While a collective mantra of “refined, reduced minimalism” rang out through the Fall 2010 showings, one collection stood out with a strong, clear message that was gloriously, idiosyncratically its own. For the final collection designed by Alexander McQueen, he looked towards medieval symbols apparent in Byzantine art and the Old Masters, and the effects were mesmerizing. Weaving images of angels and demons onto jacquard, satin and silk, McQueen and his team then manipulated and cut the cloth into draped short dresses and exquisite evening gowns, and for the breathtaking finale, sent out a model in a high collared dress made of golden feathers, a delicate spray of tulle at the hem.
Instead of the Gothic melodrama and dark romance that invested so much of his earlier work with its power, this incredible collection appeared at peace and in love - the models walking serenely were not shackled or hindered by the clothes as has been some previous accusations of his work; but rather transformed into medieval Madonnas, their headgear almost like birds in flight. The tragic circumstances of his death plus the intimate setting in a Paris salon (accompanied by the opera music that he was listening to while he was cutting the collection) led to a powerful emotional experience for all who witnessed it. In this month’s issue of Dazed, we take a closer look at the extraordinary prints of the collection, sensitively photographed by Richard Fairhead. Explains newly appointed creative director, Sarah Burton of the almost couture-level of craftsmanship involved – “The concept was to take these original Old Masters and make them engineered and modern.
We digitally re-worked an original Byzantine cape into a modern 100 per cent silk jacquard. We engineered the original design of the lion and detail onto each of Lee’s patterns on the computer, and then it was woven digitally in the jacquard. This technique was also used in the works of Hieronymous Bosch – we re-created his triptych paintings , “Earthly Paradise”, “Garden of Earthly Delights” and “Musical Hell” – into a large set-up of heaven and hell. The painting was woven into the jacquard recreating the painting in silk pixel by pixel photographically, weaving one metre in one hour. We used this technique for other Gothic Alter pieces- beginning to engineer the paintings of folds of fabrics to create a trompe l’oeil of drapes onto Lee’s folded and manipulated dresses. This theme continued into the ‘angel’ dresses – and photographic printed images of painted wings enveloped the models bodies.”
A unanimous sigh of relief echoed through the fashion world when Gucci Group announced that his trusted lieutenant for more than 13 years, Sarah Burton would take over as creative director. Her debut as creative director came with a low-key but romantic menswear showing in June – which whet the appetites for what she will achieve with the womenswear collection due to be shown in Paris in October. In one of his last interviews, he told Love magazine, “When I’m dead, hopefully this house will still be going. On a spaceship. Hopping up and down above earth.” In Ms. Burton’s gifted, assured hands, that future looks safe.
Pick up the October issue of Dazed & Confused - on sale September 16 - for more exclusive Alexander McQueen images
Photos by Richard Learoyd