01 June 2015

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A. Installation view of 'Romantic Naturalism' gallery. Credit photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.There’s fashion. And then there’s Alexander McQueen. There are art exhibitions…And then there’s Savage Beauty at the V&A in London. Savage Beauty has raised the standard for all future V&A exhibitions to come.

It’s now been two days since I visited the hugely popular exhibition and I still can’t get over how brilliant it was. If you’re only going to make one visit to a London museum this year, you want to make it this one.
Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A. Portrait of Alexander McQueen, photographed by Marc Hom.

You’ve got to know the rules to break them. That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but to keep the tradition.

—Alexander McQueen

Even though I normally only post my own photos here, I decided to make an exception this time. Unfortunately they won’t let you take photos, but the V&A has kindly allowed me to use theirs.

Fashion & I

There’s a reason why this is a travel and not a fashion blog. I’m not that much of a fashion person. I like clothes, will read the occasional fashion magazine and dream of the perfect designer handbag, but I’m definitely not a fashionista. So of course I knew of Alexander McQueen, would be able to recognize some of his collections, but couldn’t really tell what made him different from other designers. So was I prepared for what I was about to experience? Absolutely not!

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A. Installation view of 'Romantic Nationalism' gallery. Credit photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.Exhibition with a soundtrack

Walking from one room to the next, you hear the music changing. Every collection has its own accompanying soundtrack. I never thought about the impact of music when looking at art, but it would have been a completely different experience without it. Handel’s Sarabande in the Romantic Nationalism gallery with one of my favorite feather dresses from ‘The Girl Who Lived in the Tree’ collection. Or Schindler’s List theme when Kate Moss appears as a 3D hologram in a dress of white rippling organza. The music, the décor, the light and the pieces, they’re all telling the story together.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A. Installation view of 'Savage Mind' gallery. Photo credit: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.Experimenting with Materials

One of the things I found truly remarkable about his creations is the use of materials. There’s always a twist, something unexpected that has been used. I was absolutely in love with all the feather dresses, but read the descriptions and you’ll see things like human hair (his own), synthetic hair, razor-clam shells, mussel shells, animal skulls…

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A. Tulle and lace dress with veil and antlers (Image: firstVIEW). Butterfly headdress of hand-painted turkey feathers. Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen (Image: Anthea Simms).Fashion = Art

I know there are already a lot of people out there claiming that fashion is art. And since seeing Alexander McQueen’s collection from up close, I have to agree with them.

Training and experience will only bring you this far. Alexander McQueen had received the best possible training. But then to take that knowledge and craftsmanship and create something that’s innovative, inspiring and – above all – absolutely beautiful…That’s a true artist.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the V&A. Installation view of 'Romantic Gothic' gallery. Image: Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration.

—Alexander McQueen

Why you should go and see Savage Beauty at the V&A

Just as seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre is not the same as seeing it on a page in an art book, so is seeing Alexander McQueen’s creations at the V&A not the same as they appear in a magazine or on tv. This is an exhibition like no others. The innovative designs of the more than 240 ensembles and accessories will blow you away, but it’s how they are presented (done by the same production company that worked with Alexander McQueen on his catwalk shows) that makes it absolutely spectacular.

Images and video: Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty 14 March – 2 August 2015
Victoria & Albert Museum
Tickets: £17,60