STYLIST'S NOTES: ALEXANDER MCQUEEN ACCESSORIES, SPRING 2010, FALL 2010 & FALL 2012
Lee Alexander McQueen established himself as a designer in the early 90’s. After an apprenticeship at Savile Row, he earned his masters from Central Saint Martins. The stylist Isabella Blow famously bought his entire MA collection and McQueen subsequently began his clothing line in the basement of her home.
McQueen’s early shows were often shocking and controversial, but his undeniable talent always anchored the collections. He stitched different worlds together with an electric tension: both challenging and beautiful, contrasting strong tailoring and craftsmanship with unusual textile and proportion choices, telling a darkly romantic story with punk attitude.
The designer and his creative team staged compelling fashion shows that evinced strong emotion (both positive and negative) from editors and fashion fans—not always an easy thing to elicit from a bunch who thought they had seen it all.
McQueen’s increasingly extreme accessories dovetailed with the rise of street style in the late 2000’s, and their can’t-not-look quality almost guaranteed your photo would appear in pre-Instagram blogs like Phil Oh’s Street Peeper or Tommy Ton’s Jak & Jil.
These accessories were already difficult to obtain back then and today, they are collector’s items.
"Plato's Atlantis", Spring/ Summer 2010 - Titanic Shoe
“Plato’s Atlantis” was advertised as the first ever live-streamed fashion show, and featured the debut of Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance” (her tweet about it crashed ShowStudio, the site it was to be streamed on). Sadly, it was also the last collection McQueen presented before he took his own life.
Of the inspiration for the show, Kate Bethune (senior research assistant of the Victoria & Albert’s Savage Beauty collection) says, “McQueen merged Darwin’s nineteenth-century theories of evolution with twenty-first-century concerns over global warming. Plato’s Atlantis – a reference to the legendary island described by the Greek philosopher, which sank into the sea – prophesied a future world in which ice caps would melt, seas would rise, and humanity would need to evolve in order to survive. It was pure fantasy.”
The design of the Titanic Shoe, as it came to be known, alluded to shipwrecks. Below, Claire Wilcox (curator of the V&A's Savage Beauty exhibit) discusses the Titanic Boot.
“Angels & Demons”, Fall/ Winter 2010 - Angelic Sculpted Heel Shoe
McQueen’s final collection, left incomplete at 16 looks, was unofficially titled "Angels & Demons” and was presented salon-style to a handful of editors a month after his passing.
Heaven, hell, and the afterlife were major themes explored in the collection, which referenced “Old Master paintings, carvings and sculpture” with then-new technologies in textile printing and fabric weaving. “Entire works of art by Botticelli, Jean Fouquet and Hans Memling were photographed and woven into jacquards, imprinted on silks, or embroidered onto garments” reported WSJ’s Christina Binkley.
The sculpted, angelic heel of this shoe is a possible reference to Grinling Gibbons, the 17th century master sculptor and wood carver whose work appears in castles and cathedrals throughout Britain.
Fall/ Winter 2012 - Reflective Visor
McQueen’s longtime assistant and head of womenswear, Sarah Burton, became the brand’s creative director in May 2010. Her Fall 2012 collection approached one of McQueen’s pre-occupations—the future—and infused it with light and softness.
Every look was shown with the reflective visor, and when the next season arrived, it was one of fashion month's most photographed street style items (below images by Tommy Ton & Phil Oh).
Shop Alexander McQueen at VSP.