I was fortunate enough to be invited along to the V&A’s latest exhibition and whilst I was excited; as I always am when it comes to being inspired, this wasn’t just any old show. This was McQueen. The hotly anticipated show that sold out before anyone even knew what was going to be in it (thankfully has had more dates added to meet demand-so tickets are still available if you hurry,) was a show that I’ve wanted to see since it opened the Met Gala four years ago.
The show, which has been redeveloped and specifically tailored to the London audience, was a homecoming, that truly reflected the magnitude of McQueen’s genius- and one that, like McQueen did with every show and interview snippet, made me proud to be a Londoner.
It followed McQueen’s journey from his humble beginnings as a taxi driver’s son and Saville Row tailor, through to his re-appropriation of dark romanticism. Through a cave of bones and taxidermy, into his mind via the cabinet of curiosities- a display of some of his most notable and harrowing accessories and catwalk show extracts. It followed his well-documented obsession with his Scottish heritage, English regality and Africa, through to the Far East, in what was one of the smallest and most arresting rooms- a music box of some of McQueen’s most fantastical oriental creations- one of which was a cartoonish American football piece; all turning in mirrors to the macabre music. Leading to what felt like a fine finale of fantastical feathered dresses set against McQueen’s infamous finale piece denoting the deterioration of the industry and presenting it with its greatest fears.
What in fact followed was not the gift shop, but the light and the most breathtaking room, that reminded me of being inside the butterfly room at the Horniman or Natural History museums. Cabinet’s of the finest couture-level nude gowns- one corseted to perfection from the neckline, deteriorating from the waist down; another swathes of lace and a covered face, the other a mille feuille of ruffles. And then there were the gowns that demonstrated his affinity for nature: a dress made entirely from razor clams, another macaroon-hued roses.
As I left the light uplifted, I turned to face the future; or the future as McQueen saw it, through his last catwalk show Plato’s Atlantis. An alien, unnerving show featuring freaky shoes and digitally printed reptillian skin. It was a show I sadly remember all too well, as it was his last. Yet it was the perfect ending to what was the best fashion exhibition I am yet to see. Like McQueen himself, it took me on a rollacoaster ride of emotion, through awe, agitation, excitement and longing; always aching to see what would come next.