I am inspired by the great, late designer Alexander McQueen’s vision of woman, and the way he designed clothes for the emotionally in-touch, yet ultimately powerful and strong woman, as well as his distinct performance art-worthy catwalk performances, which always heightened the emotional themes captured within the clothes. I have been inspired by several of his collections:
A/W 1998 Ready-To-Wear
I am interested in the way McQueen creates armour for his women, a barrier against the harsh realities of the world, and power statement to show the world that McQueen women are powerful and unafraid. I am especially inspired by the chainmail dress, which is beautiful, and sensual in it’s semi-sheer form, yet acts as a protective unit, the viewer may see in a voyeuristic sense, but can never touch as the woman has a clear boundary – an armour.
At the finale of the show, a spectacular reimagining of the burning of Joan of Arc took place in a ring of fire. The model stood definitely in a fringed dress with her face covered, in an historically inspired knight’s dress, in the centre of the ring. Joan of Arc is symbolic of the women that McQueen aimed to dress – a martyr, a protector and a fierce woman who was not afraid to affect or blur gender constructs present at that time. The burning at the end of the show is incredibly powerful, as the model reflects the gaze of the audience, defiantly leaning into them in a show of power despite the fear of the act. I am interested in this act and the relationship between this and female hysteria. Like in Susu Laroche’s work, where women react what some may deem strangely to emotionally difficult situations, I am interested in the sense of power that can come from the hysterical act, as one has reclaimed their sense of language, directing horror into power.
A/W 1995 Ready-To-Wear
In perhaps one of his most controversial and defining moments in his early fashion career, McQueen presented his ‘Highland Rape’ show for the Autumn/Winter 1995 season. This collection featured garments with rips and tears, exposing the models erotic areas, in a clear show of violence against women. McQueen was accused of relaying misogynistic undertones in this collection, through the exposure of skin in such an overtly ferocious way, however he disagreed with these sentiments, stating he wanted to convey the wider view of society at that time, and expose the objectification of women in a brutal, callous form in order to provide a mirror for society. However, the ‘rape’ was not directed at the models – instead the inspiration for the collection came from the pillaging and violation of Scotland and Scottish culture from British troops.
I am inspired by the use of violence and rawness in this collection, as McQueen touches upon the taboo subject of rape, which needs far greater prominence and public education in order to stop the terrible act from occurring, using it as a conduit for ideas about the violation of culture from one nation to another. I am very interested in this idea of using violence to portray an idea about society, such as the crisis in the representation of women, which leads to the hysterical act. McQueen uses his clothes as his language, and so women when choosing to buy a McQueen piece can make a conscious decision about the way they want to be represented, and if they chose something from this collection, many may deem it inappropriate for actual wear, yet the woman would be expressing her innermost thoughts and feelings on the violence against women that is every present and controlling in contemporary society.