Friday, March 13, 2009

McQueen's garbo couture

hendrik kerstens

And so another ready-to-wear season bites the dust. With the economic crisis raging, it’s been a little difficult to concentrate on the clothes. That said, there were some beautiful collections, Lanvin's and Jil Sander's being two of frockwriter's personal favourites. In the face of economic calamity, moreover, which has witnessed panic at more than one luxury and retail enterprise - as profits nosedive, budgets are slashed and staff are turfed out the door - how remarkable was Alexander McQueen’s “Horn of Plenty” show?

alexander mcqueen FW0910/

A marvellous piece of theatre which showcased some of McQueen's greatest hits, as well as nods to 20th Century couture icons such as the houndstooth check tailleurs of the maison Christian Dior, the show backdrop consisted of a giant mound of garbage that was said to have been fashioned from the props of the designer’s old shows.

As thrown-together as it may have looked to some observers, there was nothing laissez faire about this art direction, with the dark, menacing set resembling a post apocalyptic landscape from a sci-fi film. Frockwriter will take a punt the set was most likely authored by Simon Kenny, McQueen's mis-en-scène accomplice for the past nine years.

AP via daylife

The millinery was signed, as usual, Philip Treacy - with no small assistance in that department from hair stylist Guido Paulo, who Glad Wrapped spraypainted Coke cans to the models' heads.

Peter Philips was responsible for the makeup.

Philips said the look was inspired by Pierrot and Joan Collins, however, as has already been mentioned by many, the show's aesthetic seemed to pay more than a passing nod to the late Australian performance artist, and highly original costumier, Leigh Bowery. The garish, exaggerated clown lips were a Bowery trademark.

hendrik kerstens/witzen hausen gallery

alexander mcqueen FW0910/

Frockwriter would like to throw in the name Matthew Barney as well here – at least one ensemble (the white bird outfit) seemed vaguely reminiscent of a costume from Barney's Cremaster Cycle.

hendrik kerstens/witzen hausen gallery

alexander mcqueen FW0910/

And not forgetting Hendrik Kerstens, the Dutch photographer whose portrait of his daughter Paula with a plastic bag on her head, the postmodern incarnation of a 17th Century Flemish cap (and pictured at the top of this post) appeared on McQueen's show invitation.

A closer look at Hendriks’ oeuvre reveals that he may have provided a little more inspiration for the show styling than originally reported.

hendrik kerstens/witzen hausen gallery

alexander mcqueen FW0910/

McQueen is not the only fashion creative for whom the obscenity of conspicuous consumption seems front-of-mind at the moment.

Here is a link to a short film called, in fact, Consumption, that was directed by Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones and which appeared on SHOWstudio last year.

And here is’s video of Tuesday's McQueen show, which placed a brilliantly creative exclamation point at the climax of a rather unsettling season.


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