There doesn’t seem to be a good time to go see the Savage Beauty exhibit – it is always full! But that’s testimony to the legacy Alexander McQueen has left behind, not just in his homeland but further abroad too. You can hear all sorts of whispers from the people shuffling behind each other, as they make their way through the exhibition at The Met, about how they feel looking at each of the significant pieces of his career. That’s exactly what makes this exhibition a must-see; the chance to reflect on all that McQueen brought to fashion, and his ability to turn beauty, and the concept of it, inside out.
Here are some of my favourite pieces from Savage Beauty:
From the exhibition blog:
Andrew Bolton, curator: This particular dress came from a collection called VOSS, which was all about beauty. And I think one of McQueen’s greatest legacies was how he would challenge normative conventions of beauty and challenge your expectations of beauty—what we mean by beauty. This particular one is made out of ostrich feathers dyed red. And the glass slides are actually microscope slides that have been painted red to give the idea of blood underneath. And there’s a wonderful quote in association with this dress, where he talks about how there’s blood beneath every layer of skin. And it’s an incredible, again, very powerful, powerful piece.
In McQueen’s Words:
“There’s blood beneath every layer of skin.”
– The Observer Magazine, October 7, 2001
Pic: The Met
Bolton: The 2001 collection Eshu was inspired by the Yoruba people of West Africa, mixing tribal details with luxurious fabrics. This dress, embroidered with yellow glass beads interwoven with horsehair, is a tour de force of the couture. McQueen contrasts the sophistication of the beading with the rawness of the hair.
Sarah Jessica Parker: I described his clothes once—and I hope this isn’t offensive—but they were like sometimes ugly-beautiful. You couldn’t just call them “beautiful” because it seems like saying, “It’s fine. You know, the dinner was fine. You know, the clothing was lovely. They were lovely.”
Bolton: But I think it’s this sort of raw sex of his clothes with the very unusual androgyny, an attempt at that at the same time. He kind of married these opposites—these sort of contrasting ideas—you know. A very high neck, which is very, very hard to wear. It’s not particularly sexy. But because the fabric was so close to the body, everything hugged in a really amazing way. You would tend to consider a high neck where you mightn’t with anybody else’s, because it still felt really sexy.
In McQueen’s Words
“[I try to] push the silhouette. To change the silhouette is to change the thinking of how we look. What I do is look at ancient African tribes, and the way they dress. The rituals of how they dress. . . . There’s a lot of tribalism in the collections.”
– Purple Fashion, Issue 7, Summer 2007
In honour of the exhibition, the fashion house designed this. I will be eating crackers and cheese so that next month I can make this mine, and be able to take home a little bit of the McQueen magic for myself. If not, I can just hold onto this little souvenir – a mini version of those Lady Gaga-famous shoes!
Savage Beauty: Alexander McQueen is on at The Metropolitan until 7 August 2011.