Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Wait time is 45 mins

On a weekday. Those tourists!!

Looking at the shock on my friend’s face, I decided not to subject her to any more physical exercise. (After all, I had made her walk 25 streets in her heels, on the broken concrete sidewalk when she was mentally preparing for about 5).

Anyway, I fell in line and waited… bend in the line… yay! that wasnt that bad… oh wait… there’s still the line…. but I do see the next bend… maybe that’s it… that wont take too long… this isn’t half bad (still waiting in line). Meanwhile I see people coming out of the exhibit… So maybe I’m just about to enter… I hear them talk to themselves “wow such a long line”… another person goes “OMG! this is endless”…. really? how endless?… at least I think I can see the end of it… that bend there… that’s it… (still waiting)… FINALLY! here it is, the bend… the exhibit?… nope… this time it IS an endless line… an hour later (definitely more than 45 minutes!!) I saw this:

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Suddenly, the brightly lit corridor I was in was obsolete. This was all I could see. For a minute I just stood there while people rushed past me, happy to be let in… It was like the world was whizzing past me and I couldn’t move a single muscle. “Move!” I thought to myself… make that physical attempt…

Once I’m past the red sequins, feathers and the shells, I was out of the trance… (so dramatic, I know!) but it’s true… an eerie, empty feeling is bestowed upon you as soon as you see these two faceless ladies welcoming you into the darkness. The darkness where creations of the master are staged - posing dramatically and daring you to something you don’t quite understand. They mock you with all their bleeding power, through the faceless masks, luxurious robes, dangerous heights and majestic headsets - each like a queen of her own damned land.

No down feathers, I’d like to encase some human hair? As I entered the exhibit, I saw the first pieces he made as part of his student thesis. “Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims”, he named it. As I read the descriptions, I thought maybe now the name makes sense: These luxurious fabrics were holding a secret of their own - they’re encased with human hair. I was surrounded by high shouldered jackets and structured coats from his thesis and some early work - mostly black with peeks of bold red; and his famous “bumsters” whether its a pair of pants or a skirt or a dress with a back low enough to reveal the buttocks! Not sure if he envisioned the revolution he would bring to denims or any type of bottom wear at the time, but I learnt that his purpose was really to reveal the base of the spine, which to him was “the most exciting” part of the body - male or female!

So as I moved on from his early work to the other rooms, I started to see the various aspects of his collections and how they portray their master’s mind. How he thought women should be powerful. A romantic at heart with such an intriguing understanding of romanticism. So tough yet so vulnerable. A diver that drew inspiration from life underwater to create his iconic “jellyfish” print. The genius mind that designed the armadillo shoes which seem to lift these figures to unreachable heights. The extensive use of feathers, the shells, the fabrics, the flowers, the prints, the embroidery (oh the golden thread!), the tailoring… so structured whether it is on a collar or a bow… so magnificent!

After rambling on and on for so long, it would be a disgrace for me to not mention all the headsets by Philip Treacy. As far as my limited knowledge goes, he worked quite extensively with McQueen making the hats and headsets for his shows. The Fabulous hats and headsets were everywhere I looked - on every queen, her own eccentric crown. These hats were so vital to the McQueen creations that one of the dresses needed some tulle going over the head and it was pierced through the antlers of the hat.

The exhibit was put together to create a lasting impression. Some of the visuals that stayed with me since were the almost androgynous figure with a flying black cape, the flower dress, the distressed dress with the antler headset, the armadillo shoes… and the list goes on… here are a few:

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McQueen often said that his muse is strong, fierce, intimidating yet fragile and distressed; and that is the romanticism and sex appeal he sees in a woman. True enough, this was his harem; complete with the different forms his muse has taken.