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Fashion Geek on the Enduring Appeal of Alexander McQueen

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It would seem that Alexander McQueen was always going to go stratospheric. What has forever been synonymous with the name Alexander McQueen is an inability to compromise on anything. His collections have repeatedly shown exquisite tailoring, paired with feminine romance and wearability with the cutting edge of high fashion. It is this enviable assemblage that has emblazoned the name of Alexander McQueen into any self-respecting Fashionistas consciousness over the past 15 years. Since his graduation show from St. Martins in 1995, in which the late Isabella Blow famously bought the entire collection, he has soared to the dizzying heights of haute couture, with a stint at Givenchy as Chief Designer from 1996 to 2001. What, may you ask, is the secret to his success? Well, as so perfectly describe, it is the blend of these things: ‘Fragility and strength, tradition and modernity and fluidity and severity.’ And I am inclined to agree.


Take, for example, McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 2006 runway show, entitled ‘The Widows of Culloden’. McQueen here was taking inspiration from his own heritage, referencing the infamous and bloody battle fought at Culloden in Scotland between Scottish Jacobite clans and government troops. Thousands were slaughtered on either side and afterwards came the shameful ‘pacification’ of the highlands, where the traditional kilt and tartan were outlawed and clan chiefs lost all their legal power. Fiercely political and emotionally raw, it set the stage perfectly as the collection that really made McQueen’s name. The collection boasted impeccably tailored tweed and tartan. Feathers from traditional Scottish game birds were placed in the model’s hair, giving them an ethereal and feminine undertone. All in all, it was a very British affair and one that had a message; that perhaps the medium of fashion that was once thought of as vapid could have something relevant and poignant to say about a nation’s history and people.


It is perhaps because of McQueen’s strong political statements in his shows that have earned him the title of the perennial bad boy of British fashion. Indeed you only need to glance at his most recent collection to see this, where atop a black and red union jack clutch, McQueen’s signature skull sits nonchalantly. Another favourite of mine is the knuckle duster clutch with ominous skulls on the knuckles. This perfectly sums up McQueen’s playful and confrontational brand of fashion; it is one that takes you by the scruff of the neck, makes sure you look it in the eye, and once you’ve seen it, trust me, you will not want to stop looking.


Rebecca Parton

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