the sea from which all life came.
(If you want to see images of any of these collections, be sure to check out this in-depth post/homage I wrote about Alexander McQueen after his death where I managed to track down some really awesome pix from some of his most genius episodes of catwalk mayhem & gather them together in one place.)
Inspired by his Scottish ancestry, Hitchcock films, Yoruba mytholodgy and how destructive the fashion industry is to the environment, McQueen communicated using an unusual vocabulary of models wading through water, drifting snowflakes, rain & wind tunnels; pole-dancing in garish makeup at a carnival; participating in a chess game as the pieces; and even performing with trained dancers in a Depression-era style marathon.
"I get my ideas out of my dreams," he once explained. "If you’re lucky enough to use something you see in a dream, it is purely original. It’s not in the world—it’s in your head." Indeed, more than just theatrical shock value, the concept for the runway shows came first, the accompanying narrative driving the resulting collection, which, avant-garde presentation aside, were sartorial celebrations of exquisite tailoring, meticulous craftsmanship and high-quality construction worthy of the original designs they held together.
The new ALEXANDER MCQUEEN: EVOLUTION [Race Point Books/November 2012] explores the span of the designer's 35-show career, sprinkled liberally with quotes from those who knew him best and stunning images which let the designs speak for themselves. It is available at Qbookshop.com.
- Lesley Scott
(image at bottom left via source)