Whether you're into fashion or not, you have to appreciate the work of the late and great designer Alexander McQueen. His creations went beyond the realms of one-dimensional fashion into the world of sculpture and art and a became his medium for exploring issues of culture, politics and identity.
And seeing some of his best work in one place at the ongoing retrospective exhibition at New York's Met Museum just goes to prove his artistic genius. The exhibition, entitled Savage Beauty, opened on May 4 and has attracted worldwide attention. It features approximately 100 ensembles and 70 accessories tracing McQueen's resounding 19-year career from his work at Givenchy in Paris to his work for his namesake label in London and moves from the exotic to the romantic, the gothic and a nod to the primitive roots of nature.
What I love about his work was his ability to at once shock and seduce you and his avant-garde experimentation with exaggerated, carefully sculpted silhouettes inspired by the late 1800s and 1950s.
Here are some of my favorite pieces from his collection, that featured in the exhibition.
McQueen explored and challenged the concept of the beautiful through his SS 2001 collection, VOSS, and this dress was crafted from red and black ostrich feathers and glass medical slides painted red (to give the impression of blood). As McQueen was quoted as saying, "There's blood beneath every layer of skin"
This jacket from his 1992 collection was eerily titled "Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims" and was inspired by his fascination with Victorian culture. To add to the savage nature of the silk satin jacket, the white silk lining is encapsulated with human hair.
These are his famous "bumster" pants taken from his "Highland Rape" collection in the early 90s. Although they probably make you think of a construction worker's butt, they were actually designed to elongate the body. McQueen had an obsession with the lower part of the female spine.
This dress is taken from the same collection as the red feather ensemble above and was inspired, and crafted from, razor clam shells.
This "Coiled Corset" was inspired by the coiled necklaces of the Ndebele people of southern Africa. It was a collaboration between McQueen and jewelry designer Shaun Leane and was no easy feat to create. The model, who originally wore the piece, had to have her torso cast in cement to get the precise form around which the coils were built. The corset was then literally screwed with bolts into place around the model. Although it looks heavy, it's actually constructed from lightweight aluminum.
This "Jellyfish Ensemble" was part of the "Plato's Atlantis" collection for SS 2010. It's probably one of my favorite all time McQueen pieces and a technical work of art. The famous “Armadillo” boots that have a grotesque (albeit arresting) hoof-like quality are embroidered with iridescent enamel paillettes. I can't imagine ever being able to walk in them but some people have succeeded (the likes of Lady Gaga and Daphne Guinness).
This is what McQueen said of this particular collection: “[This collection 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.”
McQueen had an ongoing fascination with birds and feathers and this striking, dark ensemble was crafted entirely of duck feathers dyed black. The dark, melancholy aesthetic reflects McQueen's dark side which frequently came out and tragically resulted in his suicide.