FIRST LOOK: MCQUEEN’S SAVAGE BEAUTY

DON is where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration.” The words of Lee McQueen greet us when we enter theAlexander McQueen: Savage Beautyexhibition, as its doors finally open at theVictoria & Albert Musuem today. After months of anticipation and build-up, the pressure was on for the V&A to deliver a display that not only tops the wildly successful Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibition four years ago, but also somehow pays tribute to Lee the man, Lee the Londoner, in a more personal way.

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Taking a display that is larger in scale and in breadth than New York but somehow also making it more intimate is no mean feat, but there really are not enough superlatives to describe the achievement of the execution here. Every collection is represented in some way, and Lee himself talks us through each room, his own words describing every source and inspiration.

Taking a display that is larger in scale and in breadth than New York but somehow also making it more intimate is no mean feat, but there really are not enough superlatives to describe the achievement of the execution here. Every collection is represented in some way, and Lee himself talks us through each room, his own words describing every source and inspiration.

From the first London room, displaying his earliest work, we enter Savage Mind, a space dedicated to his tailoring development, where McQueen tells us: “That’s what I’m here for, to demolish the rules but keep the tradition.” Grey and industrial with a skylight window, the space is “just like Saint Martins,” Vogue contributing fashion editor Kate Phelan told us.

The designer’s evolution – through the bondage and leather of his Romantic Gothicinspiration, to the bone-lined cavern hosting his Romantic Primitivism, on to the tartan, rich velvety feathers, and beaded chiffons of his Romantic Nationalism – is seen in a series of rooms until visitors reach the arguable centrepiece: the Cabinet of Curiosities.

“It really allows us to see the evolution of McQueen as an artist,” Andrew Bolton, who curated the Met’s Savage Beauty and consulted on the V&A exhibition, told us this morning. “It’s unbelievable what the V&A team has done. There were a few kinks that needed to be ironed out, and they have achieved that beautifully. The Cabinet of Curiosities is much bigger than in New York and, although I was concerned initially that it wouldn’t have the same feel as the smaller one, it works unbelievably well.”

The evolution of his artistry walks hand in hand with his legendary theatrics, giving viewers a sense of his boundary-pushing creativity. Moving exhibits, including the famous spray-painted dress worn by Shalom Harlow in the finale of the spring/summer 1999 collection, bring the exhibits to life – and none more so than the Kate Moss Pepper’s Ghost hologram from his Widows of Culloden show, which is larger than the Tinkerbell-sized Met version (adapted because the Museum didn’t have the “space or money” for a larger one, Bolton confessed), but not quite Kate-sized as at the show. The mirrored box from the spring/summer 2001 Voss show is there too, complete with lights that turn it from clear glass to opaque and back again: “It was about trying to trap something that wasn’t conventionally beautiful to show that beauty comes from within,” McQueen explains.

[“Source- vogue”]