Ami: Savage Beauty
- 4th February 2016
- Posted by: Ami Lowman
- Category: Ami
Back in the summer of 2015 I had the privilege of going to London for the day with a group of young people as part of the ‘Make Your Mark’ project. Whilst it was a great trip to expose some Leigh Park youngsters to a brilliant London exhibition, selfishly for me, it was also an opportunity to attend an exhibition I was desperate to see.
Having studied Fashion and Textiles at University the name McQueen was obviously known to me, a dynamic and maverick UK designer who was stirring up a storm on catwalks around the world.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty was the V&A’s most visited exhibition… 493,043 people went to see the show during the 21 weeks it was on for. The V&A even had to open throughout the night over the last two weekends, for the first time in its history, to accommodate the huge demand.
The purpose of the exhibition was simple, to celebrate and share the extraordinary creative talent of the late Alexander McQueen.
The show itself was utterly superb, there’s no other way to describe it, room after room of the most sensational and varied garments and accessories. The show demonstrated beautifully the way McQueen was continuously inspired by the world surrounding him. He once famously said:
‘You take inspiration from the street, with the trousers so low. You don’t need to go to India, you can find it in places like Bethnal Green or down Brick Lane. It’s everywhere’
The show proved this point time and time again as each different room and different collection unveiled a new inspiration: from bondage to nature, from death to aliens… McQueen had a way of transforming a garment into something so nostalgic of whatever had caught his attention at that very time you couldn’t help but be sucked into his world.
I mentioned to Lynne as we were walking round that his standout creations, in a far superior way, reminded me of the creative freedom you had on a foundation course, before you were encouraged to think practically and if that garment was sellable.
I remember experimenting with layers of latex & different shades of flesh tone tights on one project and this playful experimentation was apparent as we looked at his garments made from horsehair with horns growing out of the shoulders…
There was elements of this childlike freedom in all his designing but mixed with the most extraordinary tailoring skills which he learnt before joining the prestigious MA Fashion course at Central Saint Martins. At just 15 he trained on the tailoring holy ground that is Savile Row.
McQueen almost went about things backwards… learning the serious craft of tailoring first and then being encouraged to play and experiment during his studying. Maybe that’s what made his work so amazing. He understood fabric, how it works, how to cut it and piece shapes together first but then he also had this insane imagination that he was encouraged to explore at University. Coupling these two strengths together created the most sensational outcomes…
McQueen fearlessly challenged the conventions of the fashion world, a trait quite rare among designers who want to create what is safe and forecasted.
We took our time round the exhibition, making the most of this brilliant show and lusting over shoes and garments I had only previously seen in magazines and during lectures.
One of my favourite parts of the exhibition was the ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’. A room (literally) stacked to the ceiling with the weird and wonderful paraphernalia produced by McQueen in collaboration with a number of accessory designers. I could have spent hours in there. The cabinet also included showpieces, one-off creations made for the catwalk but not intended for production. McQueen used all kinds of materials, commissioning skilled wood carvers, leather workers, prosthetists, glass soecialists, embroiderers and plumassiers to help realise his vision.
Leaving the exhibition you couldn’t help but feel utterly inspired and in awe of his talent but at the same time saddened that we as a country had lost such an immense talent.
I brought the book of the show and it’s still on my bedside table, picked up from time to time and appreciated.
What a huge, huge talent he was and what an inspiration he will continue to be for so many aspiring designers in the future. Mr McQueen I salute you.
All images from The V&A.