13 May 2015
Lee Alexander McQueen was a romantic. “Romance is where my heart is,” he confessed in an interview on SHOWstudio in 2003. And there is something in itself romantic and irrevocable about declaring yourself a romantic in the 21st century. I’ve never had the privilege of attending one of Alexander McQueen’s fashion shows. Those who have speak of it as an extraordinary experience. The V&A in London is now celebrating his genius with Savage Beauty, an exhibition that anoints him as the nation’s designer. Here the aim is not to educate the public or to preserve his memory for history. Or at least not only. What is going on here is the construction of the myth of fashion and its elevation to the empyrean of art. Who knows if the iconoclastic McQueen would have appreciated this? The public does, and a great deal, as is evident from the fact that Savage Beauty is an expanded replica of the exhibition staged at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York back in 2011. And it does take up more space. There is a new section devoted to his early collections and there are new clothes. The intention is to capture the atmosphere of the fashion shows, and in fact the exhibition has been designed in collaboration with Gainsbury & Whiting, the production house that used to work with McQueen. The heart of the exhibition is The Cabinet of Curiosities section, where two raised galleries house over a hundred and twenty garments and accessories, some created in collaboration with the hat designer Philip Treacy and the jewelry designer Shaun Leane, with the more astonishing spectacles projected onto the walls. Don’t be deceived, however. Alexander McQueen was not just vision, talent and magic. At the age of 16, on Savile Row, he used to sew obscene messages into the linings of jackets made for the royal family. It is said that for years Prince Charles wore one with the words “I am a cunt.” They forgave him because he was such an amazing tailor.