14 July 2011

savage beauty

i'm so excited to see the alexander mcqueen exhibit at the metropolitan museum of art in nyc on saturday that i get really wibbly every time i think about it.

i first learned about mcqueen when i was working at a bookstore and found a promo postcard for one of david lachappelle's photography books. the postcard was an image of mcqueen in a giant dress standing in front of a burning castle with a torch. he looked bananas and it was weird but i liked it. the postcard itself was torn and folded and kind of beat up, but the image was so interesting that i kept it, and his name stuck with me.

i started following his work faithfully around 2006 when his "widows of culloden" collection came out (F/W 2006/7 RTW). it's still my favorite fashion collection of all time (with givenchy S 2011 CTR (birds and crustaceans!), viktor & rolf S 2010 RTW (sculptural tulle!), gareth pugh S 2011 RTW (bill and ted university!), mcqueen F/W 2010/11 RTW (hieronymus bosch!), christian dior S 2011 CTR (fashion illustration come to life!) and chanel S 2010 CTR (robobride of frankenstein 2050!) following closely behind. among others. i love everything, really). the moment i saw how brilliantly he mixed tartans and black lace, i was completely smitten.

the thing i like most about mcqueen, and what attracted me to him in the first place, was that his style and work made me slightly uncomfortable (the aforementioned bizarre postcard, the creepy as hell blow-up-doll lips of his F/W 2009/10 RW collection, etc.) and as a result, they caused me to consider the reasons why i felt that way.

there is always a debate over whether or not fashion can ever be anything more than superficial, and i think it can. i sincerely believe that at its best, it's a fine art just like painting or photography and so therefore it certainly has the ability to convey significant messages and speak about society, the past, present, future, religion, politics, and other sometimes controversial issues that deeply move people. why not? it doesn't always have to be simply about "looking pretty" (although admittedly, in some instances it's not much more than that).

in mcqueen's case, there has always been a lot of talk over whether or not his creations were anti-women, and i've always thought that idea was pretty ludicrous. this article from jezebel pretty much nails it:

But it takes a flat mind to conflate any reference to misogyny — if that's even the right word — with an endorsement of it.

Is a bloodied woman on a runway a critique of violence, or a glamorization of it? Is it an apolitical-but-tacky shock tactic? There are some who believe that it's not fashion's project to examine or refer to social issues — that it's essentially a frivolous industry that should stick to making nicer frocks and setting hemline trends.

i still get genuinely sad when i think about his suicide, when i consider both what kind of dark place he must've been in to commit such an act, and how we'll never get to see any more of his creations. sarah burton is clearly doing an amazing job upholding the honor of his legacy while still infusing her style in the new mcqueen collections, but we'll never know what new directions he may have gone in and what genius he may have created had he lived.

i can't wait to see pieces from a range of his collections all side by side and FEEL LOTS OF FEELINGS about it.

here are two videos of his "widows of culloden" collection, if you want to see his amazing work in action:

and this is a really great video about the headpieces from that collection, created by swarovski and philip treacy (who also designed princess beatrice's notorious royal wedding hat) from nowness:

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