McQueen, Evermore

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McQueen, Evermore

Lilac leather and horsehair, plumes, coiled aluminum, pheasant feathers and resin vulture skulls—none of these are the typical materials of a functional wardrobe. But Alexander McQueen never settled for typical. Savage Beauty currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art examines the contributions of McQueen's audacity and incessant purveyorship of the Sublime. Tailoring garments with aesthetics beyond practicality, McQueen was both master craftsman and conceptual leader. Such double strength was apparent in the critical risks McQueen took with the female silhouette. Like performance artists, McQueen worked through the figure as an instrument of spatial movement and canvas for commentary.


Left: detail of fertility figure, currently on display at the Metropolitan Musem of Art, Gallery 404. Statuette of a female, ca. early 1st millennium B.C., northwestern Iran, Caspian region. Ceramic, 31.3 cm. Right: Alexander McQueen for House of Givenchy Haute Couture. Ensemble, Eclect Dissect, (autumn/winter 1997–98). Dress of black leather; collar of red pheasant feathers and resin vulture skulls; gloves of black leather. Photograph © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce.

There is an insuppressible flair of challenging attitudes, sewn right into the clothes, so defiantly stitched that it seems impossible to ever feel weak wearing such things. I suspect that no one ever really wears a McQueen—instead, one inhabits a psychological state. Savage Beauty shows how McQueen's early sophistication evolved into paradoxical relationships rooted in autobiography: the macabre palates of Jacobean portraiture, anarchy, gender play, sexuality as a "masquerade", Victoriana. 

“I want to be honest about the world that we live in, and sometimes my political persuasions come through in my work. Fashion can be really racist, looking at the clothes of other cultures as costumes...That’s mundane and it’s old hat. Let’s break down some barriers.” — Alexander McQueen, Nylon, February 2004

McQueen's modernity seems purely inevitable. As someone who set out to "demolish the rules but to keep the tradition", McQueen was blatantly political with his collections. From the body politic to social issues like famine and environmentalism, each collection communicated a message. Runway presentations were deliberately extravagant and confrontational, but always in the service of a point he set out to make.

Although criticized for being about female rape, the collection Highland Rape was McQueen's direct comment on the English occupation of Scotland in the 18th century: “What the British did there was nothing short of genocide.” A political story was told with dresses



Comments [1]

Grace Moon's picture

I'm dying to see this show,

I'm dying to see this show, will have to hit it mid week at some point.

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