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Met captures McQueen’s vision of imperfect beauty
“They all are spectacular in the truest sense of the word,” Holgate said.
McQueen’s runway shows were consistently highlights of the fashion calendar; he always pushed the catwalk to the edge and found a way to surprise, and sometimes shock, the normally jaded fashion crowd. A model’s movements were restricted by a metal contraption like a puppet for the La Poupee collection in `97; robot arms painted Shalom Harlow in graffiti in 1999; and a giant mirror uncomfortably tracked the movements of editors, stylists and retailers in the audience of his Voss collection of 2001. All are incorporated into the exhibit in video displays.
Kate Moss, in a stunning, frothy, cream-colored gown, was beamed onto the runway as a hologram in `06 in the Widows of Culloden collection, and “Savage Beauty” recreates a Tinkerbell-size version of that _ with the real gown displayed nearby.
Also, there are several examples of his signature tartan plaid, impossible heels and his famous low-slung “bumster” silhouette, which Bolton said during a walkthrough last week emphasized McQueen’s skill and understanding of the female body.
With “bumsters,” McQueen said in a quote posted in the gallery, “I wanted to elongate the body, not just show the bum. To me, that part of the body-not so much the buttocks, but the bottom of the spine _ that’s the most erotic part of anyone’s body, man or woman.”
Seeing the show’s 100 McQueen ensembles all in one place _ including some of his looks for Givenchy _ makes it easy for visitors to connect the designer’s favorite themes, including romanticized historicism, exoticism, nationalism, primitivism and naturalism. Even though he’s often referred to as a forward-moving visionary, McQueen could also move seamlessly between collections inspired the 18th-century Jacobite rebellion in Scotland, a shipwreck and “Harry Potter.”
Bolton said he purposely didn’t set up the items chronologically because he wanted visitors to see instead ideas that were near and dear to McQueen, especially his manic expressions of love and romance.
He was never about trends, although he was considered a commercial success, and he was very disciplined, not a diva designer at all, Bolton said.
“McQueen conveyed through clothes much bigger concepts. He loved being a craftsman and he loved the avant-garde, but everything was done with such deep emotion that you didn’t know how to feel afterward,” Bolton said, recalling the first McQueen show he attended, which was called “No. 13,” and seeing on the faces of the crowd both approval and discomfort.
In his own words, in another example of gallery text: “I oscillate between life and death, happiness and sadness, good and evil,” McQueen said.
“Savage Beauty” runs through July 31.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
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