Monday, March 25, 2013

Angels and Demons: A Reflection of Alexander McQueen

By Alyssa Hamilton

The buzz of murmurs filled the room all the way to its high ceiling, the gold molding opulence refracting the echoing sounds. The mirror on the far wall reflected the faces of the fashion industry’s most elite members. They sat on cubes and faced one another across the room, excitedly waiting. Then, as they heard the first sounds of high heels click against the riffed and quartered wooden floor, they became silent.
Thus began the final collection that Lee Alexander McQueen ever worked on: Angels and Demons.
Shortly before the collection for Autumn/Winter 2010 was shown, McQueen took his own life on February 11, 2010. An accurate reflection of the themes and techniques McQueen used during his career and inspired by Byzantine art, the collected array of fabric and thread was ornate, Gothic, intricate, and overall stunning. In all sixteen pieces of wearable art, the life of the late designer lurked.
The very first dress set the tone for the rest of the show and followed in the footsteps of past works. An above-knee length dress tailored to the model’s torso featured highly detailed gold embroidered brocade on rich scarlet fabric until the skirt, which was heavily pleated at its dropped waist. The luxurious embroidery was a trademark of McQueen, as was the tailored nature of the piece and the experimentation with the female form. The overall effect was romantic and impressive, two feelings that were carried throughout the collection.
The next dress bore the same dropped waist and pleated skirt as the first dress, but this time, the tone turned slightly more Gothic as the red was no longer prominent, but instead black. The torso of the dress, while tailored as the first dress, instead was printed with paintings of Byzantine origin and gold modern brocade. While still romantic, this piece was slightly darker in tone, something done by McQueen in many of his past collections, one of which was even inspired by the work of Tim Burton.
The experimentation with feminine form was prominent in the next dress of the collection, which returned to the red fabric and gold brocade. The embroidery this time mimicked the hourglass figure of the ideal woman, and the fabric was worked in such a way that it exaggerated the hips of the model, something which McQueen often did, sometimes even using hip pads to give a piece a more motherly feel.
The next three dresses, shorter than the first few, were golden or red and featured both the painting and elegant prints seen earlier in the show, with two using belts to draw attention to the waist. The following piece, a pantsuit took a turn in form from the dresses. While still gold and elaborate in print, the top of the piece created a sharp hourglass in the way the fabric had been worked. The long pants changed the tone of the show and prepared the audience for the change of length of the following dresses--from above the knee to reaching the floor.
The next two pieces, one a cape and the other a dress, brought back the darker tone from earlier in the collection because of their dark coloring, but this time also a sense of austerity in its richness as the fabric is heavy and sculpted. But then, the tone is made lighter with the next four dresses, as all were white with prints of religious paintings and begin to use chiffon, a light and flowing material, in addition to the slightly rigid fabric that is sculpted to experiment with the body shapes of the models. The overall effect is a whimsical taste of elegance. The sudden switch in tone is reminiscent of a previous collection of McQueen’s, The Girl Who Lived in a Tree for Autumn/Winter 2008, when the lighting suddenly changed, making the scene go from peasant-like to regal. 
The final three pieces were a culmination of the materials and techniques used throughout the collection as well as McQueen’s career. The first of the three was a floor-length red dress and cape, both with gold brocade, but this time beading to accent the stitched designs was used. Sequins were also used on the skirt where the lower half the legs would be to add interest to the simple silhouette of the dress. The next dress used the same pleated skirt seen earlier in the collection and the familiar black and gold color scheme. Again, the brocade is beaded, but this time on the shoulders and long sleeves that adds an edge to the overall conservative style.
Then, the last dress appeared.
Feather-work had always been a favored technique of McQueen to display his craftsmanship, and the last dress ever seen designed by the late designer was a perfect example of this talent. Gold feathers were molded to fit the hourglass of the model’s body and created an avant-garde yet classical high collar. At the knees, white tulle flared onto the floor where gold beading glimmered by its edges. This piece later went on to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the exhibition Savage Beauty, which was dedicated to the work of McQueen.
Angels and Demons was a perfect example of the work of McQueen, as it was imaginative, elaborate, and overall beautifully crafted. Since his death, Sarah Burton took over House of McQueen as its creative director, and the brand has continued to create annual collections. But even still, Lee Alexander McQueen is dearly missed by members of the fashion community and fans alike, and his final collection was a masterpiece to remember him by.

To see the pieces, visit the archives of 2010 at the following link:,en_US,sf.html

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