Fashion shows, at their thrilling best, are about a moment — and about movement. Yet fashion exhibitions are rarely able to capture this energy. Unless you’re the kind of person who gasps about a Fortuny pleat or a St Laurent shoulder, you’re left wondering what all the fuss was about. But this show — with its spectacular staging — sets a new standard for what a costume exhibit can be. To see it is to experience the thrill of a truly sensational fashion show.
McQueen shows had a reputation for the theatrical gestures, but the clothing itself was always underpinned by exquisite details and a genuine inquiry into how women should dress. This is why his talent was so compelling.
What resonated for us is his ability to chose a small detail and consider it deeply. For example, a simple feather was a regular source of inspiration to him. But he took it further: what about a bird could be interesting in dressing a woman? The lightness and movement of flight? The menace and strength of a hawk?
The exhibition also recreates one of McQueen’s greatest runway moments: when the last look of one collection was delivered as a hologram. A swirling Kate Moss materializes, and then evaporates again into the cosmos. The effect is haunting and astonishing. We wanted to applaud at the end of it. (We didn’t, but we really wanted to.)
For those who weren’t able to see the show, there is an equally exquisite catalogue. Beautiful chocolate brown cloth binding, a lenticular cover (that flashes between a skull and a McQueen portrait), and photography by Solve Sundsbo that brings the mannequins eerily to life — a slightly unnerving effect McQueen himself would surely have enjoyed.
* Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Metropolitan Museum, NY. May 4-August 7, 2011.