Thursday, 25 February 2010

Thursday Fashion Pics


Time for random fashion images, which I like, from my big imagery file.

1. As if this picture needs any explaination! (source: unknown)
2. YSL logo stencil street art/graffiti (source: Colette Team blog)
3. !! (source: Purple Diary)
4. The very stylish Robert Rabensteiner, Fashion Editor of L'Uomo Vogue (source: Jak & Jil for GQ.com)
5. Gucci store of the past (source: unknown)
6. Carine Roitfeld in Rick Owens fur. Rick Owens is about the only designer who can make fur look contemporary. I'm not crazy about fur, but this coat looks fantastic (partly thanks to Carine of course!) (source: unknown)
7. Jean Paul Gaultier 1985 androgynous advert; love this (source: TFS)
8. The enduring power of the white t-shirt (source: ilovefake)
9. David LaChapelle's iconic 1999 Fruit photo of Naomi Campbell* (source: artnet)
10. Diane Pernet being interviewed (source: Yvan Rodic)
11. Helmut Lang 1997 ad campaign featuring artist Louise Bourgeois (source: TFS)
12. Katie Grand's custom, bespoke Prada shoes, based on FW09 (source: unknown)
13. High-res Chanel (source: Sea of Shoes)
14. Y-3 fall/winter 2010 shoes from New York Fashion Week just passed (source: The Cobrasnake)


* I can never really decide if this image is pandering to somewhat offensive racial stereotypes, or if it's making fun of them. Either way, it is a very striking and now-iconic picture of Naomi.

If you know the sources of any images where I've put 'unknown', leave a comment or email me and I'll add the links in.

For the Love of Fashion

I am not unconditionally in love with fashion. I am not emotionally invested in fashion. And I do not dream of one day being the editor of a big magazine, nor do I get off on the thought of being featured on Jak & Jil. What I do love about fashion is design, quality, innovation, originality and craftsmanship. I enjoy the madness of the fashion world, the unintentional hilarity of it all, and the eccentric characters. I obviously love fashion enough to blog about it, and I do this because it is popular and accessible (more so than, say, modern art, or product design), it’s the only medium which really combines creativity, craftsmanship etc. with absolute madness and absurdity (and I enjoy that mix), and it’s a form of escapism for when everything gets a bit heavy-going. The element of fantasy is a definite appeal for me too, at times.

That is where I stand with regards to fashion, and I actually hope it’s because of the fact that I am not in absolute love and awe of fashion that people do read my blog, because I am able to take a step back sometimes and distance myself from it all (and, of course, I’m an industry outsider anyway); the blogs I find depressing are the ones where everything is ‘OMG WOW FIERCE,’ or where the blogger is most interested in the exclusivity that surrounds fashion, and uses it as a way to be snobbish and to elevate themselves.

I’m curious: do you love fashion? (I'm assuming yes, or you probably wouldn't be reading this) And if so, to what extent, and why?

I'd be interested to know… *everyone* seems to love fashion in these internet-crazy days, but I wonder what the most common responses would be if you asked people why? Loving fashion is almost a default setting for lots of people. It's like the 'done thing': not something you would ever consider questioning. I think I am very lucky with my readers (at least with those who comment – don’t know much about the rest of you!) so I’d love to know what you think is so good about fashion, because I’m sure you'll give a more enlightening response than, say, commenters from certain other blogs who never stretch much beyond ‘fierce, love it.’


There are some things I hate about fashion too, a few of which I'll list because I'm in that sort of mood:

When fashion’s obsession with celebrity goes wrong: Peaches and Pixie Geldof front row at every show… WHY? Lily Allen as the face of Chanel? Give me a break. Yes, she scrubs up well, but Chanel really deserves better than this. Kanye… enough said.

The crassness fashion seems to attract (or promote in some people). Here’s an example:

This is a comment on a rather good Sartorialist photo, which is of an interesting and unique look. Aside from the odd comment, it’s quite obnoxious how some people have started putting their comments in bold, as if what they have to say is more important than everyone else. A great big, fat ‘look at me’ for all the wrong reasons. Making matters worse, this is the first comment too. I’ve noticed that this guy always comments in bold on various popular blogs, and every time I see it, it makes me about a million times less inclined to visit his blog.

It gets me down when people think that fashion has to involve being egotistical and self-absorbed and looking down on others (this is of course just as rife in the 'real' world as online). I don't mean to single out that commenter in particular: loads of people are even worse.

The constant deluge of emails from PRs. Look, I know you’ve got a job to do, I know you’re being paid a respectable salary to promote brand x, but the emails get me down, they really do. I'm a blogger, I don't play the PR game. The fact that some nondescript mid-market brand is having a 30% off mid-season sale online only next week could hardly be of any less interest to me. Fun Fact: Google Mail search tells me that there are currently 140 emails in my inbox from PRs which start with ‘I/we love your blog…’ I love it when they say that, when the brand/product which they’re promoting is something which I’ve previously said bad things about (really bad things in some cases)… obviously they’ve just got an intern to Google ‘fashion blogs’ or something and have never actually read a word of my blog, but, you know, nothing like a bit of misplaced false flattery to generate some coverage (or not).

Bad quality and bad service. As I posted recently, one of the reasons why I love Prada is because of the amazing quality and the great repair service they offer if something does go wrong. We have come widely to accept terrible quality and service in the ‘fast fashion’ sector of the market (with some exceptions, like Uniqlo), but when this starts to creep into the higher end of the market it is just depressing.

I was in the Topman flagship recently, looking for slim fitting black trousers which wouldn’t break the bank. I took various pairs to the fitting room, waited while the fitting room assistant made a big thing of counting the number of items I had (that’s right, don’t take my word for it, imply that everyone is a shoplifter instead), felt annoyed that there was no seat in fitting room, or anywhere to put my bag other than on the dirty floor (which is also where their trousers ended up, because the rail was ingeniously designed not to accommodate coat hangers), and then I glanced at the price tag of one of the pairs, saw £290, and nearly had a fit. I could never bring myself to spend anything like that amount in Topman, good as they are for certain things: if I was going to spend £290 on trousers I’d be down to Prada in a flash, and frankly anyone who’d give that sort of money to Topman, given the service and experience they offer, would be a fool. It gets better though: obviously at that price they weren’t own brand but rather were ‘designer at Topman,’ by a designer called James Long. Even if you didn’t balk at spending that sort of money in a mass-market shop with inattentive service, you could surely at least bank on quality at that price? Wrong. A closer look at the tag revealed they had been marked down to £150 because the suede knees on both legs were ripping right off (quite unintentionally), on one side flapping down and leaving bare knee exposed. Topman trying to sell trousers for £290? The fact that the £290 James Long trousers were falling apart before they’d even left the store? And still £150 reduced? It just beggars belief sometimes.


So here’s the question: do you love fashion, and if so how much and why? And what particular elements of fashion do you like and dislike the most?

Friday, 19 February 2010

Style Snippets: Chanel Sport, Anna Dello Russo and more



1) Chanel Sport

From American football to rollerblading, from skiing to surfing, Chanel has got all your sporting needs covered – covered, in some cases, in black quilted leather.

I know they produce these things (I’ve seen the surf board and the fishing set at a sportswear exhibition at the V&A), but I wonder if you can buy them? If you were to go into a Chanel boutique and ask for the surfboard I wonder what would happen? Would they give you the mother of all dirty looks, followed by a French shrug, or would they vanish into the storeroom and return with it (and then demonstrate its use?) Think I might have to try asking…


2) Why I Love Prada

There are lots of reasons why I love Prada, but to single out just one: recently a clip fastening fell off one of my much used Prada bags and got lost. Even though the bag is at least 3 years old and has been used heavily almost daily, I took it back to the shop, where they immediately said it could be sent back to Italy for repairs (free of charge, I think). They offered to give me a paper store bag to put all my stuff in, and then they could send it off straight away, and it would be back in 4-6 weeks. It is amazing they offer this service, but I wasn’t convinced because a) the thought of emptying all the rubbish (old receipts, broken pens, tissues…) out of my bag onto the shiny glass Prada counter, under the watchful gaze of the staff, was absolutely mortifying and b) it didn’t actually need repairing, all it needed was a replacement clip, so instead they told me to write down my phone number for them (on a Prada embossed card!) and they’d see if they could order the clip. I never thought I’d hear back, but on the next working day I had a call to say the clip was already waiting for me in the shop.

This was doubly good because I used it, along with a dermatologist appointment, to justify a sneaky day trip back to London: honestly I can’t tell you how happy being in London makes me, especially when it’s sunny and (joy of joys) the first very tentative signs of spring weather are starting to show. I annoyed someone the other day by telling them that I consider myself not to be British or English, but rather to be a Londoner. There is, I maintain, a difference. Anyway, in the Prada shop the clip was indeed waiting for me (in a plastic wallet, along with another Prada card that said ‘with compliments’) and they fixed it on for me, and I didn’t have to pay anything. That is just such fantastic service, well done Prada. It is things like that which really justify the prices in my mind (along with the amazing durability of the bag anyway). When I was in there I looked at some of the women’s SS10… it looks really good in person, I love the indoor-beach print pieces with the slightly subversive cut-outs, and those transparent shoes with the tacky plastic gems attached are great too.

They have a video campaign for women’s SS10, which is cool… I love the hair + transparent frame sunglasses + tomato red lips:


And who knew Prada had a YouTube channel?!

3) Fashion for Relief Haiti pays tribute to Alexander McQueen

Image Credits: PA.

Naomi Campbell has organised two Fashion for Relief shows to raise money for Haiti this season, one at the start of New York Fashion Week and one which was just yesterday, marking the start of London Fashion Week. Good on Naomi for organising something for charity and bonus points for using lots of McQueen, in which all of the models looked totally fantastic. Love Naomi, she’s probably my favourite model… and what a killer figure she still has!

I was also pleased to hear that PPR, the majority shareholders of Alexander McQueen’s label, have decided to keep the brand going, and will show the FW10 collection, which McQueen had been working before his death, as planned in Paris next month. Lots of people online have been throwing about names of potential successors as creative director, but I imagine what will happen is that for a while they’ll continue with his creative team at the helm (hopefully avoiding the fate of Maison Martin Margiela, which has taken a similar approach since the man himself left, and has managed to get dull in the process), and then when it seems less insensitive to do so they can find a new creative director. At least, I hope they’ll do something like that. And please don’t let it be Gareth Pugh, as much as I admire what he does under his own name.

4) Anna Dello Russo on Boyfriends and How to Pack

Anna Dello Russo is officially OUT OF CONTROL! Love, love her. First she tells New York Magazine this week that she has a boyfriend but he can’t live with her since “there is no space because of the clothes,” and also reveals that her second apartment (the one just for storing clothes) has to be kept at 15C all year round because that’s the optimum temperature for storing high fashion! (more here) Then New York Magazine posted a video of her explaining how to pack your bags, when you’re trying to pack up enough full runway looks for a week, probably allowing for at least three daily outfit changes in her case…



"Anna does not believe in outfit repeats"! (although the other Anna famously does, of course).

Almost as good as the video of her in the Paris Ritz (here).

New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2010

New York Fashion week confuses me, it really does: loads of dull brands showing that nobody has heard of (and that nobody cares about), celebrities at every show (even at said unheard of brands) just for the sake of having celebrities there (even C/D-listers and reality TV ‘stars,’ are invited, as well as celebs who have nothing whatsoever to do with the brand or fashion in general), the fact that American magazines drag around male athletes who are supposedly ‘interning’ for them (seriously, at least two big American mags have had American footballers as ‘interns’… what is that all about, other than providing some eye candy for the office?! Do you really get some 6”5’ 250lb footballer folding the Chanel samples and returning them to the PR for you?! Questions, questions…), and perhaps above all the fact that New York Fashion Week is so commercialised its proper name is actually Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week: New York, and the whole thing is run by IMG Group, which is an enormous media company. Tellingly, perhaps, on their website the fashion division falls under “Entertainment.” I pray London, Paris and Milan Fashion Weeks never turn into this.

That said, there are lots of very good designers still showing there, among the madness and badness. These are some of my top picks (not necessarily ‘top,’ but rather most interesting):

1) Calvin Klein

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

I find I can never disagree with well-done minimalism. I mean, it is like a less exciting Jil Sander to an extent, but I still like it.

2) Rodarte

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

Rodarte was a touch disappointing this season… the techniques were still extraordinary, and obviously an enormous amount of work went into the collection, but it lacked the ‘wow factor’ of previous seasons somehow. Rodarte is at that point now where critics are starting to wonder if there is any viable brand that could emerge, with options that appeal to more than a tiny, adventurous set of consumers, or if they’ll be able to continue doing these very high-level, small scale ‘artisanal’ collections. Lynn Yaeger for New York Magazine said “it is hard to know how seriously to take the Mulleavy sisters’ clothes, with their sky-high price tags and the insane enthusiasm they elicit from the fashion flock, who would never approve of half these ideas if they saw them at a student presentation”. Her writing is really good actually - more here.

3) Altuzarra

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

It was a shame that Joseph Altuzarra abandoned the interesting new direction he set last season (a light, airy 70s look, which still showcased his trademark sharp cuts and classy sex appeal), and instead went for an unoriginal vampy aesthetic, with a black, red and nude colour pallet. The black coloured part of the show looked well executed and well cut, but you don’t need a degree in fashion criticism to see that most of the red velvet at the end just looked… bad, and rather cheap. Altuzarra is a very accomplished young designer, and I think he could have done a lot better.

4) Oscar de la Renta

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

What else but Upper East Side chic from Oscar de la Renta? De la Renta was bold with colour this season, which was refreshing to see, and the gamble nearly always paid off (at times it got a bit Carrie Bradshaw, in a not so good way). His show is always one of my New York favourites just because it is so New York, and always has such old-school elegance. I see that Agyness Deyn was back on the runway, despite having made much of ‘retiring’ from modelling last year. I do love her, but not so much with the black bowl-cut...

5) Alexander Wang

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

Suffice to say I am not exactly enchanted by Alexander Wang yet; Alice Dellal, Pixie Geldof (why oh why) and Henry Holland all pouting away in the front row tells you all you need to know really. I can’t find much to like about this collection, but I’m sure my view is prejudiced and those who are into Wang (who are very numerous) can probably see something more than empty trendiness. I think Prada may be the only designer who can make bright red velvet look acceptable, while that camel coloured coat-cape was I suppose like the trendy cousin of Phoebe Philo’s similar, but luxe, version for Celine resort 2010.

6) Marc Jacobs

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

Marc Jacobs’ collection was simple, but deceptively so, and stylish in a slightly offbeat way. Skirts were all knee-length or longer… at times it was the sexy librarian, then it would get a bit folksy, then there would be lashings of fur…It was actually all rather awkward looking, but that’s what made it work oddly. Jacobs played it safe this season, and came up with a strong, subtly stylish collection.

7) Helmut Lang

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

I do love a bit of Helmut Lang… I know the brand is no longer at the forefront of cutting-edge fashion these days, but I can never resist a minimal aesthetic in dark colours with ‘architectural’ construction. As in previous seasons, there were strong prints too.

8) Victoria Beckham

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

I have to say, I am consistently impressed by Victoria Beckham’s collections, and I love how she holds small presentations and is on hand herself talking the editors through each outfit (not that I was there or anything!). She is the only celebrity turned designer I’m prepared to take seriously, partly because it sounds like she has a genuine passion for it, and it’s not just a money spinner/time filler for her. This season she experimented with draping, and there were more day wear options.

9) Patrik Ervell

Images from GQ.com - click to see entire collection.

Patrik Ervell is usually the strongest of the NY men’s collections, and this season was no exception. Everything he does always has a real lightness and fluidity to it… really liked this collection.

10) Halston

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

Marios Schwab did not disappoint with his first collection at Halston, which was cool, quite edgy, and sophisticated. I think Schwab is a really good choice for Halston: the perfect designer to inject some energy into their characteristic 70s-luxe aesthetic.

11) Michael Kors

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

Michael Kors’ FW10 collection was fun: part hot mess (vest and bikini bottoms under fur; gold; metallic silver puffer jackets), part great tailoring (in desert khakis), one hundred percent luxurious, this collection was not the most, ahem, tasteful, but I liked it. It's always hard to resist a collection which features what looked to be a chinchilla skirt...

12) Narciso Rodriguez

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

Narciso Rodriguez showed a strong, minimal collection, with a slightly futuristic (or, rather, 60s-futuristic) theme, which I really liked.

13) Alexandre Herchcovitch

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

I was impressed by Alexandre Herchcovitch’s collection with its U.S.S.R theme, apparently inspired by Georgian cinema. Themes, particularly regional fashion themes, are always prone to ending in kitsch disaster, but Herchcovitch handled it so gently the collection came through looking very cool and stylish.

14) Threeasfour

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

The Threeasfour collection, part fantasy, part futuristic, was rather fantastic. Some of the techniques looked very impressive.

15) Jeremy Scott

Images from NY Mag - click to see entire collection.

It is not 2007 any more, and I feel like Castelbajac has done it all before, but I do still have a soft spot for Jeremy Scott’s bright, flashy aesthetic. This collection was fun.

16) Vera Wang

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

Dark elegance at Vera Wang…I liked this collection.

17) Marchesa

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

Stunning evening dresses from Marchesa. I know we’re *meant* to be a bit sniffy about Marchesa, for being rather flashy and for supplying Coleen Rooney with her £100k wedding dress, but the construction and everything always amazes me.

18) Proenza Schouler

Images from Style.com - click to see entire collection.

Proenza Schouler's fall/winter 2010 collection was really good. At first glance it did not seem as exciting as some of their previous collections, but it has grown on me, and it’s one of the top collections from New York this time, I think. I loved the prints, and it all felt very stylish and modern and relevant.

What have you liked/disliked from New York?

Monday, 15 February 2010

The Towering Genius of Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen’s extraordinary talent was not just limited to creating clothes: the man also knew how to put on a spectacular show, quite unlike any other. In this post I am going to look back on McQueen’s fashion career. Of course I will by no means be able to cover everything, and when I say ‘look back’ I don’t really mean it literally: I sadly never attended a single McQueen show, and I am ashamed to say it is only now that I have properly discovered some of his most amazing shows and collections, many of which took place long before I was really aware of fashion. Still, this will hopefully imbue the post with something of an optimism: not so much looking back, but rather looking into, and looking forwards at, the incredible legacy which Alexander McQueen leaves.

In a sense, McQueen’s story is made all the more incredible by the fact that he was a born into a working class family in East London, yet from this humble and seemingly quite tough background he grew into one of the most talented designers ever seen, operating at the very highest level: no cultured bourgeois upbringing, or ‘dressing up in all of mother’s haute couture’ for McQueen. For American readers even bringing this up might seem bizarre, but in the UK where social class is still a very prevalent issue, and we nearly all make judgments, unconsciously or otherwise, about people’s class, McQueen’s ascent from local authority housing in the East End is a very sobering lesson for anyone tempted to jump to class-based assumptions about vision and talent. It also makes one wonder how many other extraordinary talents there might be trapped out there.

Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow in the early days (image from The Telegraph).

Later, it was in a wonderful clash of worlds that McQueen was launched onto the global fashion scene, thanks to the aristocratic fashion editor Isabella Blow. Blow was so impressed by McQueen’s graduation collection that she bought the whole lot for £5,000; she had to pay in weekly installments, and McQueen delivered it to her in black rubbish sacks. Blow was teased by her upper class friends for supporting the son of a taxi driver (who had only been persuaded to take the prestigious St Martin’s fashion course after applying for a lesser course but astounding the admissions tutor with his portfolio), but Isabella Blow was unstoppable and unrepentant: after all, this was a woman who was late for work almost every day while working as Anna Wintour’s assistant (because getting elaborately dressed each morning took her so long), and she had come to the attention of Andy Warhol for wearing a mismatched pair of Manolo Blahniks.

McQueen and Isabella Blow pose for Vanity Fair (image from Vanity Fair).

Having graduated from St Martin’s in 1995, McQueen was installed as the creative director at Givenchy just a year later, where he wasted no time in shaking things up and shocking the Parisian establishment. He stayed at Givenchy until 2001, before quitting, to invest all his energy in his own brand which, thanks to a deal facilitated by Isabella Blow, was backed by the support of the PPR (Gucci) Group.

Alexander McQueen for Givenchy:

(all images in this section from WWD)

Givenchy spring/summer 1997 haute couture.

Givenchy SS97 ready-to-wear (left) and FW97 (right).

Givenchy spring/summer 1998 ready-to-wear.

Naomi Campbell (left) in Givenchy by Alexander McQueen (note sure of date) and (right) Givenchy FW98 haute couture (hello SS09 Margiela hair coat). I wish I could find more pictures from the collection of the Naomi pic... I recall seeing a picture in a design book presumably from the same collection with a model with a bull's ring through her nose.

The ephemeral beauty of McQueen’s fall/winter 2000 Givenchy haute couture.

Alexander McQueen for his own brand:

(image credits at the end of the post, unless specified individually)

Extraordinary techniques for spring/summer 1994.

Fall/winter 1994.

The Highland Rape collection of fall/winter 1995 was controversial, and many interpreted it as some kind of misogynist statement, glamourising the abuse of women; in fact, McQueen’s influence was the violent Highland Clearances of the late 1700s, in which inhabitants of the Scottish Highlands were forcibly expelled by the English. This collection had a real power and aggressive energy to it; it was historically influenced but was then (and still is now) very modern looking.

Fall/winter 1996.

For spring/summer 1997, the models walked on water:


This is just fantastic… videos of McQueen shows are so good, because pictures alone never give a good sense of the subtleties of his shows: the music, the light effects, how the models were told to walk…

Tough, sexy, leather-clad (rather Helmut Netwon-esque) cow girl for fall/winter 1997. The references went deeper than that though: there was a men’s coat with an image of the Crucifixion on the back.

Rain fell on the runway for the spring/summer 1998 collection, which was called Golden Shower, in a typically mischievous McQueen way. The clothes again were just fantastic, especially the tailoring, and McQueen proved this season that he was just as adept at doing quite a minimal aesthetic.

Second image from The Guardian.

Fall/winter 1998 was the Joan of the Arc inspired collection, which was very tough, very sexy… the setting was incredibly atmospheric, and the show ended with the amazing ring of fire.

In spring/summer 1999, McQueen caused a sensation by ending his show with model Shalom Harlow standing in a white dress on a rotating platform, being spray painted by robotic arms adapted from a car factory. It was an extraordinary statement: a most beautiful moment, but menacing too… vandalism almost; and it spoke volumes about the relationship between man and machine, between fashion and mass production… the seeming contradiction of automated machines creating something truly one-off, before the very eyes of the audience. Never mind this was just a part of a mere fashion show, it could easily have passed off as an art installation in its own right, as Modernist ‘mechanical ballet’ performances and the like sprang to mind.

Video below **watch this** (the start features part of the FW99 show)



McQueen showed his fall/winter 1999 collection, The Overlook, in an artificially created winter wonderland, complete with snow and ice, on which some models skated. It wasn’t all fantasy though: the collection was inspired by 1980s psychological horror film, The Shining.

The terrifying setting of McQueen’s spring/summer 2000 collection.

The techniques and craftsmanship were beyond stunning in McQueen’s tribal-inspired fall/winter 2000 collection. This collection was just wonderful, and again just look at the setting! This sort of level totally shames pretty much everything that’s been shown in New York Fashion Week so far these last few days, it’s just mind-blowing.

For his spring/summer 2001 collection, McQueen seated the audience around a giant mirrored box, making members of the audience brilliantly uncomfortable as they had to sit confronting their own reflections for some time before the show started (a very apt statement, surely, about the mindless vanity displayed by some areas of the fashion world). The discomfort for the audience members only got worse, however, when the show began and the box turned transparent, revealing a troubling ‘padded cell’ mental asylum set inside. Models walked inside the box, including Kate Moss and Erin O’Connor, showing off a truly extraordinary collection with a strong avian theme (inspiration seemed to come from Hitchcock’s The Birds). There were more wearable pieces courtesy of McQueen’s razor-sharp, flawless tailoring, and there were some incredible thigh-high boots, fashioned to look like bandaged or mummified legs. Other pieces suggested bandaging and hospital wear… it was all deeply disturbing and subversive, but incredibly beautiful too. The show ended with the shocking tableau of a large, naked model, reclining on a couch with a breathing tube sticking out of the mouth of her masked face:

It is actually sobering how little I know about fashion: this collection, which until now I was only vaguely aware of, has just become one of my top collections ever.

There is some footage here:



Fall/winter 2001’s roundabout carousel set, with sinister clowns.

Image from WWD.

Amazing construction on a dress from the bullfighting inspired spring/summer 2002 collection.

In Fall/Winter 2002, McQueen showed an eerie collection in an ancient dungeon in Paris, complete with real wolves howling.

Spring/Summer 2003… going through all these collections, literally every single one has left me amazed in some way or another. There are very few other designers who consistently have this effect.

Top image from BBC, second two from WWD.

In the wind-tunnel for fall/winter 2003.

The entire spring/summer 2004 collection was shown on dancers.

Fall/winter 2004.

Second image from WWD.

At the end of McQueen’s spring/summer 2005 show, the models became human chess pieces, whose moves were directed by a disembodied computerised voice. As each ‘piece’ was knocked out of the game, the corresponding model left the stage:



Incredible!

A vision of Kate Moss appeared as a hologram at the end of McQueen’s spring/summer 2006 show. The collection itself was executed to a practically haute-couture level… stunning and beautiful.

Spring/summer 2007… dreamy.

McQueen dedicated his spring/summer 2008 collection to Isabella Blow, who had commited suicide not long before; he filled the air of the venue with Blow’s signature scent, so that guests would be reminded of her.

More breathtaking craftsmanship for fall/winter 2008.

Top image from WWD.

With the taxidermy stage set, spring/summer 2009 was the season of the spectacular prints (see Hapsical post here). McQueen took his bow at the end wearing a bunny suit.

Top two images from WWD.

I didn’t like this collection much at the time, I think because I tried to contextualise it too much (in light of the recession and general uncertainty in fashion), but looking at it now it is rather brilliant: it’s hard to resist the drama of it all, the rubbish tip set is fun and subversive, and the execution again looks to be at an haute-couture level.

The spring/summer 2010 collection will always have a certain poignancy to it as the last women’s collection McQueen ever showed, but what a way to end, what a collection! I almost cried again watching the video of this. I can’t do justice to this collection in words right now, but unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last four months you’ll already know how truly mind-blowing it is.


The Spring/Summer 2010 campaign by Nick Knight is just fantastic too… it makes me feel seriously uncomfortable (I think I might just have developed a phobia of snakes thanks to it), but it is incredible:


And let’s not forget Alexander McQueen’s menswear which, while never subject to utterly fantastical shows like the womenswear, was always quite something too:

(all images in this section from GQ.com)


Spring/summer 2005.

Spring/summer 2006

Fall/winter 2006. On the left is the skull sweater, which I own in black. It may be nearly 4 years old, but it is testament to the incredible quality of McQueen’s clothes: it is the most amazing quality knit, and it could still pass off as new even now. It hasn’t even ‘bobbled’ at all, like most knitwear does after a time. By comparison, Uniqlo knits I bought two months ago are already self-destructing, while other designer knitwear I’ve had (Paul Smith, Kenzo) has lasted about 3-4 years, before going a bit lumpy and getting a developing a few holes. McQueen's is still going strong.

Spring/summer 2007’s sublime tailoring.

The fall/winter 2007 collection had plenty of subversive touches: the hair and make-up which made some of the models look like plastic G.I. Joe figures, the use of transparent coloured plastics, and the strong silhouettes.

Spring/summer 2008 was a sort of 80s beach fest, with bleached hair and sunburn to match…

Strong ethnic, folksy influences for fall/winter 2008.

Super-sharp tailoring with op-art designs for spring/summer 2009.

For fall/winter 2009, McQueen unleashed the high-camp Dickensian villain, complete with fur, top hat and cane.

Men got in on the print action for spring/summer 2010.

The last ever collection which McQueen showed was his men’s fall/winter 2010 collection, which was also perhaps his strongest men’s collection to date. The tailoring was just incredible and, combined with the complex prints, the whole thing was just mind-blowing.

R.I.P McQueen, you genius... fashion will never be quite as interesting again.

Links:

Good WWD Reports on McQueen's life and work here and here.
Fashion Spot McQueen 1994-1996 archive thread here.*
Fashion Spot McQueen 1996-2000 archive thread here.*
Style.com Alexander McQueen page (for collections 2001-) here.*
GQ.com Alexander McQueen page (for men's collections 2005-) here.

*Unless otherwise specified, all 1994-1996 and 1996-2000 images are from The Fashion Spot (links above - click to see more images from collections from those periods), while all post 2000 runway pictures are from Style.com (again, link above).