If you know anything about Alexander McQueen, it’s that his runway shows were something of an art. Before his untimely death in 2010 he produced some of the most iconic shows of our time and here I am going to pay homage by listing my personal favourites:
Joan is from the year 1998 and showed McQueen’s Autumn/Winter collection. The pieces were inspired by the historical figure and
Catholic martyr Joan of Arc as well as the Romanov family. As always, this collection proves the longevity of his fashion as well as his ability to apply his trademark to anything.
Firstly, the models had contacts that were bright red, which could correlate to Joan’s visions. They were also styled with high hairlines and severe haircuts, Joan herself having a daring bob for the time period. This made them look disturbing and morbid. Some of the dresses were made of chain mail, a Cowl neck version slinking just underneath the spine, another almost sheer and the last bringing back the shoulders almost painfully. Many of the garments also had traditional hoods, Coats and tops printed with sequin pictures of the dead Romanov children.
Men coming down the runway in a backless halter neck, testing out what traditional men’s clothing could be like. There was a very tailored part of the collection, showing the longevity and flexibility of McQueen’s work, the ready to wear Grey coat as well as many of the tartan pieces and leather fit in with the theme whilst also being something easily worn by a buyer. The iconic lace red cocktail dress with a mask that Lady Gaga wore appearing here. Joan’s death was recreated within the last model’s look where she wore a red fringe dress, a ring of fire setting elite around the model to symbolise her burning at the stake.
Plato’s Atlantis, 2010 Spring/Summer, was McQueen’s final show, he had expressed all he could through his fashion and what a high note to end it on at that. This show was the first major runway to ever be live streamed for people to watch online. This show had a theme of Atlantis being sunk, relating to global warming and the sea rising. How the models were decorated, again, was hugely important. Animal/ alien hybrids that were seemingly androgynous. As they progressed from life on land to life under the sea, features of their looks changed, hair was plaited into mounds above their heads or to look like fin peaks. Biological adaptation represented by morphing the models’ faces to look different.
The clothes also did the same, representing life above the sea in camouflage colours, moths seen in green and brown tones. This changes to a snake print, purple and blue stingrays and jellyfish engineered to the garments as the show went underwater. The skirts glued specifically to mimic the fold of the fish. Marine featured clothing had protruding hips, and shoulders to exaggerate the female hourglass, an armadillo boot not looking like a naturally formed foot. Cameras on robotic arms go along the catwalk, scrutinising specimens and like a clinical laboratory. Lastly Zimmerman appears on the screen, disappearing into the waves, the camera now facing the audience.
Voss, 2001 Spring/Summer collection was an intense visual experience. Even before the show began, guests were made to wait an hour, seeing their own reflections and hearing a heartbeat. The runway consisted of harsh light and a mirrored cube. The creative direction is a padded cell, the mirrors everywhere insinuating madness, incarceration and confinement as they distorted their bodies around the runway.
Contrasting to this, ‘Voss’ Is a Norwegian town known for its nature, suggesting we will be seeing an integration of the two. There were an array of bodices, skirts and dresses made from razor clam oyster shells, heads covered in bandages with a sense of elegance. His love of birds was applied to feather skirts and taxidermy hawks on their heads, carrying on his love for morbidity. Erin O’Connor resembled medical scrutiny, microscope slides hand-painted red to represent the blood, soft feathers mimicking sharp glass on her bodice. pearl coloured cocktail dresses. Contrasting to this there are perfectly constructed, anatomical pieces, some waistlines blooming obscenely. A one-shoulder gown as well as smart wearable pantsuits, slits are cut into some of the trousers to show gauzy thigh highs, tying back into the medicinal theme. Some dresses were so risqué that the models were almost naked, wearing a thick layer of lace that skimmed the spine, resembling a hospital gown. The floor was littered with detritus, keeping sublime and gothic with a miniature rat and castle on a shoulder pad tying in with his love for theatre through fashion.
The show ended with a flatline noise; the models disperse as the glass cube breaks. Michelle alley poses naked with her head bowed and wearing just a breathing tube, moths fluttering around her. It makes anyone watching wonder what beauty can mean, despite the themes, the models were mesmerising, He was able to understand how to strengthen the beautiful and the ugly of the body forms. it was able to criticise the fashion industry whilst also contributing to it.
Alexander McQueen’s shows and talent was an experience to be marvelled at, his shows often had a powerful message behind it. Proving that McQueen’s creations were timeless, whatever theme he decided to go for he had the ability to put his own scandalous touches onto the models. Each collection proved how well he understood the shape of women’s bodies and what looks best whatever the outlandish and captivating theme. As well as creating fashion, he created theatre too. Always testing the boundaries of what was considered typical for men and women.