Savage Beauty, the most anticipated and hyped retrospective of the visionary designer Alexander McQueen finally opens at the Victoria & Albert museum. This landmark exhibition tells the sartorial tale of a visionary designer, from his early beginnings at the Saville Row to his rise as a leading men of the British fashion.
The exhibition originated by the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and became one of the most popular exhibitions in the Museum’s history. Savage Beauty in the V&A has been edited and expanded by 66 additional garments and accessories, lent by private individuals and collectors such as Katy England and the House of Givenchy. In total, the exhibition includes more than 240 ensembles and accessories, the largest numbers of individual pieces designed by McQueen ever seen together.
“London is where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration.” Words of McQueen welcome every visitor in the first section, which focuses on McQueen’s early London collections. This part has been added from the original exhibition, and focuses at McQueen’s early collections, including his MA graduate collection at Central Saint Martins. Garments on display demonstrate McQueen’s innovation and subversion of traditional tailoring skills he gained as an apprentice on Saville Row. It includes Bumster trousers, one of his low-cut pants signature silhouettes.
The interplay between light, dark and McQueen’s frequent references to the Victorian Gothic tradition are explored in the next section, Romantic Gothic. The display also includes pieces from his last final, unfinished collection. Next section, Romantic Primitivism, is staged in an underwater cave decorated with human skulls. It addresses his fascination with animal world and includes garments crafted from horn, skin and hair. Romantic Nationalism delves into McQueen’s fascination with his Scottish heritage, ancestry and the colonial past.
The arguable heart of the exhibition is The Cabinet of Curiosities. It is presented as a double-height gallery and showcases more than 120 garments and accessories. Screens show film footage from McQueen’s many catwalk presentations. In the centre is moving exhibition of the famous spray-painted dress, which was a finale of his spring/summer 1999 show.
A further section is a dedicated gallery, used to recreate the holographic 3D image of Kate Moss in a gown of rippling organza, which appeared at the finale of the Widows of Culloden catwalk show.
Romantic Exoticism looks into designer’s interest in Eastern cultures and designs that draw inspiration from traditional Japanese dresses, such as the kimono. It also features the mirrored box from the VOSS show, complete with lights that turn it from clear lass to opaque.
The last part of the exhibition represents McQueen’s lifelong passion for nature and features McQueen’s last fully realised collection Plato’s Atlantis. This dramatical and original collection was considered his greatest achievement and fused his interest in nature and technology.
Sarah Burton, Creative Director of Alexander McQueen, said: “Lee was a genius and a true visionary who pushed boundaries, challenged and inspired. He believed in creativity and innovation and his talent was limitless. Savage beauty is a celebration of the most imaginative and talented designer of our time.”
V&A delivered a truly personal tribute to the legend that is McQueen, and thanks to the exhibition his legacy lives on.