Day Out: Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition

Sunday 26 April 2015 by

Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty, Fashion, Designer, V&A, Victoria and Albert museum

Duck feather dress | The Horn of Plenty AW’09/10

The fashion world has gone crazy over the Victoria & Albert museum’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition – a whole exhibition celebrating and commemorating the works of Alexander McQueen. As one of my favourite designers, of course I had to go and see it.

Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty, Fashion, Designer, V&A, Victoria and Albert museum

Installation view of London gallery | Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum London

Most exhibits in the V&S are free, but this one is a ticketed and timed entry, but it is worth every penny. When you first go in, you are assaulted by an overwhelming array of senses – sound bites and music in a dark, warehouse-style room, with masked mannequins displaying his first, infamous collection (“Highland Rape”). A huge screen behind them shows clips from his shows and various interviews. Quotes from Alexander McQueen are painted like graffiti across the walls, and accompany descriptions of each of the designs. As you move through the rooms, and so through the collections – including from his Givenchy collections – you are overwhelmed by music and quotes.

Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty, Fashion, Designer, V&A, Victoria and Albert museum

Installation view of Romantic Gothic gallery | Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum London

Each room evokes a different emotion – laid out to best display the designs – with lighting and styling, glass cases and moving mannequins. In fact, despite the fact the mannequins are mostly still, each one feels like they’re about to move and take flight. Each design begs to move, to be filled with motion. As you go through, you begin to recognise the key pieces of McQueen’s designs. The tapered waists, asymmetric hems, and the juxtaposition of the natural with the unnatural, darkness and light, the sense of flight against the sense of being trapped.

Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty, Fashion, Designer, V&A, Victoria and Albert museum

Installation view of Romantic Nationalism gallery| Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum London

Some of his most famous creations are there (many donated from the Isabella Blow collection), and it gives you goosebumps to be so up close with the likes of the duck feather dress and armadillo boots. In the cabinet of curiosities, you come face to face with the painted dress, Philip Treacy’s butterfly headdress, and an overwhelming bombardment of show videos. In the cabinet, you’ll be glad to take advantage of the seats, just to take a rest from the emotional rollercoaster, but also to take the time to soak up the varying treasures it has to offer.

Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty, Fashion, Designer, V&A, Victoria and Albert museum

Installation view of Cabinet of Curiosities gallery | Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum London

In the next room, a darkened, narrow, corridor, you can watch the film of Kate Mosse in that infamous white dress, as an ethereal spirit, with the music from Schindler’s List to make even the hardest hearted shed a tear.

Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty, Fashion, Designer, V&A, Victoria and Albert museum

Installation view of Plato’s Atlantis gallery | Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert Museum London

As you enter the final room, you are given another huge screen, with masked mannequins set before it. It is the final works of Alexander McQueen before his death – “Plato’s Atlantis”. It is a fitting end to the tribute.

The exhibition is overwhelming. It is exquisitely beautiful, swollen with emotion and honesty. McQueen’s distinctive personality is stamped in every room, on every design. From his graduating collection of “Highland Rape” to his final show of “Plato’s Atlantis”, McQueen shocked and awed and changed the world of fashion. And it is in these few rooms, bombarded by the sounds and colours of his designs, that you realise the power he had, and still has to this day.

The Savage Beauty exhibition runs until 2nd August. Tickets start from £16, or £9 for a student.

*Images courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum

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