The V&A is hosting the first and largest retrospective in Europe of one of the most innovative fashion designers of recent times. ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty‘ showcases his visionary body of work, spanning from his graduate collection to the final pieces before his untimely death.

Bridgeman’s Head of Sales in Berlin, Ute Krebs, shares her thoughts about the celebratory exhibition, alongside selected fashion pieces from the Bridgeman archive that inspired McQueen’s creative designs.

FMB2597354 Ivory silk organza evening dress with appliqué bodice and panelled skirt embroidered with miniature eagle motifs, by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Autumn/Winter 2011-12 (silk organza) by Alexander McQueen /Fashion Museum, Bath

FMB2597354 Ivory silk organza evening dress with appliqué bodice and panelled skirt embroidered with miniature eagle motifs, by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, Autumn/Winter 2011-12 (silk organza) by Alexander McQueen /Fashion Museum, Bath

While I was in London last week, I was fortunate enough to see the Alexander McQueen exhibition ‘Savage Beauty’ at the V&A. I have always been fascinated by his fashion and even if I could never in a million years imagine owning a piece, I like to dream about it!

I don’t think I have ever been to an exhibition on fashion which has moved me quite so much. Knowing how McQueen ended his life in 2010, I felt that I could tell that his mind was deteriorating, but maybe I was just projecting.

Left: Lady's jacket, c.1600-25 (embroidery), English School / Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland / © Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums) Right: Woman's jacket, with later alterations / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection; REPRODUCTION PERMISSION REQUIRED; CANNOT BE LICENSED FOR CARDS, CALENDARS, PRINTS OR POSTERS,JAPANESE RIGHTS NOT AVAILABLE; English, out of copyright PLEASE NOTE: Bridgeman Images works with the owner of this image to clear permission. If you wish to reproduce this image, please inform us so we can clear permission for you.

Left: Lady’s jacket, c.1600-25 (embroidery), English School / Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland / © Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums)
Right: Woman’s jacket, with later alterations / Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; The Elizabeth Day McCormick Collection

 

Every room was dedicated to a different collection, the walls were decorated to fit each style and the music also enhanced the overall impression of his creative cycles. In the centre of the exhibition was a so-called cabinet of curiosities – a room piled high with cabinets showing various hats, shoes, dresses and other accessories while screens projected films of catwalks.

Detail of a gauntlet from a pair of gauntlet gloves, Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council

Detail of a gauntlet from a pair of gauntlet gloves, Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council

 

McQueen’s tailoring was exquisite as he learned his trade on Saville Row and always maintained that you can only deconstruct pieces if you know how to construct them properly.

I used to make all my own clothes when I was still at school and my pocket money wasn’t enough to buy the things I wanted. In any case, I could never find the styles that I liked in the shops either. I am not comparing myself to the likes of Alexander McQueen, but I do appreciate the work which goes into these pieces or anything else hand-made.

Left: The Dandy, 1905, Ignaz-Marcel Gaugengigl © Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts, New York Right: Portrait of George 'Beau' Brummell (1778-1849) 1805 (colour litho) (see also 106690) (later colouration) by Robert Dighton

Left: The Dandy, 1905, Ignaz-Marcel Gaugengigl © Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts, New York
Right: Portrait of George ‘Beau’ Brummell (1778-1849) 1805 (colour litho) (see also 106690) (later colouration) by Robert Dighton

 

He always said that he was inspired both by London and also by Scotland, and so I thought I would have a look through our wonderful archive and put together a selection of images that might have inspired him. While still at St. Martin’s his early collections were inspired by the dandy and his fitted jackets are a testament to this nineteenth century style.

Left: Portrait of Amy Seymour, 1623 (oil on canvas) by English School © The Cheltenham Trust and Cheltenham Borough Council Right: Portrait of a lady holding a dog and a tulip, c.1620, English School / Private Collection / © Richard Philp, London

Left: Portrait of Amy Seymour, 1623 by English School © The Cheltenham Trust and Cheltenham Borough Council
Right: Portrait of a lady holding a dog and a tulip, c.1620, English School / © Richard Philp, London

His later Jacobean style collections were inspired by his Scottish heritage. The sumptuous fabrics and beautiful beadwork are still uppermost in my mind when I think about the amazing skill and precision displayed in his clothes.

There are many more images I could think of including here but I think a little goes a long way. I hope to have made you a little bit curious about exploring fashion in painting!

Ladies' single glove with elongated fingers and gauntlet, c.1600-20, English School, (17th C) / Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council / The Glove Collection Trust

Ladies’ single glove with elongated fingers and gauntlet, c.1600-20, English School, (17th C) / Fashion Museum, Bath and North East Somerset Council / The Glove Collection Trust

 

Find out More

‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’ is open until 2 August 2015.

Explore more of Alexander McQueen’s inspirations in the Bridgeman archive.

 

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Contact us on the Bridgeman website with enquiries about licensing and clearing copyright.

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