Savage Beauty – Alexander McQueen 

Over half term I decided to go see the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A. I was quite excited to go see this because I think that Alexander McQueen is a very talented designer and thought it was be really inspiring tinsee some of his work in person. 

Through the exhibition it named some of the themes that he uses in his work then showed the pieces and coincide with it. There were also quotes and explanations on the wall of each room so you understood what each section was about and the inspiration and work that McQueen put into it. As this visit was mainly for my essay, I was looking looking anything postmodern themed and and the materials that went into them. 

Gothic Romantisism 

We started in the Gothic Romantisism. This was very dark and many of the pieces were black. It was very Victorian-like, it shows when one of the inspirations was Edgar Allen Poe. It mainly showed the dark side of his personality. 

Romantic Primitive

This Area made it look like you were walking right into the Paris catacombs. The walls were lined with skulls and a gain it was very dark. Animals were the inspiration for many of these pieces and there were plenty for horns and antlers being used. These pieces were mainly from the ‘It’s a Jungle Out There’ A/W 97/98 fashion show. Some the materials used in these pieces were hair, beads, latex and mud.

Romantic Nationalism 

These pieces I would say are my favourite, mainly because I really love tartan print. These pieces showed his patriotism to Scotland. When asked what his Scottish roots meant to him, he said ‘everything!’. This all shows in ‘The Widows Culloden’ A/W 2006 and ‘Hyland Rape’ 1995 fashion shows. They also showed his deep interest in British history and the royal side of it. 

Cabinet of Curiosites 

This had to be the weirdest and wackiest room so far. The walls of the large square room were filled with shelves of his creations. The ‘cabinet of curiosities’ was actually a very early version of a museum which I probably the background idea for these. It mainly showed skeletons of animals and mythical creatures which is why people liked to visit them. This section was a lot different to the others because it was mainly made up of one off pieces that were only made for the catwalk, not for production. I think this really showed though, the pieces weren’t really something that you could wear around town without getting some very strange looks. A lot of work went into these pieces which is one of the reason they look so extravagant. He employed skilled woodcarvers, leather works, prosthetists, glass specialists, embroiders and plumassiers for these pieces to get them perfect. In the middle of the room there was a video of a spray painted dress that he made. The show had a model standing on a spinning podium. Two mechanical arms came out of the floor and started to spray paint the dress. 

‘I find beauty in the grotesque, like most artists. I have to force people to look at things.’

Romantic Exoticism 

McQueen liked to look at different countries and their cultures. ‘I liked to use crafts from all different countries, taking the personality rather than the culture’. Some of the countries that he looked at were Africa, China,India and Turkey. One significant country was Japan. His show ‘It’s only a game’ S/S 2005 was based on the giant chess game in the first Harry Potter movie. However the undertones were that it was East (Japan) and West (America) against each other. 


This was known as the ‘asylum’ show. It was staged inside a two-way mirrored box. The audience could see in it but the model couldn’t see out. It involved items there weren’t really seen a beautiful. The video at the exhibition had a naked model sitting in it with dead rotten fruit and flies in it. 

‘It was about trying to trap something that wasn’t conventionally beautiful to show that beauty comes from within.’

Romantic Naturalism 

This was my other favourite section, mainly because it used natural materials to create costumes. It used many natural forms and raw materials so showcase the natural world within the catwalk. Some of these pieces include a dress made entirely of pheasant feathers from ‘The Widow of Culloden’ and a dress encrusted razor clams in VOSS. My favourite would be Sarabande S/S 2007, the dress was made with both real and silk flowers and when it was worn on the catwalk they withered and fell to ground creating the effect that the dress was decaying.

 ‘I use flowers because they die, my mood was darkly romantic at the time.’

Plato’s Atlantis

This was the last section I the exhibition, as well as the last collection made by Alexander himself before he died. Nature was a large influence in this collection, however it did have a futuristic vibe to it. It had a lot of complex digitally engineered prints inspired by sea creatures. The most well known of these pieces would be the ‘jellyfish ensemble’ and the ‘armadillo boots’. These have become extremely popular afterwards and even Lady Gaga wore a pair in her ‘Paparazzi’ music video. This show was taken very highly and was seen as Mcqueen’s great achievement. 

‘Plato’s Atlantis predicted a future in which the ice cap would melt, the waters would rise and life on earth would have to evolve in order to live beneath the sea once more or perish. Humanity would go back to the place from whence it came.’


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