“You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.”
– Alexander McQueen
On Tuesday, I returned to the MET to experience what may be the most profound exhibit that New York City’s historic museum has to offer. “Romantically astounding” are the two words that best describe the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty costume collection.
I won’t go too into detail about the exhibit because it is truly something that must be experienced in person. Although they are my forte, words do not, and cannot do McQueen justice.
The collection is raw, ethereal, romantic gothic, and breath-taking. Compiled of McQueen’s earliest pieces from his postgraduate MA collection up until his more recent designs before his death, visitors walk through an enlarged concrete closet of wool coats, blazers, tailored pants, full and fitted skirts, over the top dresses and other outlandish creations. Exaggerated silhouettes of the late 1800s scream what the world has come to know as “A McQueen.”
The environment itself reads McQueen as well. Dimly lit rooms, old-fashioned mirrors tainted with smoke and dust and various earthly elements such as wind and water add the perfect finishing touch. The rooms are very linear, so when visiting, take caution to follow the designs as best you can so you don’t miss a single one.
As a designer, McQueen epitomizes the romantic era. His dark, daring and ingenious approach to fashion instantly made McQueen a fashion icon to be reckoned with. Known as a designer with no filter; especially when it came to verbally expressing his views and his clothes, he dared to walk where other designers feared to tread. McQueen had the power to enter your subconscious through fashion. His designs were hauntingly beautiful and reflected themes of Life/Death, Predator/Prey, Good/Evil etc. Some were very classic and wearable and could easily be seen at the Oscars. Others, not so much. Unthinkable, yet awe-inspiring creations constructed of large, dyed ostrich feathers, razorback clam shells, and full-length horsehair also filled the rooms.
The exhibit also featured shoes, elaborate headpieces (some courtesy of British hat designer Philip Treacy), and unrealistic looking accessories that made you do a double take. Various rooms projected McQueen’s runway shows on large plasma screen televisions, echoed by screams and macabre music in the background. The “hoof” shoes as seen on avid McQueen lover Lady Gaga, were also in the collection. They actually look easier to walk in than originally anticipated. Think, ballet toe shoes taken to the extreme. Other shoes and boots were very well crafted; inlaid with gold filigree at the heels and toe.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. The name of the exhibit could not better suit what waits for visitors behind the velvet rope. I don’t think McQueen was as drastically different as people make him out to be. He just did what other designers were too afraid to do; be unconventional and say “to hell with everyone.” Based on the names of his collections and his personality, described in quotes throughout the rooms, I believe I could have been best friends with him. A revival of the dark and gothic era of Romanticism is what melts my heart, especially where literature, art and fashion is concerned.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again. Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty is without a doubt the most creative, liberating, and effective collection of costumes the MET has showcased in a while. You have until August 7th before you burden yourself with what may possibly be, your biggest regret of the summer.
The Duchess of New York