Wake up and smell the rubbish, people!
That’s what king of couture, Alexander McQueen‘s tantalizingly “trashy” production for Paris Fashion Week seemed to roar, leaving the audience with eyes wide and mouths aflutter. The show — which featured models that resembled creepy crossbreeds between a blow-up doll, Pinhead from Hellraiser, and Blythe (incidentally the postergirl for McQueen’s line with Target, but more on that later) sauntering among black heaps of junky old props from the designer’s past shows — sent uneasy waves through the crowd. Are the dead-on silhouettes of Dior’s New Look and Givenchy’s little black dress meant to poke fun at us? Why are the models wearing umbrellas and aluminum cans on their heads? What does it all mean?!!!
As you can probably guess, each component of the show, from the garbage to the blatant re-runs of looks that were popular in days past, was to be taken quite literally. With the economy and the environment simultaneously in ruins, the throwaway pattern of high fashion is under serious scrutiny. Oscar Wilde once said, “A fashion is merely a form of ugliness so unbearable that we are compelled to alter it every six months.” McQueen’s show certainly picked up on that. Expression-less models faded behind hideously large red lips as they paraded around in replicas of famous fashion looks as “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson played in the background. It certainly made one wonder what kind of grotesque interior lay under all of that ravishing finery.
And ravishing it was. Despite all of his allusions to fashion as filth, there was no lack of breathtaking loveliness and straight-up sartorial skill in McQueen’s collection. As in past collections, the clothes themselves felt lurid and almost sinister. A showstopping crimson and ebony gown splashed with M.C. Escher’s bird print looked a lot like something that Jennifer Lopez wore in the psychological thriller The Cell. A rich, tangled tweed skirt suit that could have been right from the pages of a 1950s Vogue, and a bulbous orange and black harlequin cloud made perfect sense, strangely, alongside a black and white fur coat covered in too-huge houndstooth print and a stunning head-to-calf feathered ivory body covering.
And did I mention the hats?!!! Milliner Phillip Treacy whipped up something truly wicked for the show. Definitely the “cherries on top,” Treacy’s headgear was crafted from aluminum cans, plastic bags, saran wrap, a tire rim and tiny umbrellas — perfect compliments to McQueen’s theme. And you know how much we love recycled art! Bravo, Mr. Treacy, bravo!
When asked about the show’s concept, Mr. McQueen remarked, “This whole situation is such a cliché. The turnover of fashion is just so quick and so throwaway, and I think that is a big part of the problem. There is no longevity.” As we begin to shift our focus towards heirloom products that are inherently sustainable because people will use and love them for years to come, Mr. McQueen’s words echo what is beginning to form in many people’s minds. Is McQueen acting on his beliefs? Questionable — after all we have yet to see him vanguard the sustainable fabrics movement, and his recent collaboration with mass-marketer Target does not exactly align with the idea of long-lasting, high-quality products. Nevertheless, we hope that the controversial show will be a splash of cold water in the faces of fashionistas. One which they cannot recover from by simply reapplying their makeup.
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Images via The New York Times