The sixteen dresses that Lee Alexander McQueen left behind before he hanged himself in February are a testament to a man of deep emotion and accomplishment. They paint a final picture of the English designer in serene and beautiful tones. Unveiled on Tuesday and Wednesday to small groups of editors in separate presentations in gilded salons in Paris, it was hard not to see the clothes as a window into McQueen’s mood in his final days.
Click Below to View Our Gallery of Alexander McQueen’s Last Collection
One can only speculate whether he knew these would be his final creations. They had none of the violence and angst he so often channeled. (McQueen once even dropped his trousers at the end of a show.) Rather, each intricate, couture-style gown looked a vision of angelic purity, underscored by McQueen’s use elaborate embroidery and religious iconography from Medieval and Renaissance art.
Shown to melancholic classical music, the clothes evoked tears from many who grieved the loss of McQueen’s intense talent. Indeed, it seemed strange that such assured beauty could issue from a man who obviously was suffering such psychological torpor in the days before he chose to take his life.
It seemed strange that such assured beauty could issue from a man who obviously was suffering such psychological torpor in the days before he chose to take his life.
Circumstances aside, the clothes had an emotional quality rare to the runway, soaring far beyond typical ready-to-wear in their intricate couture craftsmanship and technique. McQueen cut all of the clothes directly on the stand, according to the late designer’s PR firm, KCD, which organized the presentations.
Angels were a major theme. Golden feathers made a coat worn over a floor-sweeping tulle skirt with ornate golden embroidery at the hem. It evoked a celestial vision. Another columnar gown had wings printed on the back.
• Daphne Guinness: My Best Friend McQueen• Alexander McQueen's Demons• Alexander McQueen's 10 Best ShowsMcQueen integrated Byzantine art and Old Masters like Jean Fouquet, Sandro Botticelli and Hans Memling into the pieces. A Hieronymus Bosch painting was manipulated as a dress. Despite the references, each fold and pleat felt very now, hinting peacefully to the futuristic style for which McQueen was admired.
Apparently, the majority of the work on each of the garments was completed before McQueen died, with their completion overseen by his close-knit design team. McQueen also oversaw a less ornate commercial collection, currently being shown to stores around the world that will be shipped for the fall 2010 selling season. The show pieces will go into limited production too, according to a spokesman. They are sure to coveted by collectors.
Gucci Group and PPR, the French conglomerate the runs McQueen’s business, have said they will continue to run McQueen’s fashion house despite the designer’s death. How the studio will be organized remains to be determined, including who will assume McQueen’s creative mantle, according to KCD. For many, it seems inconceivable that McQueen’s genius could be replaced. Meantime, a memorial for the designer is being planned. Presently, it is scheduled for May in London.
Robert Murphy is a Paris-based writer and art dealer. He is the author of The Private World of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé (Vendome) and Une Vie Saint Laurent (Albin Michel). His work has appeared in W, WWD, Details, The World of Interiors, AD, and the International Herald Tribune. He runs RCM Galerie in Paris, specialized in 20th-century furniture and post-war European sculpture.