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Savage Beauty: Celebrating Alexander McQueen

Savage Beauty exhibition review written by Amy Jackson, with accompanying photograph by Anton Corbijn
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What comes to mind when you think of the name Alexander McQueen? Do you remember beautifully crafted Avant Garde garments made from feathers, hair or carved seashells? Iconic runway shows featuring spray painting robots, an insane asylum held inside a mirrored glass container, or Kate Moss in hologram form? Or is it simply the memory of a skilled designer who had one of the biggest influences of fashion history, and the most iconic name to be associated with the London Fashion scene? 
Savage Beauty, held at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, is the first and largest exhibition showcasing McQueen’s work to be held in Europe, following the success of the original version held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibition provides the chance to get a close look at some of McQueen’s masterpieces, as well as taking a journey through the different turning points of his career in Fashion. 
Upon entering the first room of the exhibition, I was immediately captivated by a huge screen displaying slow motion, black and white imagery of McQueen’s runway shows, paired with intense music and dialogue spoken by the designer himself. The room has a distinctly melancholy feel as you reminisce on the tragic death of McQueen, who took his own life in 2010. Deeply dark and moving throughout, the exhibition serves as a perfect way to remember the influence the designer made on the world, with each room representing a different stage in his career. 
I want to be the purveyor of a certain silhouette or a way of cutting, so that when I’m dead and gone people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.” – Alexander McQueen. 
Approaching each magnificent garment, you couldn’t help notice the remarks made by other visitors of the exhibition. Sounds of astonishment were heard by a mixture of people; young fashion fixated students, middle aged couples and even families gathered round to admire the artistry of the designer, showing the impact McQueen had on the world. 
Each room was successful at creating a distinctive atmosphere, through details such as walls that resemble caves made of bones, in which mannequins dressed in his A/W 2000 collection ‘Eshu’ surrounded the room. Perhaps the most magnificent room of the exhibition is titled ‘Cabinet of curiosities’. Shelves featuring some of McQueen’s most memorable pieces; the armadillo shoe worn by Lady Gaga, and the coveted butterfly headpiece from his S/S 2008 collection, adorn the walls along with small screens showing some of the designers best catwalk moments. In the center of the room is a recreation of the iconic moment from the S/S 1999 show, where model Shalom Harlow served as a human canvas, in a plain dress which was spray painted splashes of colour by mechanical robots. As you admire the visual feast the room has to offer, the sound of the theme song from Roman Polanski’s film ‘Rosemary’s baby’ adds to the eery feel, especially when catching glimpses of his S/S 1997 runway show ‘La Poupee’, in which model Debra Shaw wore a piece of specially made ‘contortion’ jewellery that caused her to walk in a distorted, mechanical way. Throughout his career, McQueen was renowned for his use of shock tactics and controversy. The exhibition however, although we do get an insight into some of his most controversial work, leaves viewers with less of a ‘shock’ reaction, more a feeling of awe and amazement at McQueen’s talent and imaginative work. 
Whether you’re a fan of McQueen and wish to learn more about the designers work, interested in fashion and need some inspiration, or just wish to visit a visually stimulating, thought-provoking exhibition; Savage Beauty is a must see! 
Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.” 
 – Alexander McQueen.
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Savage Beauty exhibition currently held at V&A Museum in London is open between 14th March and 2nd August, tickets available online and at the door.

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