‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’


Everything you’ve heard is true and more. The “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is a haunting, exquisite presentation of the late designer’s transcendent work. It’s uplifting and crushing at once – the craftsmanship, the imagination, the devastation of one man on display. It’d be a fashion fail to miss this show by the Costume Institute, and we’ll give you 5 specific reasons you should hop the 6 train to see it right now:


1 – The Details. Have you ever observed a McQueen dress up close? Well how ’bout 100 of them? His pieces are a lesson in tailoring, but their materials take it to a whole other level: razor-clam shells, glass medical slides painted red, resin vulture skulls, jet black horse hair, lilac silk faille, gold-painted duck feathers, silk and fresh flowers embroidered onto a dress. To study them here is to discover McQueen anew.

2 – Dress No.13. The multimedia exhibition includes several large screen replays of McQueen’s dramatic fashion presentations, none quite so stirring as Shalom Harlow’s finale in Spring/Summer 1999. Caught between two industrial robots encircling her like prey, the model and her white cotton dress are ultimately ravaged by their spews of spray paint. Girlfriend may as well have invented the term WERK in that performance. We’ve seen the video 500 times, but to watch it alongside all the museum’s visitors – and have the original dress right in front of you – is rather moving.

3 – Philip Treacy’s headpieces. McQueen’s team of accessory collaborators punctuated his clothing and helped realize his vision. Treacy was his go-to guy when it came to headgear, and many of his pieces are displayed in the exhibition’s “Cabinet of Curiosities” section. Our favorite might be Treacy’s “Chinese Garden” hat from Spring/Summer 2005. It’s a huge, insanely elaborate landscape of Chinese garden vignettes made out of cork. OUT OF CORK.

4 – The sets. Shown in a storage locker somewhere, these ensembles would still draw a crowd. But the backdrops commissioned by curator Andrew Bolton make this exhibition AN EXPERIENCE. An eerie hall of aged mirrors reflect a mix of McQueen’s more gothic designs while his 1995 “Highland Rape” collection stands starkly in an all wooden room barbarically smashed. McQueen defended this sliced-and-torn collection as the rape of his native Scotland by England – and it’s these sorts of set designs that heighten the emotion behind the work.

5 – The $25 Mini McQueen Armadillo shoes in the “Savage Beauty” gift shop. Okay, we had to eliminate like 10 other amazing things to include these but can you handle it?! An homage to McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2010 futuristic collection, we declare the Mini Armadillo a collector’s item – a little piece of McQueen to commemorate this wonderful show.