In what was surely one of Mary Katrantzou’s most directly wearable collections yet, the designer returned to cosmology and the world as a starting point – we saw elements of it two seasons ago to spectacular couture-like effect, before last season’s beef-up when it came to size, texture, proportion and play. But the designer has been drilling down into the MK DNA, what makes both her and her customer tick and finding the common ground between the two, especially of late when it comes to her pre-collections – and you could see all of this had been learnt from, instigated and translated into this collection.
The word she kept saying backstage was “light” and “desirable” – she’s always had the product, but now she’s refining it. “I wanted it to be enchanting and beautiful,” she said. There’s no doubting it was – who can say no to a shimmering little dress, a series of which she paraded out with to begin. They were microscopic in their sparkle and tied at the back or fluted in the sleeve. They were the ultimate sort of party dress with no potential pitfalls to put any shopper off.
She followed up with jewel tones for frilled and flounced numbers whose hips bloomed rose-shaped peplums. Tailoring too made an appearance – again here the emphasis was on being sharp and light. She noted that it had been about building upon structure in the past – here she seemed to be deconstructing it to just as beneficial effect.
You can take a Brit abroad but you can’t take the Brit out of them once there. Stuart Vevers continued with his youthful reinvention of Coach – the traditional American brand at which he was installed as executive creative director last year – with his spring/summer 2015 collection. A collaboration with Californian artist Gary Baseman to make fun little creatures was testament to that as were his choices of Americana to plunder: sub-cultures, skate and surf (ever the popular right now) combined with the spirit of New York. He said it was a celebration of “beautiful oddness” and that’s where that brilliant and irreverent Brit wit stepped in for an overhaul that won’t necessarily strike a chord with a traditional Coach customer of seasons past but will put it right in front of the noses of a new generation who won’t be able to get enough of these characterful and cool pieces: shaggy, pastel jackets; critter-knits; satchels and clogs; and long lean flare silhouettes and short sharp miniskirts.
“London is where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration.”
Were the words of Lee McQueen that greeted me when I entered the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition last weekend. After months of anticipation and build-up, the pressure was on for the V&A to deliver and display the world of Lee McQueen in all its horror and beauty. After reading numerous reviews, watching documentary’s (BBC – Private View, Tinie Tempah on Alexander McQueen) and snippets of the show here there and everywhere I felt like I already had a pretty good idea about what the exhibition was going to entail.
However, nothing could have really prepared me for the show, theatre and emotion of McQueen that I experienced.
From the beginning to the end, every collection of McQueen is represented throughout the exhibition in some way. With his quotes and phrases scattered all over it is Lee that introduces the visitors into each room. Beginning my tour and approaching the first room I instantly got an overview of what the collection is representing. The combination of the decoration, music, lighting and his own words describing every source and inspiration, instantly portrays the emotion that he had. With such a strong story told through each collection you are able to grasp some idea of what was going through Lee’s head when creating these beautiful, innovative and avant-garde designs.
“When I’m Dead and Gone, People Will Know the 21st Century Was Started by Alexander McQueen”
Many of these clothes are exceptionally beautiful; they’re as close to being works of art as fashion ever comes. But many are exceptionally disturbing too: suggestive and cruel. Each collection are displayed in magnificent and intricately designed rooms, each one dressed to match a theme: a gallery full of tartan is wood-panelled whilst a group of tribal-inspired designs is set against walls that are covered in bones. McQueen designed from the side, the body’s worst angle, to ensure his clothes worked all the way around. McQueen’s dresses and jackets smooth and sculpt, their often unconventional twists and turns cleverly distract from all the things a woman most wants to hide. Who, for instance, is going to care of even notice about the angle of your jawline when your jacket is so rigid and well structured it seems actually to have made you grow taller, straighter and magically thinner all at the same time. Of the most beautiful pieces is a dress from McQueens 2010 collection ‘Angels and Demons’ – whose bodice, sleeves and high collar are formed of golden feathers.
It is a gown that would make any woman fly, metaphorically if not literally.
My favourite part of the exhibition is without doubt the Cabinet of Curiosities (as seen above), allowing us to experience the evolution of Lee as an artist. At the show’s hear the cabinet of curiosities is packed with treasures from floor to ceiling of all four walls. The room created is a towering montage of shoes, dresses and accessories, interspersed with the sound of scissors slashing and video screens showing snatches of the shows. In the middle of the room, slowly revolving, is “Dress No. 13”, which was created live on the catwalk by industrial robots for the finale of the Spring/Summer 2008 show.
To see the clothes in motion is breathtaking.
It is a remarkable show and without a doubt will be a huge success for the V&A. After my visit I can understand how Savage Beauty stands a strong chance of being the most-visited exhibition of the year globally.
McQueen, ever the showman, I’m sure would be absolutely delighted.
In the evening I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Sarah Burton and her experiences and time working with Alexander McQueen at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The V&A’s evening events programme features talks, discussions and interviews with leading figures in the worlds of fashion, architecture, performance, and design. Speakers have included Bryan Ferry, Renzo Piano, Stephen Fry, Tom Ford, Judi Dench, and Zaha Hadid.
For the evening that I chose it was a chance for Sarah Burton as the Creative Director for Alexander McQueen to discuss her work, experience and memories that she has from all the years working along side Lee McQueen. The talk was initiated by Claire Wilcox, Savage Beauty curator, who, along with a slideshow of images, chronologically talked through each collection with Sarah Burton and all the designed that she had assisted with at McQueen. Describing in detail of the inspiration behind each collection and how Lee designed and created each garment. With tears and laughter it instantly became clear that to Sarah Burton, Lee McQueen was a truly special, unique and inspirational man.
Claire Wilcox: I think firstly the main question that we all want to know is what was he like?
Sarah Burton: I got quite emotional after that – He was a lovely lovely man. I think a lot is said about all this darkness and tragedy but he was very funny, honest and very loving.
IT’S two seasons in for Alessandra Dell’Acqua at Rochas – the No 21 designer replaced Marco Zanini at the end of last year and made his debut for the house last February and cooked up a resort collection in between.
At No 21, Dell’ Acqua is known for his ability to join the dots between girl-boy dressing and we saw an offshoot of that this afternoon – his weapon of choice being a utility belt to add an industrial-futuristic feel to typically beautiful and fragile Rochas looks that under Zanini’s tenure had simply just been about the frou. Whether wearing your belt up high around your bust over a bejewelled black evening coat or jacket (or ball gown) will catch on in the real world is a different story, but here it helped to bring a modern plot to the house.
But there was plenty of lace and grace to be found too: the show notes cited sentimental adjectives – “virginal shyness”, “blooming sensuality”, “delicate”, “preciousness” – and they all performed.
Emphasis was on the back with high-neck collars unfolding into bows and sweeping down the back. Waists were dropped for fun and youthful appeal while Victoriana notes came in lace and high front-facing collars on long gowns.
“Naive” and “innocent” perfectly captured the sense of what was going on here, transparency was key. There was night-time allure about dressing gown dresses and coats, the girls ghost-like in their there-then-gone appearances.
A special mention has to go to the shoes which, as is fast becoming the Rochas staple, were tinsel-smothered at the front like a high-end feather duster and teamed with socks cut away at the heel.
But the main thing to take away was the utility belt. Will you?
Click below to shop more delicate, precious and feminine Rochas Spring/Summer 2015: