At this year’s Oscars, there was one modest empire-style dress that drew everyone’s attention. Actress Rooney Mara appeared at the ceremony wearing an archive Alexander McQueen dress from the FW 2008 collection. That collection was one of the last iconic creations of McQueen. It was inspired by a fantastical story imagined by the designer. He said that a 600-year-old elm tree sparked his imagination – he started thinking about a princess imprisoned inside the tree, wanting to get out and become a queen. That collection was a dramatic fairytale where you could see references to the history of the British Empire and Indian Maharajas. It was a sophisticated blend of romanticism, Empire style, baroque, Victorian fashion, and Queen Elizabeth II style.
The Girl Who Lived in the Tree (2008)
Alexander McQueen’s collections always told stories and were full of symbols and references. They were performative and astonished the public. However, they always mirrored the complex issues the designer had to go through. Alexander McQueen was more than just a fashion designer. He was an avant-garde artist.
Keep scrolling to find out about 5 legendary Alexander McQueen fashion shows that are worth taking a look at.
Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims (1992)
Alexander McQueen’s story started in 1992, from the “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims” collection, which was his graduation project. The collection featured Victorian elements and referenced the famous serial killer story. The dresses were decorated with real human hair. Isabella Blow, the fashion headliner of the time, bought the whole collection for £5000.
Highland Rape (1995)
The “Highland Rape” collection of 1995 aimed to tell about the colonization and destruction of Scotland by England in the 18-19 centuries. The collection was full of controversial metaphors: it hinted at England’s tyranny, xenophobic attitude towards the Scottish people, and killing of innocent people. It also was very personal and grew from the designer’s trauma – Alexander McQueen suffered abuse in his childhood.
Half-naked models walked the runway causing extreme resentment among critics. The collection featured trousers that had an exaggeratedly low waist called “the bumsters.” McQueen created them to mess up the body proportions by making the torso look longer than it should be.
If you were shocked to see how Coperni made a dress as if by magic during their fashion show, you should definitely check out the “No.13” fashion show of 1999 – Shalom Harlow walked the runway wearing a white trapeze dress that was sprayed with paint by two robots. At the time, it looked like a futuristic wonder from some sci-fi movie. Alexander McQueen aimed to tell that the fashion industry had become a soulless robot whose only interest was money and sales.
The “VOSS” show of 2001 was a big experiment on the audience who was presented with a mirror cube before the show. The start of the show was purposefully delayed, resulting in guests staring at their own reflections for almost an hour. Many of them admitted that it was very uncomfortable. The models were behind the mirror walls and couldn’t see the audience. Their only assignment was to act like inmates of a mental asylum. Inside the room, there was one more mirror cube that opened at the conclusion of the show and revealed a close recreation of Joel Peter Witkin’s Sanitarium (1983). The performance aimed to reference the biggest fear of the fashion industry – being overweight.
By the way, Voss is a town famous for its wildlife habitat. That’s why the collection featured so many natural shapes and materials.
Plato’s Atlantic (2009)
Alexander McQueen’s last show “Plato’s Atlantis” happened in 2009. For that collection, he was imagining future people who chose to come back underwater. The models appeared looking like otherworldly reptiles. The dresses featured prints that were created on the computer. And you have got to remember the Armadillo shoes – they were insanely popular and even viral at the time. The show was the first fashion show aired online.
Designing clothes, sewing, styling – all of these mean creativity. Get inspired and fueled by your own art. And may it always make you happy.
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