Do you remember that scene in ‘The Devil wears Prada’ where Meryl’s character Miranda completely belittles a clueless Anne Hathaway on her choice of ‘cerulean’ blue jersey that was “filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin … it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.” Need a refresher, watch the clip here
When I hear folks criticize designers, catwalk fashions and clothing stating how they are not practical for everyday wear, snarking at how ridiculous these clothes are because nobody on earth would possibly wear them down the street to go have brunch with mates. I wish in that moment I could remember some sort of version of Meryl’s quote. Instead I politely point out that that’s not really the point. The clothes you buy in the shop and the trends you succumb to are all trickled down from what the designers imagine then create and showcase. For me, I have always seen fashion as art and I love art.
And like art, fashion is a reflection of our world brought to life by genius and imagination, drawing inspiration from the world around us. The fashion industry is a complex one also filled with seemingly fickle inconsequential ideals and the kind of competition that can ruin lives but I like to look past all that and celebrate the creativity, talent and exceptional workmanship.
The reason I fell in love with fashion is thanks to one man – Alexander McQueen. (unless we count tearing pages out of my sister’s Vogue magazines mesmerized by the glossy edgy 80’s couture when I was six…Mmm I wonder if she’s forgiven me yet?) When I stumbled across pictures of McQueen’s Fall collection in 2001, centered around a big macabre carousel with models as storm troopers then creepy clowns walking around, some with gold skeletons attached to their ankles, I was mesmerized! I came to realize that this was art in it’s own way, it transported me, it made me laugh, it shocked, it was pure creative genius! And instead of paint or clay, the medium was fabric and an adventure through a charismatic yet troubled mind.
McQueen’s shows were always totally off the wall and incredibly imaginative, like stepping into Lewis Carroll novel for grown ups. He always pushed the boundaries and danced with controversy – case in point – one of his first shows title “Highland Rape” in 1995 putting him firmly on the map. There was the one where all the models wore space age clothing with over the top military helmets and walked on a giant chess board as if the pieces themselves. My personal favourite was when he drew on his own Scottish heritage in Autumn/Winter 2006 leaving me breathless and wanting romance in the highlands – absolutely magical (watch here)
One of the things I love about McQueen is that he wanted to create clothes that make woman look strong. He said in an interview with Tim Blanks that he watched his sister being badly beaten and strangled by her ex husband “and when you see that kind of thing when you’re 8 years old, all you want to do is make woman stronger.” He famously said “I want to empower woman. I want people to be afraid of the woman I dress” I get the sentiment here and I find it rather alluring.
He grew up in a council flat with 5 siblings in London, dropped out of High School and still went on to become a world famous fashion designer – as remarkable as his story is, it is also a tragic one. In 2010 shortly after his mother died, he took his own life leaving behind a note that just said “take care of my dogs” and the world of fashion just won’t ever be quite the same again. Sarah Burton is the creative head of the brand today and she brilliant in her own right. (She designed Kate Middleton’s wedding gown). Some things however are irreplaceable. If you are lucky enough to be in London at the moment, do yourself a favour – head to the Victoria & Albert Museum, SW7 and have a look at the ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibition, a tribute to his archive and a raw uncensored feature of a fashion legend.
PS – these photo’s aren’t my own, some are from the internet and the others I took from magazines.
Take a look at my Pinterest feed for more McQueen fashion
Love Wrendley x