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Savage Beauty – A Homage to Alexander McQueen

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Yale chapter.

An exhibition celebrating the genius of Alexander McQueen

Already in 2011 the Costume Institute exhibition about the far too short life and career of Alexander McQueen, the brilliant but troubled designer who ended his own life at the age of 40 just over five years ago, became one of the most popular shows at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. And now this summer some of the most extraordinary gowns by McQueen were exhibited in an expanded format in the V&A Museum in London. The exhibition was brilliantly made – it revealed McQueen’s clothes in the most glorious displays, in almost surreal atmospheres.

The visitor was directly confronted with McQueen’s unorthodoxy. Most fashion shows are quite rigid, often almost mechanical affairs. Alexander McQueen was boundless in his imagination; his shows showed fashion that was both theatrical, extremely powerful and menacing. McQueen loved to cross boundaries with his designs, he loved to shock. He devised fashion shows in which his models were spray-painted live on stage, they were caged, they were put in boxes of glass with thousand of butterflies. Models walked in extremely high shoes, which he designed to look like claws. He once even encircled his runway in rings of fire. Alexander McQueen’s vision of beauty was never conventional and the exhibition conveys this to the visitor in a very fascinating and dramatic display.

Savage Beauty wasn’t like any other fashion exhibition. McQueen’s work is so strikingly different, dresses made of thousands of feathers, a dress made of razor clams. Many of his designs are breathtakingly beautiful; others are disturbing in a menacing sort of way.

                                                                                                                              Dress made of razor clams

The exhibition began with his graduating collection from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, which was inspired by Victorian London. He called the collection “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims”, in which human hair was stitched into the linings.

The center of the V&A exhibition was a room called the “Cabinet of Curiosities”, in which some of the most amazing McQueen creations were displayed, such as the headpiece made of fluttering butterflies in 2008, a crystal encrusted bird’s nest hat from the fashion show in 2006, and a dress that was spray-painted during a runway show in 1999. Several video monitors around the whole room displayed nearly every runway show of the designer.

If you should ever be put on exhibit again, go and see Savage Beauty. It will take you to a different planet of fashion, as one of the poignant quotes by McQueen confirms: “There is no way back for me now. I’m going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible.”