Savage Beauty

“I’m a romantic schizophrenic” – Alexander McQueen

I first heard that a retrospective dedicated to Alexander McQueen at the V&A last year and instantly purchased my ticket online.  After an enduring seven month wait, the day finally arrived; although it was cold with grey skies, nothing could dampen my excitement.

Butterfly headdress of hand-painted turkey feathers La Dame Bleue,S/S 2008 Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen 2 MB Model: Alana Zimmer, © Anthea Simms

Butterfly headdress of hand-painted turkey feathers
La Dame Bleue,S/S 2008
Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen
Model: Alana Zimmer, © Anthea Simms

An extraordinary talent, Lee Alexander McQueen was a master tailor having learnt his skills on Savile Row. This combined with a flair for design and a varied range of influences led him to become one of the most innovative designers of our time as he continued to question the boundaries of art and fashion with a blend of technology.

Early pieces of the designer lent by private individuals, collectors and the Isabella Blow Collection are prominently displayed in the first section of the exhibit. This progresses to his more famous collections and pieces such as the red ballet dress from The Girl Who Lived in the Tree and Highland Rape where he explored the darkness of his English and Scottish heritage.

One of the major characteristics of this provocateur of fashion was the paradoxical relationships in his work; light and dark, strength and fragility, life and death – such an example is chess board featuring the opposing sides of East and West. His natural instinct for fashion paired with his fascination with the natural world led to the creation of extraordinary pieces with adornments such as feathers and horns. A stunning design that showcases this quirk of McQueen’s is the shell dress – taking a naturally found object out of its context and transforming it into something intriguingly beautiful.

The highlight of the exhibition by far has to be the Cabinet of Curiosities; housed in a double-height gallery are the sensational creations of McQueen. Collaborations with other visionaries such as Philip Treacy, including the infamous hat of red butterflies that I have longed to see for years, and film footage from McQueen’s catwalk shows. This part of the exhibition is like an insight into the mind and imagination of a creative genius and is where you will spend most of your time.

3._Installation_view_of_Romantic_Gothic_gallery_Alexander_McQueen_Savage_Beauty_at_the_VA_c_Victoria_and_Albert_Museum_London

Installation view of ‘Romantic Gothic’ gallery 2015 Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Savage Beauty is on at the V&A until 2nd August 2015

 “The collections at the V&A never fail to intrigue and inspire me. The nation is privileged to have access to such a resource…. it’s the sort of place I’d like to be shut in overnight.”

Alexander McQueen

Fashion Week

Jellyfish ensemble and Armadillo shoes Plato’s Atlantis, S/S 2010 Alexander McQueen Model: Polina Kasina, © Lauren Greenfield/INSTITUTE

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