Saturday, June 18, 2011

Alexander McQueen - A Retrospective

Each Saturday, I will feature a different show from Alexander McQueen's collections, including his work for Givenchy.

McQueen always started every collection with an idea or a concept for the runway presentation before the fashions. After the concept, he would have this elaborate sort of storyboard with these various references from art, from film, from music—his influences from everywhere. The actual creative process in terms of the clothes themselves were often designed directly on the mannequin during a fitting. So fittings, for McQueen, were incredibly important.
I think that McQueen saw life cinematically, and I think that that approach to life was something that you see very clearly on the runway. Every collection told a story. When you watched one of McQueen’s collections, you were always having these feelings of awe or wonder or fear or terror. My personal opinion was that McQueen was channeling the Sublime through his collections. And certainly the Sublime experience was something that certainly affected the audience. You were always not sure what to expect when you went into a McQueen show. And you also didn’t know what you felt when you left a McQueen show at the same time. You always were left with sort of feelings of confusion, and McQueen often said that he didn’t care whether you liked his collections or not, as long as you felt something. And the intensity of his collections came from the fact that it was often very much about his state of mind at a particular time. For McQueen the runway was primarily a vehicle to express his imagination. He was very dark. That darkness came from a deep romanticism—the darkest side of the nineteenth century—and that’s what I always felt when I saw his collections. He was deeply political as a designer and I think one of the reasons why McQueen’s collections often were so hard to watch is that they often channeled our cultural anxieties and uncertainties, and that was very much part of his raison d’être.
McQueen was well known for upending conventional, normative standards of beauty. He would dress women up in garments that obliterated their features. And certainly the garments that he made can be interpreted as being misogynistic. I think that he felt as if the clothes he was designing for women were armor. So in his mind his clothes were very much to do with empowerment. Fashion wasn’t just about pragmatics; it wasn’t just about wearability. To him, fashion was a vehicle to convey or express complex ideas and complex concepts, but also could use fashion as a way to challenge our boundaries of what we think of as clothing and think about in terms of the requisites or fundamentals of clothing.

The first show in this series is Voss, from Spring 2001.

Here are some images of what we have to look forward to!

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