“LEE ALEXANDER MCQUEEN
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN WAS BORN IN LONDON ON MARCH 17TH 1969, THE YOUNGEST OF SIX CHILDREN. HE LEFT SCHOOL AT THE AGE OF 16 AND WAS OFFERED AN APPRENTICESHIP AT THE TRADITIONAL SAVILE ROW TAILORS ANDERSON AND SHEPHARD AND THEN AT NEIGHBOURING GIEVES AND HAWKES, BOTH MASTERS IN THE TECHNICAL CONSTRUCTION OF CLOTHING.
From there he moved to the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans where he mastered 6 methods of pattern cutting from the melodramatic 16th Century to the razor sharp tailoring which has become a McQueen signature. Aged 20 he was employed by the designer Koji Tatsuno, who also had his roots in British tailoring. A year later McQueen travelled to Milan where he was employed as Romeo Gigli’s design assistant. On his return to London, he completed a Masters degree in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martin’s. He showed his MA collection in 1992, which was famously bought in its entirety by Isabella Blow.
Alexander McQueen shows are known for their emotional power and raw energy, as well as the romantic but determinedly contemporary nature of the collections. Integral to the McQueen culture is the juxtaposition between contrasting elements: fragility and strength, tradition and modernity, fluidity and severity. An openly emotional and even passionate viewpoint is realised with a profound respect and influence for the arts and crafts tradition. Alexander’s collections combine an in-depth working knowledge of bespoke British tailoring, the fine workmanship of the French Haute Couture atelier and the impeccable finish of Italian manufacturing.” (Alexander Mcqueen)
V&A Museum Savage Beauty (14 March – 2 August 2015)
“Celebrating the extraordinary creative talent of one of the most innovative designers of recent times, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was the first and largest retrospective of McQueen’s work to be presented in Europe.”
I went to the exhibition last July, and I still feel that it was one of the best I have ever attended. There was so much to look at that I think I may actually have missed things. The exhibition takes the audience through his career – beginning with his graduate MA work through to his last collection. Each section showcases the best of his amazing design and tailoring skills, as well as his creative prints. One of the highlights of the exhibition was the video of Kate Moss.
“The Kate Moss hologram was a dramatic and emotional finale to the Paris show, with the ethereal figure of Moss shown floating inside a giant pyramid, set to the poignant soundtrack from Schindler’s List. McQueen was renowned for his catwalk show theatrics and also his love of exploring new technology, though this particular work was created using the Victorian parlour trick Pepper’s Ghost.” (Creative Review)
“Pepper’s Ghost is a special effects technique for creating transparent ghostly images. It works by reflecting the image of a ghost off of a sheet of plexiglass. This effect has been a staple of theaters and haunted houses since John Pepper popularized it in the 1800s.” (Make Zine)
I only managed to sneak one photo but I’ve found better online from the V&A website.
I also bought the book from the V&A store which was worth it so I could see closeups of some of his prints and clothing.
A lot of Mcqueen’s work focused on the idea of memento mori and his own mortality/transience.
I love his use of natural elements like shells and insects. In some cases his clothing looks as though they could represent some of the symbolism that is present within Vanitas paintings. Butterflies represent a cycle, and also transience because they live very short lives. The shells could have a few different meanings; I’ve seen some seashells used in Vanitas paintings in more decadent ways, contrasting rich food with themes of death (usually skulls) as a reminder that we can’t take any of our riches with us. The shells are also symbols of death too – the creatures inside are long dead – their outer shells are a reminder that they once lived.
This pattern reminded me of the patterns on butterfly wings.
I’m also fascinated by the way that Mcqueen made his prints. Most of his prints feature some kind of symmetry – creating abstract shapes and patterns with recognizable objects.
Other McQueen Prints:
I found a few more repeat prints online. I do like the look of symmetry, although I tend to make a lot of work that is symmetrical already. If I did make a repeat/symmetrical print I know it would turn out pretty well because I have a lot of practise of making them, but I may decide to try something different. I’m not ruling it out at this stage, as I may decide that a repeat print works well for a particular image.
Prints On Clothing:
I found a few examples of McQueen clothing with printed material, as I wanted to study the way that the print interacts with the clothing silhouettes. I think it would be a good idea to first work out the shape of the clothing that I want, and then design a print based on that. Some of these prints are related to the memento mori/vanitas theme, which is interesting for me to see how I could approach the subject matter myself. The last dress is probably the best example of the kind of clothing that I wanted to produce, but with a more visible print.