Seeing Savage Beauty - The Alexander McQueen Retrospective


Venturing to the West London museum strip can sometimes be a chore or a trip that you make when friends from outside London are visiting. However, journeying to West London to immerse yourself in Haute Couture at its finest with a flock of creative people is a different experience, completely.

We headed to the V&A to explore the vast body of work created by the late Alexander McQueen (or Lee McQueen, for those in the know). The exhibition has taken over a substantial part of the gallery and is the first and largest retrospective of McQueen’s work to be presented in Europe.

Upon entry, we were plunged into darkness which then revealed an almost bionic headshot of McQueen himself, which immediately set the tone for what we were about to witness.

To begin with I wondered how this exhibition could bolster our creativity, but as I followed the darkened tunnel into the first exhibition space, I soon realised when I read ‘There is no way back for me now. I’m going to take you on journeys you’ve never dreamed were possible’ on the wall opposite, that McQueen’s work was the certainly close to the epitome of creativity.

The event is sponsored by Swarovski, who nurtured McQueen during his time at Central St Martins and became a lifelong partner of the brand – a lucrative partnership indeed.

It was interesting to see how McQueen cleverly connected history, art, sex, wildlife, race and religion into his work. The product of this combination results in dresses made from black swan feathers, a steel crown of thorns and red, embellished, tartan gilets which are a nod to his Scottish heritage.

The curation of the exhibition was on point and no expense was spared with production. The retrospective showed the versatility of his work and each room was crafted to reflect the different collections; for example, floor to ceiling worn mirrors and glass tanks were used to amplify and contextualise the intricate components of his pieces.

One stand out feature of the event was the integration of virtual reality and fashion, which is interesting to note as fashion brands and houses are now using VR to engage audiences (see Ted Baker). McQueen used VR to bring his work to life in a glass prism that displayed a ghostly female figure in a stunning floating dress and created the illusion of being underwater, which lent itself well to the construction of the garment and the notion of being immersed in McQueen’s dreamlike world.

The exhibition embraced the complex yet versatile world of fashion and the different mediums which can be used to heighten visual impact. For me, this was an eye-opening experience that demonstrates how one product or subject can be contextualised to gain recognition and build reputation. Much like the careful construction of award winning PR activity.

Christina Peach, Account Executive, Brand Marketing Team