Friday, March 02, 2012

MCQ - The show must go on...

Much has been said about Sarah Burton since she deservedly took the helm at Alexander McQueen two years ago. Nobody can have any doubt that she has continued to take the brand forward with integrity, remaining true to McQueen’s vision, whilst putting her own stamp on things (ok, so that sounds very awards show schmaltzy, but I have just watched the Oscar highlights, so forgive me, it is sincere!)

The intro of the McQ diffusion line to LFW had the fashion world itching with excitement. Now, the collection was gorgeous, fusing a strict military aesthetic with that romantic flare that Burton seems to effortlessly conjure. But it was the spectacle of the show finale that had the audience and those streaming at home mesmerised. The dramatic twist gave a nod to the showmanship of McQueen and the spectacular theatrics within his catwalk history.

So let me set the scene. Kristen McMenamy walks out in the closing outfit (the most beautiful white dress, with a nipped in waist and full tulle skirt), stops dead, bathed in bright light, when leaves start falling around her…As she looks around, she finds a rope, hidden beneath the leaves, which guides her forward, into an alluring wood…
Did you see the techno hut coming? The show really got me reminiscing, leading to a monster you tube fest!

McQueen always began his collections with a concept for the show. The fashion then followed. Inspired by anything and everything, from Art, Film, Music, History; he looked to  a variety of sources, always leading to a richer experience. The shows were never trivial, never cosmetic, which is why they were so powerful. Each one had a message, a story, drama...

Joan A/W '98-99
This show was inspired by one of, what McQueen called, history's doomed women -  Joan of Arc. Like he would time and time again, McQueen covered the model's face. The focus was to be on the clothes, not the wearer. The finale was literally on fire...
The Overlook AW '99-00
Made to feel like a giant snow globe...this show had, well, snow, actual wolves and an ice skating rink in the middle. It was also an example of McQueen finding inspiration in film. In this case Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. Remember the name of the hotel? If you are a fan of the film, you will also recognise the music in this clip and you may spot a pair of familiar looking (albeit slightly older) twins...
No. 13 S/S '99

''[The finale of this collection] was inspired by an installation by artist Rebecca Horn of two shotguns firing blood-red paint at each other.” – Lee Alexander McQueen

VOSS S/S '01
Inspired by a photograph by Joel Peter Witkin's, Sanitarium (pictured below).
This show is possibly my all time favourite, especially after seeing part of the collection up close at a VandA exhibition, Radical Fashion, way back in 2002! I loved how the audience sat down in front of this vast box, to find that, unnervingly, they were staring at their own reflection. As the lights went down outside the box, the lights went on inside, where the models then found themselves on the wrong side of a one-way mirror. “These beautiful models were walking around in the room, and then suddenly this woman who wouldn’t be considered beautiful was revealed. It was about trying to trap something that wasn’t conventionally beautiful to show that beauty comes from within.” – Lee Alexander McQueen

Joel Peter Witkin's Sanitarium (above and the actual show below)
What a Merry-Go-Round A/W '01-02
A sinister take on the fairground, staged on a dark and twisted Merry-go-Round outside a Victorian toy shop. The shows music featured the voice of the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the kind of scary ass clowns that are the subjects of many nightmares! One of his many macabre moments
Widows of Culloden A/W '06-07
The final moments of this show saw a haunting hologram of Kate Moss, apparate out of the darkness, to the beautiful Theme from Schindler's List. McQueen rarely used supermodels, however he used Kate Moss in a number of his shows. This one was during the whole cocaine scandal, when brands were dropping Moss faster than you can say Daily Mirror! But McQueen stood by her.
The show was inspired by the last battle of the Jacobite risings between the Brits and the Scotts, alluding to McQueen's heritage. It is also the sequel to Highland Rape A/w '95-96. Not one to lament in silence, this is but one example of McQueen airing his political views, in this case, his disdain of the Brits treatment of the Scotts in the 1700s. 
…then there was Untitled S/S '98 (formally known as Golden Showers...), It’s only a Game S/S '05 (a giant game of Model Chess, inspired by a scene in the 1st Harry Potter), Scanners A/W '03/04 (featuring a beautiful, oversized kimono installation)...and that's not even the half of it! This post has taken me 4 days to write, due to all the revelling in his catalogue of gorgeous work. He is truly captivating. Long may his talent inspire.