Beautiful and visceral, if there is only one exhibit you see this year, make it the V&A’s Savage Beauty. Whilst his was a universal talent, Alexander McQueen, or Lee as he was known to those closest to him, was a Londoner through and through. He grew up in the east end and learnt the craftsmanship he was lauded for on Savile Row, which is why it always seemed so strange that the greatest retrospective of his work ended up on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. However at long last the exhibit has after much anticipation arrived at the V&A Museum. “London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration,” McQueen once said. He was a London designer; it seemed only natural that he was honoured here, in his hometown, at a museum he frequented.
A stunning requiem of Alexander McQueen’s enduring talent, Savage Beauty is full to the brim with his genius creations, with the show having grown a third for its London view. Spanning his 1992 MA graduate collection to his unfinished A/W 2010 collection, McQueen’s designs are presented with the dramatic staging and sense of spectacle synonymous with his runway shows
A highly proficient and inventive tailor, McQueen displayed his originality most fundamentally through his methods of cutting and construction. Up close, and you really can see the pieces up close, the extraordinary levels of detail are sublime. And not unlike McQueen’s fashion shows, the layout of the exhibit is carefully considered, with each ‘room’ crafted to complement the collection displayed within it.
At the heart of the exhibit is the ‘cabinet of curiosities’, that perhaps best demonstrates McQueen’s extravagant and fetishistic approach to design. At the centre of the room is a reproduction of model Shalom Harlow being sprayed with paint by robots, as well as pieces created in collaboration with milliner Philip Treacy (the butterfly headdress created by Treacy for a 2008 show is truly a thing of beauty) and jewellery created with Shaun Leane. With screens showing clips from various catwalk shows, one could quite easily lose several hours in this room, gazing with awe at each headdress, each armadillo shoe and each extravagantly encrusted jacket.
Many of these clothes are exceptionally beautiful; they’re as close to being works of art as fashion ever comes. For the fleeting time that they are gathered under one roof, it would be a sin not to drink in the sight of them.
To learn more about this amazing exhibition be sure to check out a special feature in this months spring issue of The Bite Mag, issue 11.