Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
14 March – 2 August 2015
The show that saw audiences queuing around the block in New York in 2011 goes on display in London at the V&A.
When the Metropolitan Museum of Art staged a retrospective of the late designer Alexander McQueen three years ago, no one could have quite anticipated the dizzying heights of its success. The show quickly became a phenomenon, driving 660,000 people through the door and notching up a place on the museum's top 10 most visited exhibitions list – eighth in its 142-year history. Now an expanded version of the exhibition is being shown in McQueen's hometown, featuring 30 additional garments and a new section exploring his early days as a designer.
McQueen was born and raised in London and after leaving school at 16 he took up an apprenticeship with a tailors on Savile Row, working for clients such as Prince Charles. McQueen applied for a job as a tutor at Central Saint Martins but, based on the strength of his portfolio, the head of the course persuaded him to enrol as a student instead. His graduate collection was bought in its entirety by renowned fashion stylist Isabella Blow.
McQueen's career went from strength to strength; among his most notable creations were David Bowie's Union Jack coat and Bjork's topless dress. His 'bumsters' sparked a new trend for low-rise jeans and his skull motif emblazoned designs were coveted among the fashion elite.
Aside from his commercial success, McQueen became known for staging outrageous catwalk shows. His most famous included a recreation of a shipwreck, a human game of chess and a life-sized hologram of Kate Moss, dressed in yards of rippling fabric. The latter is one of the exciting features of this V&A display.
The designer said of London 'It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration', making it particularly apt that the exhibition is staged in the city. At the announcement, V&A director Martin Roth commented: 'It feels like we are bringing his work home'.
When McQueen committed suicide in 2010 he left behind an unfinished collection. Sixteen pieces were presented at Paris Fashion Week, handpicked by fashion editors. These are shown in the exhibition, alongside other designs spanning from his 1992 MA graduate show to the untimely end of his career.