Monday, August 15, 2011

Greatest couturier ever?

Plato’s Atlantis, spring/summer 2010
Gray wool and silk/synthetic knit printed in jellyfish pattern
Although he died in his 30s, Alexander McQueen just might be. As anyone with a smidgen of interest in fashion knows, the record-breaking retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute just closed, while the catalog from the exhibit is a runaway best seller. The glories linger on, however, in the Met's extraordinary online presentation. Its overview video, runway shorts,  closeups of the garments and photos of models wearing them, expert commentary, and quotes from McQueen and colleagues provide a three-dimensional context to the installation that allows us to appreciate the many facets of his legacy: as master craftsman and visionary storyteller; as social observer; as apotheosis of the Romantic.
“For me, what I do is an artistic expression which is channeled through me. Fashion is just the medium.”—Muse, December 2008
Here are a few sample images from VOSS, spring/summer 2001. 
Ensemble. Jacket of pink and gray wool bird’s-eye embroidered with silk thread; trouser of pink and gray wool bird’s-eye; hat of pink and gray wool bird’s-eye embroidered with silk thread and decorated with Amaranthus
“I want to be honest about the world that we live in, and sometimes my political persuasions come through in my work. Fashion can be really racist, looking at the clothes of other cultures as costumes. . . . That’s mundane and it’s old hat. Let’s break down some barriers.”—Nylon, February 2004
Nude synthetic net appliquéd with roundels in the shape of chrysanthemums embroidered with red, gold, and black silk thread with black ostrich feathers. Courtesy of Alexander McQueen. Photographs © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce
“The show was staged inside a huge two-way mirrored box, whereby the audience was reflected in the glass before the show began and then the models could not see out once the show started.”—20/20 Europe, January/February 2001
“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.”—WWD, September 28, 2000

While we don't have a McQueen book (yet), we do have a respectable group of fashion books on hand; so if I've whetted your appetite, please take a look!

I just have to add one more image: this dress made of pheasant feathers from Widows of Culloden, autumn/winter 2006–7.


  1. I wish I would have gone to NYC to see the McQueen exhibit, I'm going to regret that for a long time.

  2. I had a friend who went; I'll try to see if I can get her to give a first-hand account.

  3. I can't quite see wearing that amaranthus bush hat on the train. What is wool bird's eye?

  4. OMG - I love that chrysanthemum dress! How totally devine! Thks for the pictures

  5. Re the hat ... I think it's all like performance art or metaphysical speculation; not really for everyday reality. Sort of like Cirque du Soleil compared to a garden-variety circus!