Sunday, 15 March 2015

EXPLORE | Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty @ V&A

Having booked the tickets near on a year ago, it's safe to say the anticipation for this exhibition had brewed to bursting. It was expected that the display would be a spectacle, what with it being my favourite designer and having received incredible reviews when at the MET in New York, but I didn't expect it to take my breath away in such a fashion.
Walking in you're greeted by a projection of the iconic designer before meandering through the rooms exploring the various influences on his dark and maverick creations...


photo credit: Dazed Digital
Renowned for boundless creativity and originality, McQueen is described as 'an exemplar of the Romantic individual' with reference to the translation of his vivid imagination into his designs. This stripped back setting featured mannequins of McQueen's exquisite tailoring and his very first collections, a nod to his time on Saville Row, East End upbringing and time at London's legendary Central Saint Martins where he mastered his talent. It was clear to see how these were the roots of his legacy.

‘You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.’ - Alexander McQueen


photo credit: fashiontimes
photo credit: BBC
This room was displayed in cases finished with ornate golden frames containing mannequins with feathered mohicans or leather face masks. Gothic slants, historical influence and a fetish slant were always a dark vein running through McQueen's creative flow and this vampy collection is true testimony to this. Leather, bygone shapes and exquisite details were all core to this theme.

‘People find my things sometimes aggressive. But I don’t see it as aggressive. I see it as romantic, dealing with a dark side of personality.’ - Alexander McQueen 


photo credit: Dezeen
I loved the defined contrast of each room as our next stop on our journey through the world of McQueen was a skull covered chamber which coveted the idea of a tribal theme channelled through his collections. As the drumbeat thumped, an illuminated orb in the ceiling shed light across primitive, savage creations crafted from hair, leathers and even taxidermy.

photo credit: Dezeen


photo credit: Telegraph 
The next room had a regal atmosphere and paid ode to McQueen's Scottish heritage and repeated use of the MacQueen tartan. On the right were ornate red and white gowns, fit for any princess, whilst standing opposite were a tartan clad line up. Clearly a nod to Scotland vs. England, it was a fascination with both nation's history that was a fuel for design.

photo credit: IBtimes


photo credit: BT
By far the highlight of my visit, the cabinet of curiosities made my eyes wide and my mind explode. A treasure chest of fetishistic apparel, accessories and shoes, from the iconic Armaillo heels to bejewelled bodices and silver thorn headpieces. Amongst the display cases were video screens which played McQueen's experimental runway shows and a centrepiece of his famous spray dress concept from his SS99 show. It was this room that it really hit what this exhibition was celebrating.

‘I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things’ - Alexander McQueen 


photo credit: Creative Review

Plucked from the AW06/07 runway finale, the famous 'hologram' spectre of Kate Moss appearing in a glass pyramid was a breathtaking sight. His shows were more than a runway and to be treated to this enchanting visual was mesmerising.


photo credit: Dazed Digital
Breaking the boundaries between East and West and exotic influence was the motive which formed this mirrored collection. As the mannequins rotated, the Japanese shapes and structures were evident, in particular McQueen's favourited kimono.


photo credit: Mirror
With a focus on the SS01 show, VOSS (also known as the Asylum show) recreated the finale where a plus size exotic writer, covered in moths, was revealed in a two-way mirror cube posing the thought-provoking question of what beauty really is.

'It was about trying to trap something that wasn’t conventionally beautiful to show that beauty comes from within.' - Alexander McQueen


photo credit: museumsandheritage
Whether inspiring his designs or literally forming them, the magic of nature was an underlying thread running through a multitude of McQueen collections. Frocks adorned with fresh flowers and gowns solely created from shells and feathers, this was raw and romantic. The full floral gown was a strong contender for my favourite piece of the whole exhibition.

‘I have always loved the mechanics of nature and to a greater or lesser extent my work is always informed by that.’ - Alexander McQueen

If I could wear one item of clothing for the rest of my life, it may very well be this...


photo credit: high50
The finale of Savage Beauty was futuristic Plato's Atlantis (SS10) where the star of the show was THAT Armadillo shoe. Music pumped, the show's backing video writhed in the background giving you a second to allow the entirety of exhibition to sink in.

‘Plato’s Atlantis predicted a future in which the ice cap would melt, the waters would rise and life on earth would have to evolve in order to live beneath the sea once more or perish. Humanity would go back to the place from whence it came.’ - Alexander McQueen 

Savage Beauty - part tribute, part retrospective, all incredible.

NB: These images have been sourced from other sites/publications as photos were not permitted by V&A to general admissions to the exhibit. All original links are provided.