McQueen: A True Genius

Amazing, a touch scary, a bit sad and most importantly awe-inspiring!  That was my first reaction to the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at the Met.  I am honestly having trouble finding the right words to express how much of an effect that this exhibit had on me.  The dramatic entrance, the interiors that reflected exactly the mood of the various collections, even the music ranging from Handel, werewolves howling, Bjork, even "God Save the Queen" - the attention to every detail was astounding!  I really felt as though I was able to glimpse into the mind of a true genius.  He was more than a fashion designer... a true "artist whose medium of expression was fashion".

  "What I am trying to bring to [fashion] is a sort of originality..."

It was very interesting to learn what inspired McQueen as well as his views on fashion.  He was a Romantic, "the hero-artist who staunchly follows the dictates of his inspiration".  His training as a tailor played heavily into designs, with his experience at Givenchy (creative director 1996-2001) helping him to refine his draping and dress-making skills.  Throughout the exhibit, the overriding thought I had was that he was so passionate.  Everything was so deep and full of meaning.  In every piece of clothing there was a specific reason behind the cut, the style, the materials used... I have such an appreciation for his work, and I feel very lucky to have seen it in person.

"I spent a long time learning how to construct clothes,
                   which is important to do before you deconstruct them."

The exhibition was separated into six parts/themes.  The first being the Romantic Mind.  This was a glimpse into McQueen's head... where it all started.  The room was fashioned into what felt like a laboratory or studio of sorts... but dark and cold.  Cement walls, the platforms were made of unfinished planks and the music was haunting.  Even the forms had jointed arms and fingers... almost like Pinocchio.  Coats, pants, skirts and jackets were on display to allow you to see the skill and ingenuity in which he created many of iconic designs.

      "I want to empower women. 
          I want people to be afraid of the women I dress."

The five other areas of the exhibit were dedicated to the dominant themes in his collection, which were also central ideas behind the Romanticism movement.  There is Historicism, Nationalism, Exoticism, Primitivism and Naturalism.  In each of these respective areas, highlights from several collections were featured.  It was very interesting to learn about his inspirations and obsessions. The exhibit was also filled with his quotes.  I believe that these alone say so much about him.  Here are several of my favorites...

"I don't think like the average person on the street.  I think quite perversely sometimes."  

"I especially like the accessory for its sadomasochistic aspect."

      "The Victorian era greatly influenced me:
                                     the austerity, the severity, the melancholy."

"I don't really get inspired [by specific women]...
It's more in the minds of the women in the past, 
like Catherine the Great, or Marie Antoinette.  P
eople who were doomed.  Joan of Arc or Colette.  
Iconic women."

 "I want to be honest about the world that we live in, and sometimes my political persuasions come through in my work.  Fashion can be really racist, looking at the clothes of other cultures as costumes.  ... That's mundane and it's old hat.  Let's break down some barriers."

"[I try to] push the silhouette.  To change the silhouette is to change the thinking of how we look.  What I do is look at ancient African tribes, and the way they dress.  The rituals of how they dress... There's a lot of tribalism in the collections."

"I have always loved the mechanics of nature and to a greater or lesser extent my work is always informed by that."

Going beyond the beauty, creativity and talent that was showcased in this exhibition, the real takeaway (for me at least) was how McQueen stayed true to his own vision.  He obviously had his demons, but he was still able to follow his heart.  I admire him for his determination and ability to express himself without worrying about what his critics were saying.  For that reason, I believe that he was able to truly excel... there was no fear to hold him back.  He has been an inspiration for so many, hopefully we can apply this passion to our own lives...

                                                                                                          - Allison
*photos courtesy of Getty images

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