Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kelly's TBP 1.13: Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Dear Jenny,

No, I have not forgotten my TBP list! I've just gotten behind on write-ups, due to unpacking the house. Have I mentioned the unpacking? The soul-sucking, seemingly-never-ending, unpacking? Ugh. My goal is to be done by the end of March. Wish me luck!

Now, onto my first TBP book of 2013... Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. A stunning book about a fantastic exhibit featuring an amazing designer. Really, so beautiful. (And I'm not afraid to use all of those adjectives to describe it!)

I went to see this exhibit with a friend in a whirlwind overnight trip in 2011. We took the red-eye from SF to NYC and went straight to the Met (okay -- I think we showered at the hotel first. But then headed straight out). It was over 100 degrees that day which, in New York City is just... horrendous. Especially for CA wusses like us (I still can't handle the heat yet -- maybe a few more years?) But oh, it was still amazing. It's New York!

Here's a shot I took as we waited on the front steps of the Met:

There was an absolutely enormous crowd -- it was a weekday and the entire city was melting, but so many people wanted to see this exhibit there was a crowd gathering before the doors even opened!

The exhibit itself was spectacular, but definitely crammed body to body. Despite that, I was able to get close to most of the garments and accessories so I could really see them, which was... truly amazing. To see the stitching of these garments up close? WOW. Such a huge inspiration. Just... really powerful.

In the gift shop, we saw this book. We knew we had to have it because it was awesome photos of the pieces we had just seen... without the crushing press of bodies! But it weighed a royal ton and all we had were overnight bags. It's a gigantic hardcover book.

So I used technology to my advantage and ordered us each a copy on Amazon while standing right there in the gift shop. They were delivered the day after we returned and we didn't have to lug them back. Score!  [Side note: Sorry, Met, for screwing you on the sale -- maybe you need a kiosk in the store where people can buy from you and ship stuff straight home to themselves? Just an idea. I would have paid full price. It really was the weight that did me in.]

But... onto to the book! It's very well done -- a bit of expository information on the life of Alexander McQueen (such a tragedy -- the world lost an amazing talent when that guy decided to go) and then 200 pages of gorgeous photos, interspersed with quotes from the artist himself. I'm glad I waited to look at this book until now -- it brought it the entire exhibit back to me as I perused it. And without any the elbows to the kidney!

Sooo.... would you like to see some of it? Of course you would!

First of all, the photo on the front is like those wacky stickers we had as kids -- angle it one way, you see the skull, and the other, it's McQueen's face. I don't know what that's called... Oh, thanks, Internet! You're the best! It's called lenticular printing. (Now we've all learned something!)

Kind of gimmicky, but it's pretty danged cool:

(That photo of it is not great, but it gives you the idea.)

Now let's get to the pictures! This first dress was fucking amazing in person. Those red pieces on the bodice are all glass slides. Like, microscope slides? I mean... seriously.

(I wish there was a photo of the front of this dress in the book -- again, all glass microscope slides. Crazy.) (Oh, look! There's a better photo of it here. A-maz-ing!)

This next dress is made from real flowers. Quote from McQueen: "Remember Sam Taylor-Wood's dying fruit? Things rot… I used flowers because they die. My mood was darkly romantic at the time." [183]

At the exhibit, there were dead flowers that had fallen off of the dress scattered on the ground all around it. While we were standing there looking at it, some of the petals actually fell off. Right then and there. Whoa! We saw it decomposing As. We. Stood. There! Mind-blowing. (You can see some dead flowers on the ground around it in the photo... not sure how much longer this one's got.)

(Oh, and I didn't know who Sam Taylor-Wood was, so I looked it up and vaguely do remember this video now -- 3+ min of film of a bowl of fruit as it rots.)

Moving on... this was just one of my very favorite dresses -- the swirls on the sleeves are sparkly. I love that so much.

Here's another dress that I loved. It's just... the perfect princess dress:

About that particular collection, McQueen said:

When I design, I try to sell an image of a woman that I have in [my] mind, a concept that changes dramatically each season. 
[In this collection] she was a feral creature living in the tree. When she decided to descend to earth, she transformed into a princess. 
I don’t really get inspired [by specific women]. . . . It’s more in the minds of the women in the past, like Catherine the Great, or Marie Antoinette. People who were doomed. Joan of Arc or Colette. Iconic women. [115]
And here is one that shows off his meticulous attention to detail (which was even more evident in person)... look at the cut of this jacket and dress! Just mind blowing:

(Yeah. I realize that the print is basically a magnifier for her hoo-hoo, which is barely covered, but I'm just looking at the technical aspects of it. Impeccable construction.)

One of the most mesmerizing pieces in the exhibit was a set of carved wooden prosthetic legs that a model wore at one of McQueen's shows. People think they are boots, but, no -- they are motherfucking legs, ya'll.

I am glad to have this photo, but this was even more jaw-dropping in person:

Aaaand... here's a cray-cray shoe:

This final image is a lovely double-page spread and was used for the exhibit's poster. Seeing this now, I would have liked it if they had shot more of these pieces as "action shots," thereby differentiating the images in the book from what we saw at the exhibit.

(That photo is crap -- for a better version of it, plus all kinds of cool other things to see about McQueen and the exhibit, go here and check it all out.)

Soo... I guess that final comment is my only real problem with this book -- maybe more action shots, so you could really get the idea of how the pieces looked with movement (and many, like the glass slide dress, only showed the back or the front -- both sides, please!)

But, overall, an incredible complement to an amazing exhibit that also stands alone as a catalog of a beautiful body of work. (This post was brought to you by a surfeit of adjectives -- I just can't help myself when faced with the greatness of Alexander McQueen!)



  1. Wow, wow, wow! That looks so amazing. I remember the story of the epic trip to New York, but I don't think I realized what you were going to see. Everything is so beautiful! I love it all! I will definitely have to check out that website.

    I find myself strangely in love with the flower dress. How did anyone wear it? It's stunning.

  2. The flower dress really is something... it's so beautiful and watching it fall apart in front of your eyes? It's really powerful.

    There are two photos of the runway model wearing it when it was first created at the Met site -- you can see there were a *lot* more flowers when it started! It looks like he also used some silk flowers, so I guess there will always be a bit left, even when the real ones turn to dust...

    (When you are awake some night and looking for eye candy, definitely check out that site -- there are a bunch of audio clips about the pieces, including models talking about wearing the clothes, and photographs from the runway. It's pretty great.)

  3. I also am loving her wacky, wacky hairdo. Heh!