Below is our preview, giving background information about the exhibition. Click here to read our Savage Beauty review.
Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum London celebrates the work of the late Alexander McQueen, the most beloved rebel of the fashion world, whose dark imaginative designs and precise tailoring outraged, delighted and fascinated all who encountered them.
Alexander McQueen biography
Four time winner of the British Designer of the Year award McQueen started his career as an apprentice on Savile Row London, famous for its bespoke suits and tailors. He worked as chief designer at Givenchy before founding his own eponymous label.
As Claire Wilcox, the show's V&A curator, told CW, ’his style might have been disruptive but it was always underpinned by exceptional skill’. And this theme of unapologetic individualism and creativity runs throughout the retrospective, highlighting McQueen’s unequivocal refusal to compromise his ideas.
In McQueen’s hands runway shows became a vehicle for expressing complex ideas and challenging the boundaries of what we consider to be beautiful. His work raised questions usually beyond fashion’s remit, about our throw-away culture, race, misogyny and violence against women, religion, plastic surgery, our reliance on technology and more. The tight corsets, face masks and towering armadillo heels had critics constantly asking whether his was a fashion of empowerment or subjugation.
What you need to know about Savage Beauty at the V&A
To start with, hosting the exhibition at the V&A is a genius move. As the museum's director Martin Roth explained, bringing the show to London, ‘is like bringing the exhibition home’. McQueen, the son of a cab driver, was brought up in London, did research for his degree in the V&A’s fashion archives while studying at Central Saint Martins and worked here all his life. After five years at Givenchy, McQueen launched his own label in 2000 and went on to be part of several V&A projects, including the live catwalks ‘Fashion in Motion’, and exhibitions ‘Cutting Edge’ and ‘Radical Fashion’ (2004). As Wilcox says, ‘he only ever worked with people or places he loved and respected’, a principle fittingly upheld in this exhibition at his beloved V&A.
New additions to the V&A exhibition
With this return to London after sell-out success in the Met, Savage Beauty is getting a refresh: swelling in size by one third and gaining forty new accessories and garments. (‘And if anyone has anything else lying around do let us know!’ Wilcox urges.) Documenting the first seven shows from his clothing line, the exhibition also boasts a fantastic cabinet of curiosities with one hundred garments produced in collaboration with other designers, including the famous bird's nest hat designed by Shaun Leane and Philip Treacy.
The structure of the show itself is unlike any other fashion exhibition we’ve seen, leading visitors through an enchanted forest exploring McQueen's gothic, primitivist, naturalist and futurist influences. Particularly note-worthy are the rarely seen sketches, previously hidden away in the McQueen archive. You’ll also be able to experience the awe-inspiring McQueen catwalk shows from a series of screens, bringing to life the dynamic and theatrical performances of his label.
Alexander McQueen designs: our favourite pieces
Particular highlights we can’t wait for include delicate gothic pieces influenced by poet Edgar Allan Poe and producer Tim Burton with a dash of Dickens' Miss Havisham thrown in for good measure. Then there are influences from the animal world, primitivism and the fragility of nature, as well as echoes of McQueen’s own Scottish ancestry and references to the twilight years of the British Raj in ‘The Girl who Lived in the Tree’ (2008). Also look out for the entire room dedicated to the incredible Kate Moss moment in 2006 when the 'ghost' of the supermodel appeared on the catwalk thanks to 19th-century technology. The exhibition finishes on the high note of the ‘Plato’s Atlantis’ show of 2010, in which armadillo-shoed models stalked the catwalk dressed as members of a futuristic amphibious species.
However, as Wilcox explains, while ‘he absorbed influences and wore them lightly, the work was always McQueen’. So there’s a reason why this ‘homecoming’ show is being called the greatest ever fashion exhibition. From a gold horned headpiece donated by Givenchy to the sequined top inlayed with the haunting image of the famous Romanov children, this exhibition triumphantly demonstrates McQueen’s raw energy and fearlessness. The V & A, as one of the leading fashion museums in London, provides us with one of the top future exhibitions in London in 2015.
|What||Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V&A|
|Where||V&A, South Kensington, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||South Kensington (underground)|
14 Mar 15 – 02 Aug 15, 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM
|Website||Click here for more information and to book via the V&A|