I have been looking forward to going to this exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, ever since it opened back in March, however, my travels in Italy only allowed me to visit this iconic exhibit a couple of weeks ago.
The extraordinary, captivating exhibition is a must for anyone who appreciates the work of an artist; fashion or not, Savage Beauty brings an inspiring story and narrative. This isn’t any ordinary fashion exhibition. Visually stimulating, the audience gets a strong sense of McQueen’s creativity, as if we are entering his mind. We travel through different rooms, taken on a journey inside his imagination in a dark and romantic atmosphere. Passion, beauty and opposition are portrayed in each room. Feathers, roses, plaid, skulls and bones create a sensory and a stimulating fashion exhibition, making an impressive impact on McQueen’s admirers.
Each room has its own thematic setting. The ‘cabinet of curiosity’ is without a doubt the most intriguing and the room where people spent the most time looking and discovering. Incredible creations from McQueen’s archive are on display. At the heart of the exhibition, objects such as armadillo shoes, fierce feather headpieces and sequin slip dresses, exemplify McQueen’s creativity. The thought that was passing through my head, was, quite literally, what was he thinking?
It’s not an exhibition where you can tell your companion, I would love to wear that, or Zara has made a collection based on these designs, it is more than the average ‘fashion followers’ desire. Ultimately the exhibition is as much a tribute to McQueen himself as his work. Claire Wilcox, V&A Senior Curator, says: ‘I worked with him from 1999, as he draws inspiration from V&A collections. We felt passionately that his visionary work should be presented here.’ The show displays the extraordinary talent of the UK in creativity and one feels a real sense of pride wandering through the rooms.
Displays were inspired by the stories of Victorian serial killer Jack the Ripper, others were based on Futurism. The exhibition lacked information on the social and cultural context in which Alexander McQueen worked in. For example the years when he was in Savile Row, learning the tailoring techniques, which worked as the backbone of his work or the period he spent in Paris at the House of Givenchy, where he had an in depth experience of Haute Couture. Both subjects would have been interesting and useful to read about during the exhibition, to understand a bit more about the clothes on display; although, one could invest in the book behind the exhibition, which the topics are referenced in.
I enjoyed walking and admiring the different clothes and accessories from one room to another, finding it intriguing and gripping. I was never truly a fan of McQueen’s collections. Personally, I like to see fashion shows and designer collections as pieces I could see myself wearing. McQueen was always too outrageous and ‘high fashion’ for my understanding and liking. Not saying that he wasn’t an artist as he clearly was with many thought-provoking ideas, however, as fashion designers innovations, the way women dress, it all seemed too daring and bizarre. He was in fact a story teller. McQueen’s urge was “to elevate a fashion show from the mere mechanical act of showing fashion into a narrative medium.”
He has successfully done that. Overall the exhibition portrays an in depth analysis of womanswear, the beauty and restrictions of the female figure.