Monday, February 15, 2010

Alexander McQueen: The beautiful and the grotesque

Things will never be the same way again: true. Death casts a forgiving glow: true. The fashion industry has lost an irreplaceable son: also true. It is likewise true that things will eventually unwind and settle — through the roil of strong emotions, vivid memories, and stark, awe-inspiring imagery. In repose, we are left, level-headed, to marvel and pay homage to the unique talent of Alexander McQueen: the visionary.

Alexander McQueen 01

Who knows what was going on in his head when he designed his men's collection for Fall 2010? It would be obvious to point out that intricate skull patterns reveal the inner workings of someone who's disturbed. Are those those souls and the layers, levels of hell?

What I see is the opposite. I am reminded — I don't know how — of Red Dragon, the book/movie about the beginnings of Hannibal Lecter. What I see, as in these two black outfits, is clear determination. It is McQueen gathering all his energy: putting together all his experiments in patterns and splattering, in cuts and in fabric.

Instead of putting coats over jackets, he gilds the outer layer with patent leather that moves supply enough to make it look like tar. The star specks of the shirt on the left and the embroidery on the collar on the right pull things together — as the stirrups on the left do for shoes.

Alexander McQueen 02

Like looking down a deep wishing well, or looking up at an entire hemisphere.

Alexander McQueen 03

Now the leather is matted and the coats look as if jackets were worn over instead of under them. The leather looks paper thin. Notice that the collar is in the opposing woolen fabric. The footwear on the right looks alien.

Alexander McQueen 04

Coats in black and charcoal may very well protect from rain, and splatters that look like copious tears.

Alexander McQueen 05

But the same pattern — though somewhat smudged — in a slimmer silhouette, brings the source of your sorrow back.

Alexander McQueen 06

Your skin is your own protection: this jacket and coat have the feel of lab gloves, but with lines indicating separate digits, even veins.

Alexander McQueen 07

The patterns now infect the shoes. McQueen makes (let me hold off using the past tense) the pajama suit his own. Coat cut like a shell.

Alexander McQueen 08

This print is what you see when you lay on a bed of grass — underwater, that is. Paired well with ice-dyed (my term) shirts (below).

Alexander McQueen 09

And here's the fur. And the chain mail printed on fabric.

Alexander McQueen 10

It is only in seeing the patterns repeated for an entire outfit can one appreciate their potential as camouflage or armor — not that they are unremarkable as separates.

Alexander McQueen 11

And here we come upon Alexander McQueen's iconography: the skull as the statement piece. How else to do it in Fall but in fur and cable knit? I am curious to find out what fabric the parka on the left is made of.

Alexander McQueen 12

So you say you are reminded of a little Prada, some Balenciaga, even Comme des Garçons, but McQueen has made this motif all his own. Just mention mollusc and jellyfish.

Alexander McQueen 13

The smoke effect he used in Spring 2009 exerts its echo on the digital prints, and vaguely, even Spring 2007's butterflies on the splatters.

Alexander McQueen 14

McQueen took his surrealist and primitive paint markings in Spring 2010 and soaked everything in the abstract energy of the cosmos, resulting in the mysterious and the archaic. Regal because it is unfathomable. A Rorschach test?

Alexander McQueen 15

Inevitably, we return to snakes: to their geometric skin, the links, the chains, the textures. The shedding. Is it guilt that requires all this hiding?

Alexander McQueen 16

Tweed the color of chaff and drying grass, where serpents lay. Or are even these merely prints?

Alexander McQueen 17

Snakes become rope, twine, and hemp. Tangle amongst themselves. From the worldly tribes of his Fall 2008, McQueen conjures an ethnicity based on psychosis.

Alexander McQueen 18

Based on skulls and intestines, his last men's collection is both cerebral and visceral. We who love it cover for anything else that is missing.

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