McQueen Mania: Three Behind the Scenes Exhibitions
Savage Beauty, the major McQueen retrospective at London’s V&A museum, has only been open for a fortnight, but already thousands of visitors have been stunned by his skilled tailoring, limitless imagination and macabre sense of beauty. While Savage Beauty puts the designer’s work under the spotlight, three other London exhibitions examine how Lee worked as a designer, from inspiration to final catwalk.
To begin, Proud Chelsea stages a black and white photography exhibition called McQueen: Backstage – The Early Shows, going behind the scenes of McQueen’s first catwalk collections. Viewers can see a portrayal of Lee’s life as a young emerging designer before his tumultuous success. Shot by Gary Wallis, who first met McQueen at Central Saint Martins, the exhibition features images from Lee’s 1992 MA collection Jack The Ripper Stalks His Victims to 1995’s Highland Rape and provides an intimate look at Lee both at home and backstage; “a true insider’s view into the genesis of a genius”. The haunting images show models in zombie contacts drying their nails, hugging Lee and having McQueen stencilled onto their heads, while Isabella Blow (McQueen’s champion) snoozes after a busy photoshoot. The Early Shows allows us to see what was happening moments before pivotal points in fashion and models as people, before fully transforming into the powerful creatures Lee’s creations turned them into. The Early Shows also shows a lighter side to Lee, who laughs, cartwheels across the lawn and plays with his dog. How better to end than with a shot of Lee’s fridge, reading “I suppose the idea is to show that beauty comes from within”.
McQueen: Backstage – The Early Shows is at Proud Chelsea until April 5th.
Next up, SHOWstudio have curated an exhibition of five famous fine art prints, where Nick Knight, SHOWstudio founder and fashion photographer, re-imagines Lee McQueen’s iconic designs. Nick Knight & Alexander McQueen showcases how Knight’s daring approach to fashion matched Lee’s bold and innovative designs, making for stunning images that are shown in this exhibition in monumental scale. The exhibition begins with Devon Aoki for Visionaire 20, clad in a geisha inspired outfit, rosy cheeks and ruby lips paired with one ‘cyborg’ eye and a spliced forehead, spilling cherry blossom instead of blood. Covering the entire back wall of the SHOWstudio shop, the Blade of Light tableau imagines a bus queue hit by a comet, as models are shot flying through the air in billowing designs.
Visitors to Savage Beauty will recognise the next image of Raquel Zimmerman, who wears designs from McQueen’s final collection, Plato’s Atlantis, under a writhing mass of snakes. This video would go on to be shown behind the catwalk of Plato's Atlantis, the collection that was the first ever to be livestreamed (by SHOWstudio, of course). This image is hung next to two images from Fashion-Able, a project for Dazed magazine that featured disabled models in architectural designs and poses to prove that human beauty does not match a mythical ‘perfect norm’, challenging perceptions and pushing for diversity. Athlete Aimee Mullins, one of the models in Fashion-Able, went on to walk for McQueen in prosthetic legs that Lee carved himself; stylists apparently called in the legs, thinking they were boots, for photoshoots. Aimee Mullins gives an interview about working with McQueen in Unseen McQueen, an online project at showstudio.com where a series of interviews, illustrations and videos go inside the mind of McQueen and his collaborators, including behind the scenes films showing how these five incredible photographs came to life.
Nick Knight & Alexander McQueen is at SHOWstudio Shop until June 5th 2015.
Tate Britain hosts Nick Waplington/ Alexander McQueen: Working Process, a behind-the-scenes collaboration created during McQueen’s AW09 ready-to-wear collection, Horn of Plenty! Everything and the Kitchen Sink. This collection of photographs chronicles the journey of Horn of Plenty, from conception to the final show, giving an intimate view into the workings of the designer and his team. From corseted models being carefully pinned into dresses, to glimpses of McQueen himself at work, eight rooms show snaps of everything from fabric scraps, mood boards (My Fair Lady, Swans, recycling plants and clowns feature), the chaotic studio and models in the final line-up.
Alongside these red, white and black images, snippets of conversation between war photographer Waplington and fashion writer Susannah Frankel are painted on the walls, giving insight into each room. The comprehensive collection of images is expertly curated, each meticulously chosen, and the final room is certainly a satisfying ending to your journey through Horn of Plenty. Viewers of Working Process will leave with the feeling that you have gained real insight into an iconic collection that admittedly, few know very much about. Lee saw Horn of Plenty as his last collection as a young man, bringing back models, team members and creative ideas from the last fifteen years of his career. While Highland Rape and Plato’s Atlantis are unquestionably cited as important shows in McQueen’s lifetime, are we missing the pivotal point of Horn of Plenty? Certainly not after this exhibition.
Nick Waplington/ Alexander McQueen: Working Process is at The Tate Britain until May 17th 2015.
McQueen: Backstage - The Early Shows and Nick Knight & Alexander McQueen by Isabella Silvers
Brighton Fashion Week Online Editor
Nick Waplington/ Alexander McQueen: Working Process by Victoria Farley
Brighton Fashion Week Blogger
Nick Waplington/ Alexander McQueen: Working Process, Untitled from the series 'Alexander McQueen Working Provess' 2008-09. The Tate.