London’s V&A will exhibit Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty in spring 2015. It is the first and biggest retrospective in Europe of the late British designer’s collections. The retrospective will highlight McQueen’s impressive ensembles that encompass his 1992 Central Saint Martin’s postgraduate “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims” collection to his incomplete Autumn/Winter 2010 catwalk collection, which occurred after his death in 2010. In true McQueen style, approximately 100 ensembles and 70 accessories will be presented with dramatic staging and a sense of spectacle tantamount with his past catwalk shows.
Alexander McQueen once said, “Fashion should be a form of escapism,” and not a method of confinement. The designer always started every collection with a concept for the runway presentation, even before the fashion ideas. After he gave form to a new concept, he would create an elaborate storyboard that included art, film and musical references. He viewed life cinematically, and addressed the creative process by working directly on the mannequin. His approach to life was very similar to his runway shows; it was dramatic, spectacular and unpredictable.
The ‘Savage to Beauty’ retrospective surveys how McQueen challenged and expanded the understanding of fashion beyond utility to a conceptual expression of identity and culture. His iconic designs constituted the work of not just a designer, but also an artist whose medium happened to be textile.
McQueen grew up in East End of London as the son of a taxi driver. Much of his inspiration for his ensembles came from England and Scotland. His first collection in 1993, was entitled, “Taxi Driver” featuring his signature “provocatively revealing” low-slung “Bumster” trousers that became one the most influential garments of the decade. His designs often referenced the exaggerated silhouettes of the late 19th century and 1950s, but his technical ingenuity always imbued his fashion with an innovative sensibility that kept him at the forefront.
The designer was capable of conveying romance, bondage, punk, Scottish Highlander and Japonism (to name a few) to his collections. His designs were often dark and enigmatic, but always captivating; a spontaneous, forceful energy. The sheer power of McQueen’s work and his catwalk shows were magnificent achievements. He displayed exceptional tailoring and “radical” fashionable styles that were concurrently touched by shreds of macabre, bestiality, decay and even, death. His designs pushed artistic and conceptual boundaries.
The London V&A retrospective is in partnership with the crystal house, Swarovski. McQueen and the Austrian company began their own partnership in the 1990s when English magazine editor, Isabella Blow introduced the young designer to Nadja Swarovski. The introduction became a collaboration of many, including McQueen’s 1999 Spring/Summer collection and the Swarovski crystal-encrusted “Bird’s Nest” and “Bird Skull” for his 2006 Autumn/Winter collection.
The original retrospective of McQueen’s ‘Savage Beauty’ was shown in 2011 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Drawing record sales, it was one of the Met’s top 10 most visited exhibits. For the London show, tickets go on sale nearly one year in advance, starting on April 25, 2014. In the meantime, the V&A version of ‘Savage Beauty’ are being reworked with redesigned displays. The V&A intends the Alexander McQueen: Savage to Beauty show to be larger than the Met’s original exhibit and twice as spectacular.
By: Dawn Levesque