Monday, 8 June 2015

Alexander McQueen at the V&A: Savage Beauty



A couple of snaps-photography was not allowed but we didn't realise straight away-apologies!

When I visited London in May, the whole trip was originally built around seeing McQueen's 'Savage Beauty' exhibition at the fabulous V&A.  I'd been to a couple of fashion exhibitions before, but nothing could ever have prepared me for what I was about to see from McQueen.  'Savage Beauty' is more than just a fashion exhibition, it's art and poetry and symbolism; an experience that offers more than just a mere collection of clothes could.  I've read reviews on the internet since visiting, that mock the curation of the show but frankly I disagree.  Nothing has moved me quite as much as 'Savage Beauty' did in a very long time.  Let me tell you more...



The first thing to mention when regarding McQueen's work is although it is in many ways 'out there', dark, deep and full of meaning it is extremely well-tailored and if, like me, you are obsessed with tailoring, there is a room full of McQueen's best work harking back to his training at Saville Row to satisfy your tailoring appetite.  McQueen knew his way around a pair of scissors, cutting from the side profile and using the ideal that as the most unflattering view of a body, if an item of clothing looks good from the side then it will look good all over.  And it works.  It works because McQueen also understood the female form and how to make it look amazing.  Regarding his Bumster trousers, McQueen believed that one of the most erotic areas of the human body is the bottom of the spine, so he cut the trousers to hang low on the hips so that this area would be exposed.  His attention to form and detail cannot be overlooked throughout the whole exhibition.

The 'Bumster' trousers (image taken from style bubble.co.uk)

Travelling through, there is much of McQueen's finest work to be seen, all appropriately set to emphasise the mood and feel behind the clothes.  It's the closest I've ever seen the lines blurred between fashion and art.  If you are unaware of McQueen's background and his impact on the fashion world, there isn't a lot of biographical information available however, don't let that put you off.  His Scottish heritage is prevalent in many of his collections such as 'Highland Rape' and 'The Widows of Culloden'; he wanted to challenge history and the nature of the clothes.  There is a lot to be read and studied about McQueen's love of Scotland, but for the sake of the exhibition and an appreciation of his work, the reference is there in spades.  It's in the tartan, the historic cut and his use of rich colours.  But the overriding message isn't how he challenged history, or how he loved his heritage, or how you are always aware also of his London roots or that he looked into the future with his designs.  No, the strongest message throughout is how he used his work to empower women.  The clothes are fierce and strong and beautifully structured.  I'd be surprised how any woman could not feel empowered in his clothes.  You don't need a Fashion degree to feel it, it's everywhere.

Image taken from kristenkeller.com

"I want to empower woman, I want people to be afraid of the women I dress"-Alexander McQueen

The use of music, video and installation helps to emphasise the mood of the collection as you travel from room to room and helps you to relive how it was first viewed on the runway.  Without rolling out fashion jargon I can tell you that for me, the whole experience was incredibly moving.  Walking from room to room, for all I was totally in awe of the genius of McQueen, I felt overwhelmingly  saddened; in fact there were moments where I almost cried.  Because all I could think about was that McQueen is no longer with us, and whilst the collection celebrates his massive achievements in fashion, you cannot escape the fact that he isn't here to see it.  I think what 'Savage Beauty' does best is that it lets you into the mind of Alexander McQueen and for all his amazing talent, at times this is a very dark and lonely place to be.  Fashion is something that I really got into and started to understand around the time of McQueen's death in 2010.  I only wish that I'd been more aware of his work when he was alive, but I'm honoured to have had chance to see and feel it before my very eyes at the V&A.

Image taken from 'cdni.condenast.co.uk'

Highlights for me?  I don't want to give too much away because I urge you to go and see it for yourselves, but I personally had three highlights.  The first was Plato's Atlantis.  Seeing McQueen's final and most futuristic and groundbreaking collection was unbelievable.  This was his view of how our race would look in the future, if the world was submerged in water.  The use of colour, the famous Armadillo shoes, the structure of the clothes and the bright, serpent-like print captured his message beautifully.  My second highlight was the installation of Kate Moss dancing which again I don't want to spoil, but it was moment in the exhibition when I was most aware of McQueen's death.  It is eerie, but both captivating and breathtaking at the same time.  Finally, I loved the Cabinet of Curiosities, which features many of McQueen's accessories such as Philip Treacy's Butterfly headdress and the more unusual elements of his work displayed on many different levels.  If you're visiting, make sure you spend a lot of time in this room as wherever you stand you will see something different; there is so much to take in and be in awe of.  I could've stayed there all day!

'Platos Atlantis' 2010-image taken from https://bondstnews.files.wordpress.com

I'd love to visit 'Savage Beauty' again, but sadly I probably won't get the chance.  It's a memory I'll keep forever and one which will take some replacing.  Thank you Alexander McQueen.



Bringing home some McQueen-all available from the V&A gift shop!

xxx
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2 comments

  1. Like you, I've only visited this recently and I was blown away - the set design is as amazing as the costumes. A memory I'll treasure!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Suze! It was unbelievable wasn't it?! Xx

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