The genius of Alexander McQueen is a mystery to most… which is perhaps why the new exhibition at the V&A is so popular, giving a rare insight into the renowned and courageous designer.
This grand retrospective of McQueen’s career has transferred from its original home at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. However as Lee was born and taught in London it feels even more monumental at the prestigious V&A museum. Appropriately named Savage Beauty, this exhibition illustrates the brutal but beautiful aspect of his creations. The artist said about himself: ‘I’m a romantic schizophrenic.’
The tailoring is stunning. There are several rooms which display pieces from Lee’s studies and earliest collections. He learnt from a variety of highly skilled masters and worked hard, using the classic techniques to create unique pieces. He gained experience at tailors Gieves and Hawkes and theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans. McQueen strongly believed that before you can be creative you need to be technically en pointe.
The exhibition has little narrative, instead the rooms are divided by theme and collection. The Highland Rape collection was particularly memorable and shows Lee’s loyalty to his Scottish heritage. The sculptural outfits are daring and striking, made almost entirely in the McQueen tartan print, the clothes make the women look powerful and imposing.
The ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ is hypnotising, an enchanting room of fairytale accessories and garments made from unusual and unlikely materials. Each exhibit is a work of art, a technical tour de force. There is a dress made of razor clam shells and a headdress of butterflies. The clothes are intended to provoke and sometimes even disgust… but even the mud covered dresses and sinister leather zipped masks have sublime qualities.
The final room has a hint of the supernatural. Alien-like figures are dressed in figure-hugging animal print dresses. My favourite was a fully sequined iridescent frock which I stared at for ages imagining myself strutting down a catwalk beaming with confidence.
This is the immortal feeling that McQueen clothes give you, elevating you a magical version of your former self, brilliantly different and weirdly wonderful.
This extravagant exhibition immortalises the great Alexander McQueen, showcasing his imaginative and elaborate designs that will be forever inspiring to the fashion world. One thing’s for sure, there is so much more to McQueen than the commercialised skull print scarves. His vision is completely deserving of the V&A platform.
Exhibition continues until August 2, more information and book tickets here.