Just as there are designers and Designers, not every exhibition of their work deserves the upper-case designation. Alexander McQueen’s mind rose far above the lower-case; his caps-lock creativity, from ten-piece 1992 graduate collection Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims right until his last, tragically unfinished of A/W 2010-11, combined his mastery of clothing with his visionary presentational eye, to the extent each show suggested a meaning independent of both – they’d become a proposition. This Designer delivered Shows.
The Victoria and Albert Museum has nothing less than an Exhibition up its sleeve. Opening in spring 2015, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty arrives in town the only major European retrospective of his work following its 2011 debut at the Costume Institute of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. For all his revered collections and accolades, chief amongst them a CBE in 2003 for services to the fashion industry and four time winner of the British Fashion Council’s Designer of the Year award, McQueen must surely, more so than even Dame Vivienne Westwood, be recognised as the archetypal London designer.
London’s equally symbolic V&A is as much a natural home for this retrospective as McQueen himself found it to be when frequently visiting its collections during his formative years. In partnership with Swarovski, collaborative partners since supporting his S/S 1999 No. 13 collection before McQueen famously began incorporating their crystals and gems into his clothing and accessories, and supported by American Express, whose involvement began with his S/S 1998 Untitled collection, Savage Beauty promises to be a landmark event yet bittersweet homecoming.
Thematically arranged in 10 sections identifiable to the designer’s exploration of that which fed his inventiveness, chiefly romanticism, nature and heritage, an additional 30 pieces to the Metropolitan show are included, courtesy of private collectors and individuals and the House of Givenchy. As he did in life, McQueen will challenge not just an audience but probe haute couture’s role within art. As much as poetry can never be slept in, so art can never be worn. McQueen was undoubtedly an artist, yet this cannot be so easily transmitted. His invitation to inhabit his works made clear that wearing very fine clothes is a very fine thing in itself. For nobody else ever could, he will still be present in those which we face next year.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty runs at The V&A from 14 March – 19 July 2015. Tickets available here.