Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Welcome to my nightmare...

Alexander McQueen

After a few years where people had begun to question whether or not Alexander McQueen had lost his edge, he has finally set the record straight. With his Fall/Winter 2009 collection, McQueen proved that he is still the king of macabre chic, and his timing couldn't possibly have been better in a Paris fashion week that's turning out to be largely disappointing. Opening his show with chicly tailored looks made in head to toe houndstooth of different sizes, he set the tone perfectly for what would follow. Now I know what some people might be thinking; "What the hell is macabre about houndstooth?". Well, nothing, unless you happen to cover the entire body in it at paint the models face up like some mutant sex doll on a murder spree. The first looks were all fairly traditional once you zero in on the clothes. Sharply tailored jackets with sculpted collars, draped sleeves, asymmetric peplumed waists or exaggerated cocooning shapes reminiscent of vintage Balenciaga were all shown in either traditional houndstooth or houndstooth that had been scrawled with red graffiti. I'm sure all of these jackets, paired with either flaring circle skirts or below the knee pencil skirts, will be offered in a myriad of different fabrics come summer when they make it to the racks, so for those women who aren't interested in looking like a checkerboard, fear not. The shapes themselves, particularly an asymmetric jacket with a single kimono-esque sleeve and sculpted portrait collar, are beautiful and would make for an interesting take on a wardrobe staple. There was a fur coat dyed with an overblown houndstooth pattern worn over a ruffled top and a leather pouf skirt, a jacket with flared sleeves and huge ruffles on the front that were trimmed in black and white striped fabric worn with a matching skirt, and a loose fitting dress, printed with a deformed houndstooth pattern that had a big ruffle on one of the shoulders. Mixed in with the graphic black and white houndstooth were two pieces in an orangey red and black harlequin pattern, one a voluminous blouse worn under a mini houndstooth jumpsuit and the other an even more voluminous organza dress.

From there McQueen moved into black, showing plastic-y looking fabric made into a cardinal type coat, a fitted double breasted trench with rounded sleeves and a big bow at the neck, and a stunning dress with a harnessed and corseted torso over a full ruffled skirt worn with over the knee platform boots. A knitted dress had thick tubes wrapped around the neck and shoulders, as well as around the hem, and an orange and black striped look could have been right out of Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas". A red and black striped ballgown was like the demented version of last year's Swan Lake ballerinas, the skirt lifted up onto the shoulder to form a sleeve. Red and black prints featured houndstooth that dissolved into a flock of birds. A red and black tiered fur jacket was absolutely gorgeous, and on the more savage side of things a shaggy goat fur coat came lashed at the waist with a corset, while another had sleeves in the same fur and a body made out of leather covered with a lattice of harnesses over the torso. A molded top covered in red and black feathers was worn with a cage on the models head and a vinyl looking pencil skirt. The look reminded me a bit of his F/W 1997 Haute Couture collection for Givenchy, as did the general mood of the collection. I also got bits of McQueen's own S/S 2000 and F/W 2001 collections for his own label, particularly the latter with the sort of twisted clown vibe running through this collection.

From there McQueen went into evening, and ever since 2002 or so, he has had a way with very dramatic eveningwear. A black beaded wrap dress with a hood came lined in red and looked like what you'd get if you crossed Grace Jones with Leigh Bowery. A sculpted mermaid gown covered with those black and red feathers was similar to some of the gowns that Olivier Theyskens showed earlier in the week at Nina Ricci, though here the effect was a bit more balanced and also less jarring coming from McQueen. Coral snakes were used as a photo print in a mirror image like the crystal and wood prints from spring to make two fitted gowns, one straight and worn with a leather harness, the other with a kimono collar and pouf skirt. And a gorgeous sheath with an exaggerated mermaid skirt was draped in what looked like trash bag plastic, but is more likely some kind of synthetic/silk blend. It was worn under a long coat in fabric that looks a bit like bubble wrap. The two closing pieces were duds in my book, two strange sculpted forms covered in white or black feathers. Beyond not being particularly attractive, I just don't get what they're supposed to be.

All in all, an exciting collection. It certainly provided a shot of adrenaline for anyone who's been following the shows this season. I am, however, not without complaints. The first is the color palette. Black and red is a time tested combination. It makes quite an impact and in the right hands can look very chic. Unfortunately here, combined with the goth/industrial overtones, it reads as a little more Hot Topic than Haute Couture. It's unfortunate that a part of the teenage subculture, all of the purposefully sullen "nobody gets me because I'm alternative" types have destroyed a perfectly good color combo, but that's the way things go when teenagers are involved. Another is the overwhelming amount of patterns. I enjoy houndstooth, there's something very crazy-rich-woman about it as opposed to traditional tweed, but seeing so much of it per look, as well as back to back really took away from the individuality of the clothes, which is a shame because separated into pieces they are no doubt beautiful. My final complaint is that this isn't as McQueen as usual. In fact, something about it seems almost Junya Watanabe/Comme des Garcon, though I can't put my finger on it. I also think that the whole Leigh Bowery/80s London Club Scene thing has been handled better, namely by John Galliano in 2003. That collection wasn't remotely wearable, but it also wasn't a completely literal take on the inspiration. I think that's probably the biggest issue with this one, the level of imagination isn't really where it should be. But what the collection lacked in vision and variety, it did make up for in impact. It definitely won't be one of the collections that fades into the background this season, and if the reaction on tFS is anything to go by it certainly got people to sit up and take notice for a while. So I'm of two minds about the collection. On the one hand, it's almost too theatrical to the point of being student work which is certainly beneath McQueen's usual level of drama. On the other, I'm just happy to see that McQueen still has his twisted side intact since for a few years now he seems to have gone all soft and romantic, or worse, commercial. Is it bound to be one of my favorite collections of the season? Probably not, but hey, at least it had me excited enough to review it...

All images from Catwalking.com


Anonymous said...

I loved it... not because it's the best collection ever but because of all the nods to his former self :D

I love to read your blog. It's refreshing. :)


Spike said...

That's pretty much what I loved about it too. It's a side of McQueen that's been missing for far too long.

(And I love that you enjoy my blog <3)