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Savage beauty
Savage Beauty Alexander McQueen

    MET & Alexander McQueen - SAVAGE BEAUTY

    16 May 2011

    by Katja Schmolka

    `THERE IS NO WAY BACK FOR ME NOW. I AM GOING TO TAKE YOU ON JOURNEYS YOU´RE NEVER DREAMED WERE POSSIBLE`. `IN ECLECT DISSET MY IDEA WAS THIS MAD SCIENTIST WHO CUT ALL THOSE WOMEN UP AND MIXED THEM ALL BACK TOGETHER`. IT IS IMPORTANT TO LOOK AT DEATH BECAUSE IT IS PART OF LIFE. IT IS A SAD THING MELANCHOLY BUT ROMANTIK AT THE SAME TIME. IT IS A CYCLE EVERYTHING HAS TO END. THE CYCLE OF LIFE IS POSITIVE BECAUSE IT GIVES ROOM FOR NEW THINGS`. FOR ME, WHAT I DO IS AN ARTISTIC EXPRESSION WHICH IS CHANNELED THROUGH ME. FASHION IS JUST THE MEDIUM. Alexander McQueen

    When I entered the ancients rooms of the Metropolitan Museum´s Costume Institute on the second floor at the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Exhibition Hall, I was simply stunned by the beauty and energies of this exhibition. It nearly felt as if Alexander McQueen was there himself. My breath was taken away by the lovingly arranged mannequins dressed with Alexander McQueen´s most iconic creations from postgraduate collection in 1992 showcasing his early works from his graduation Central Saint Martins to his
    final runway presentation, which took place after his death in February 2010. He challenged and expanded our understanding of fashion beyond utility to
    a conceptual expression of culture, politics, and identity. McQueen was as creative director the master of Haute Couture at Givenchy and did so at his own label House of Alexander McQueen. He was drawn by the fundamentals of Savile Row tailoring, the specialized techniques of Haute Couture – such as lacework, embroidery and feather work, combined with the latest technological innovations always his eye having on his very own aesthetic. Performance and art was his vehicle to bring his visions through fashion alive. A romantic sensitive person who channeled his yearnings for romantic through his work with his fable for 19th – century Romantic.

    An excerpt of the Interview by Tim Blanks, contrubuting editor at style.com with Sarah Burton, Creative Director Alexander McQueen for the book `Savage Beauty` curated by Andrew Bolton – curator in the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

    TB: With the resources from Givenchy, did this make Lee more
    experimental with his collections?

    SB: Yes, they definitely helped Lee to push boundaries. I remember
    one collection—the prêt-à-porter autumn/winter 1999–2000
    collection—which involved a model in a Perspex robotic body.
    The guy who made the robot told us ten minutes before the
    model walked out, “If she sweats in the suit, she’s going to
    electrocute herself. So tell her not to sweat.”
    Givenchy was an amazing experience for Lee. He was a
    superb tailor anyway, and he could cut amazing dresses, but at
    Givenchy he learned all about couture, especially embroideries.

    TB: The boards showing embroidery samples are particularly
    detailed. With Lee, how much was provided by embroidery
    companies and how much was specially commissioned?

    SB: It was kind of a mixture. First I’d go through the archives.
    We kept everything from past seasons because Lee had a memory
    like an elephant. So we’d bring out things that maybe hadn’t
    been used, and then we’d develop new things as well. But every
    collection began with a show. To start work on designing the
    collection, he’d have to visualize how it would be seen.

    TB: When he was visualizing the show, was he thinking of each
    look as a character, like he was casting a production?

    SB: Each show was very much done as a couture show, in that
    Lee would have a board numbered, say, one to fifty, and we
    always had about seventy-five looks. We would edit them in
    Paris. They were grouped, quite often in three sections, and there
    was always a story. Irere [spring/summer 2003] was the first time
    we’d ever done a pre-collection, so the whole first group was
    pre-collection.
    Lee always designed each look as a complete look, with shoes,
    hair, and makeup. Shoes were really important because they
    anchored the look. The “Armadillo” shoe from Plato’s Atlantis
    [spring/summer 2010] was based on a ballet point shoe designed
    by Allen Jones. They were actually quite comfortable to walk in,
    but if a girl couldn’t walk in them, she wasn’t in the show.
    The hair was almost the same on everybody. In the lineup
    for Lee’s shows, the identities of the girls were completely blanked
    out. It was about the clothes and about the show—never about
    the model. An extreme example of this was in the collection
    In Memory of Elizabeth How, Salem 1692 [autumn/winter
    2007–8] when one girl wore a leather molded bodice that
    covered her face entirely.

    TB: The shows always seemed to be the result of remarkably
    stable collaborations.

    SB: Lee was amazingly loyal, with a great belief in people. He
    was very strong in his collaborations. His vision was so pure
    that he would very much be the director of whatever project he
    worked on, whether it was a show or a photo shoot. But when he
    worked with the milliner Philip Treacy, he was very respectful.
    He’d show him boards and give him key words, and Philip
    would come up with something. For example, in the collection
    The Horn of Plenty [autumn/winter 2009–10], Lee wanted plastic
    bags on the heads, like he’d seen in Hendrik Kerstens’s photos
    at the National Portrait Gallery, but it was Philip who came up
    with the dustbin lid and the exploding wicker basket. Guido
    Palau’s coiffures for The Horn of Plenty brought another layer to
    the collection. For Lee, Philip and Guido really finished off the
    look. It was the same with the jeweler Shaun Leane. Lee loved
    his craftsmanship.
    When he first started to think about the production of
    a show, that’s when Sam Gainsbury would come in. They’d
    discuss the venue, the theme. When Lee began to show in Paris,
    he sometimes chose a venue because of its special atmosphere,
    such as the Conciergerie, where he staged his collection
    Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious [autumn/winter 2002–3].
    Most of the time, however, Lee wanted to create his own environment,
    so he showed at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy.
    For The Girl Who Lived in the Tree [autumn/winter 2008–9],
    which featured a tree wrapped in fabric, Lee looked to the artist
    Christo for inspiration, then to Sam to make it happen. She
    had a huge input in things. Joseph Bennett and Simon Kenny
    worked on the design, and Dan Landin on the lighting. John
    Gosling always did the music, which was vital, because whatever
    we played was part of the feeling of the collection. Lee had a very
    strong point of view on what music he wanted for a show. There
    were always drums in some way and always an evocative song at
    the end that made you feel uplifted or sentimental. Lee listened
    to a lot of classical music over the last three years, especially
    during fittings—Philip Glass’s music from The Hours or Michael
    Nyman’s music from The Piano. Music seemed more important
    once we moved to the current studio. I don’t remember it playing
    in the former one on Amwell Street….. More you can read in the book Savage Beauty.

     Exhibition  dates 04th of May – 31st of  July 2011, hours and tours are on view at metmuseum.org

    The exhibition is organized by Andrew Bolton, Curator, with the support of
    Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, both of the Met’s Costume Institute. Sam
    Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett, the production designers for Alexander McQueen’s
    fashion shows, serve as the exhibition’s creative director and production designer,
    respectively. All head treatments and masks are designed by Guido. The graphic
    design of the exhibition is by Sue Koch of the Museum’s Design Department.
    The design for the 2011 Costume Institute Gala Benefit is created by Sam
    Gainsbury and Joseph Bennett with Raul Avila. Sponsors: Condé Nast and American Express.


    Credits

    pictures are in courtesy of metmuseum.org/research/metpublications/Alexander

    alexandermcqueen.com

     


               


     
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