I knew that haute couture was art. Ever since my mother first introduced me to designers like Balmain, Cardin, Chanel and Dior; from the time I saw my first Vogue magazine, with its voluptuous, beguiling layouts, the stories like fantasies as good as any romantic novel — I knew it was art. Many people did, but those people weren’t always taken seriously. Couture was seen as mere craft, and haute couture clever craft at best.
But with time, slowly, haute couture started to gain the respect it deserved. “Real” artists themselves began to pay attention, to acknowledge the eye, training, and skill it took to be a couturier. Still, in 2011, when the Alexander McQueen exhibit, Savage Beauty, came to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, there were people who wondered what this “high dressmaking” was doing in a palace of high art. But I, and the thousands of other people who stood in line for hours, didn’t wonder. We knew that Alexander McQueen belonged at the Met, or any other palace for that matter. Perhaps the Victoria and Albert Museum in London?
Savage Beauty is going to be at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2015, from March 14 – July 19. This awesome graphic was made accessible to me by a company called Farfetch. To see what else they have to offer look here. Feast your eyes on some more couture, buy yourself a McQueen skull ring! In any case, thanks for this opportunity to spread the word, Farfetch!
McQueen was a man with vision, who took raw materials and fashioned them into objects of beauty that spoke to those who looked at them. He produced a consistently excellent, and coherent, body of work. He told stories better than just about anyone. He was controversial but widely acclaimed. Like Robert Mapplethorpe, another l’enfant terrible and “the shy pornographer”, McQueen took darkness and the macabre, brought it to light and made it desirable to ponder.
Alexander McQueen created a genre. His skulls are everywhere. His veiled and masked faces are walking down the runways at fashion week. Whether you are a consumer of mass media and fashion or not, his kind of provocation and theatricality are part of our everyday diet.
Alexander McQueen told his sisters he was going to be a fashion designer before he left school, at the age of 16. He began his career as an apprentice to Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, and later to the costumiers Angels and Bermans — undoubtedly the sources for his “impeccably tailored look” and the theatricality he became known for.
These apprenticeships, and time spent working for other designers, such as Romeo Gigli, prepared McQueen for application to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, where his talent was immediately recognized, and he eventually earned a Masters degree. His entire graduate collection was bought by the stylist Isabelle Blow… and Alexander McQueen was well on his way.
In 1996, McQueen was appointed head designer at Givenchy. While the partnership was not always amicable, and his designs at Givenchy toned down, McQueen stayed until 2001, by which time he had earned his own stage.
McQueen continued to create, innovate, and sometimes shock. He used naked models, amputees, Indian models never before seen on London stages. He sprayed models with paint and forced audiences to view their own reflections. To me, what’s magnificent is not the shock and theatricality, but the beauty and quality of the work. The clothes, envisioned and created!
Alexander McQueen dressed almost every celebrity, it seems; perhaps most famously, Lady Gaga. He worked with many other fashion houses and brands. He won the highest awards and honors in the world of fashion. So when he died at 41, by his own hand, there was little to say but that an artist had left us.