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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Long Live McQUEEN

When I was 17 I didn't know much about fashion. Sure, I'd been in enough High School musicals to know my way around a costume closet, but most of my greatest fashion moments occurred in the Value Village thrift store by my house. I barely knew how to sew, let alone anything about the billion dollar fashion industry.

One day that all changed. With this album cover:

(Bjork in Alexander McQueen for Givenchy Haute Couture)

I'd never seen anything so bizarre and otherworldly, as well as inspiring and beautiful. This singular image sparked an instant love of both the designer Alexander McQueen and the artist Bjork. From then on in, I could not get enough of either. I knew that I may never be able to afford Mcqueen's exquisite creations, but that perhaps I may be inspired by him, and hone my skills as a seamstress to create spectacular visions for myself.

Some of his most brilliant work was for Givenchy Haute Couture in the late 1990's. Unfortunately I am unable to find images of his collections for the House from this time. It was his Cyborg Blade Runner inspired show, with it's TRON-esque bodysuits that blew me away as an aspiring designer.

I remember the season when his models evoked the eerie beauty of ghostly pirates shipwrecked on an island. Models dressed in distressed black frocks hinting of 16th century design, then livening the show with full and fantastical silk dresses in the bright colors of tropical parrots. When I saw this, my jaw dropped, and I knew if ever I married, this would be my Dream Wedding Dress.

Always one to shock and awe, Mcqueen was a true master in the fashion world. Whether you liked what he'd done or not, one thing was for sure; His craftsmanship was impeccable.

(McQueen SS 2005)

There are those out there that believe the fashion world is a ridiculous, silly, and superficial place. Well, yes, sometimes it can be. But we all need clothes. Eventhough the shirt you're wearing might be a $2 purchase from the second-hand store, it was once a carefully thought out plan of a designer. Fashion is the one media accessible to every person in the western world. Anyone can choose a daily ensemble that best represents how they want to portray themselves. That's the joy. Anyone can do it.

As a designer you can be as wild and creative as you want, but ultimately it boils down to "Will Anyone Buy This?". It's tough as a designer to find that line of staying true to your vision, but also needing to create something marketable in order to perpetuate the funding that allows you the means to keep creating. Where is the happy place between the humanity of creating art, and the Capitalism lifeblood of the fashion industry?

From the interviews I've seen, Mcqueen, a down to Earth guy from a working class neighborhood in London, pondered this issue as well. I can only hope that he felt in his heart, that he was staying true to himself.

(McQueen F/W 2007)

(McQueen for M.A.C 2007)

I would like to think that Lee Mcqueen was the kind of person you could buy a pint, and easily share a laugh with at the pub. His "punk" sensibilities made one feel that eventhough his creations were well out of most peoples price range, that he was still always playing for the underdog. Rooting for society's outcasts, and showcasing unconventional beauty. I hope he knew about all the designers (from aspiring to established) and artists he influenced and inspired through his 20 year career. He made the world a more beautiful place.

One thing is for sure, yours truly owes a debt of gratitude for his influential work. Life might be quite a bit different for me, if Lee McQueen had never existed.

(Bjork in Alexander McQueen)

(Bjork "Who Is It" video)

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