That moment when a rose is on the verge of decay, when the petals turn floppy, soft and crinkled, is, says Sarah Burton a beautiful thing.
This show, staged at the Conciergerie in Paris, the vaulted chambers where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before being beheaded, and, for those who can remember, the venue for Lee McQueen’s first show in Paris thirteen years ago, where models walked with wolves on leashes, examined the beauty of those roses.
A wilting bouquet was the image featured on the shows invitation, photographed by David Sims in 2003. But the way Burton captured a fading rose, in its last days of existence was best executed in a three-dimensional skirt made from layered petals of whisper-weight organza, they formed pillow-y blooms that seemed to wilt even more in motion.
Piled up, 18th Century hair, powdered faces and Miss Havisham tiered lace fishtail gowns that buttoned all the way up to Victorian collars added to the dark romance. This was McQueen at its most feminine, and in many ways, at its very best. Since Burton took the helm, the house has benefitted from a gentler hand, yes, it was still provocative, but without a hint of aggression.There were no hard edges, everything looked frayed, as though it had lived a life – which brings us back to that dying rose again.
Any leanings towards bondage – a regular occurrence here – were replaced with lingerie in the shape of lacy leather bras that extended up to chokers. Her tonal leather looks in head to toe putty pink were devastatingly pretty and informed by the idea of a rose’s layers; how each petal peels away.
It was a triumph.
If you haven’t yet visited Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition at the V&A I suggest you make a date in your diary. It isn’t a show you are going to want to miss.
Click here to read my review of the exhibition.