Saturday, 1 February 2020

Alexander McQueen: Roses

“We’ve referenced the rose in many collections at Alexander McQueen. For me, it’s the most British flower of all, a symbol of femininity... I love the fragility and also the splendour of it... the idea that it represents birth and rebirth and the whole life cycle... The fact that it has beauty as a bud, and a beauty through its decay... it has a strength and power... It almost represents a woman, to me.” - Sarah Burton

Having really enjoyed their last exhibition (here), on the second floor space of the Alexander McQueen flagship store on Old Bond Street, I made another journey there to enjoy their new current display - Roses. The exhibition features the label's historical and ongoing adaptation of the rose/floral motif as the inspiration for some pretty spectacular dresses. There are a couple of my favourite original Alexander McQueen dresses designed by the man himself from his 2007 Sarabande collection. The original of the dress (below) featured real flowers which began to fall off the dress as the model moved around the catwalk creating a sense of drama. The original flowers have largely been replaced by artificial fabric flowers which have been hand-dyed to replicate the original colours of the real things. I was lucky enough to be given a personal guided tour of the dresses by the lovely assistant/curator Maxmara who is a fount of knowledge and anecdotes explaining the history of each dress, and also the complexities of their construction, as well as the number of hours put in by the 'petit mains' and other contributors, the unsung heroes of the fashion world doing vital work behind the scenes to realise the original vision of Alexander McQueen and successor Sarah Burton. The variety of floral-inspired designs on display here reminded me of the 'Garden' section of last years blockbuster Christian Dior exhibition (here), who was also inspired by flowers and gardening. I was reminded too of the floral couture created by florists seen in Covent Garden in 2018 (here). This exhibition is a great opportunity to investigate the construction and wilful deconstruction of traditional tailoring techniques, and to also see the levels of skill and intricacies involved in the ornate embroidered surface decoration of garments. Once again I came away completely inspired having seen the work of a creative team at the top of their game. Below can be seen short films of the original 2007 Sarabande fashion show, and also intriguing footage of the construction process of Burton's beautiful Rose dress (top picture, above), by Head of the Atelier Judy Halil.

Alexander McQueen 
27 Old Bond Street