As soon as we saw the reports in the media about the exhibition about Lee Alexander McQueen named Savage Beauty in New York we agreed; this needs to be witnessed up close! Hearing soon after, the exhibition would move to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, a date was set and the count down began. Combining two of my favourite things; London and avant garde fashion. Accompanied by glorious weather and what seemed like the rest of Europe, we headed towards South Kensington and joined the massive queue...

So after months and months of anticipation the moment was here... Walking inside we were met by an enormous lit up portrait of Alexander McQueen in an otherwise dark room. A lovely thing indeed as it reminds people who the mastermind is behind all the beautiful creations that were just beyond this room. To me it definitely felt like a memorial. The first gallery showed some of his earliest pieces one of which were the legendary Bumster trousers, a pair of low-rise trousers worn so low on the hips it creates a bum-cleavage or worse eeek, first shown in his 1993 "Taxi Driver" collection.


For years I have been fascinated by the tailors of Savile Row and you can instantly see McQueen's background as a tailor in the carefully sculpted silhouettes of the jackets and coats in the "Savage Mind" gallery. One of my favourites being the jacket with a placed print of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Combining art and traditional craftsmanship. 


Having mastered the art of tailoring and later studying at Saint Martins School of Art, McQueen took a very hands-on approach to designing. He would often be seen cutting a meticulously sewn garment to change the shape or style much to the horror of some of his more traditional seamstresses, he would tell them "They're only clothes". Something I have to remind myself of often as I tend to get a bit precious about things I've made or put a lot of time in creating, scared they might get ruined by wearing or changing them.

Where a lot of visitors around me in the first two galleries were still discussing whether or not they would wear a certain piece or not and also where to, in the third gallery a few of them became silent as they took in the splendour of the gorgeous gowns on display.

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This silence strengthened in the fourth gallery which looked like an ossuary. Here there were a lot of designs which were made of unusual materials (like taxidermy) and tribal influences.

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In the "Romantic Nationalism" gallery was the feathered creation used on the promotional poster we saw everywhere in the tube stations. Such an iconic look from his 2009 show "The Horn of Plenty". It is entirely made of duck feathers.


The fifth gallery also known as "Cabinet of Curiosities" was a bit of a sensory overload, like with the Gaultier exhibition where there was a similar room, some of the garments are just too high up to really see any of the details. Maybe it was because of the sheer amount of people visiting the V&A but it was a bit overwhelming. The pieces were in combat for attention. I would have loved to have been in there without the crowd of people and with an enormous sketch book.

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The sixth gallery contained some of my favourite pieces, delicately embroidered silk gowns and coats inspired by Japanese culture and subculture. Mostly in soft pastels, one dress was clad with seashells. I feel a day at the beach coming up soon, I shall bring a large bucket as our beaches are filled with potential dresses!


Of course most of Alexander McQueen's fashion shows were very theatrical and progressive but maybe one of his most thought provoking shows was "Voss" in 2000. (The shell dresses are actually from this collection). In the seventh gallery the set is recreated with the added effects of changing mirrored glass. The only thing missing, the moths and Michelle Olley on a chaise longue.


After a lovely art installation we arrived in the second last gallery where we got to see the ivory lace dress which was worn on the catwalk with deer antlers. We were a bit surprised at the simplicity of the dress in person. It was still a lovely dress but not quite what we had in mind up close.


In the last gallery was a selection of dresses from the collection "Plato's Atlantis", a personal favourite of both Annicke and I, with those armadillo shoes which stand more than 30 centimeters tall. To most people they look impossible to walk in, but I know for certain we would give them a good go! The dresses were all made from mirrored printed fabrics, sculpted as if they were beetle wings. The inspiration behind this collection was of a future world where the icecaps had melted and people had devolved into underwater creatures. It had a very futuristic sculpted feel to it yet the dresses had a delicate and sheer quality, magical.


To be honest the exhibition really moved me, it had something otherworldly but also a very tragic atmosphere. To think that by the end of his life Alexander McQueen was turning out ten collections a year for various brands and dealing with loss in his personal life, the pressure and expectations must have been immense. All in all this exhibition felt like a great ode to him and his creativity which I don't think has been equalled yet. They might only be clothes but to me it was art of the highest degree, when I see garments like that I see the work that has gone in them, it evokes feelings of awe. Now quickly move this exhibition to The Netherlands so we can go see it again... and again...

Written by Marloes

All images courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London