In my youth, I wanted to be a Fashion Designer. But I realized in time that it was a hard road to travel, filled with vampires and monsters that would bleed you dry and tear you to ribbons, leaving little guarantee of your dream becoming a reality. In my eyes, a Fashion Designer needs to be a genius, straddling time and space, giving an audience what they crave, what they can not have, and what they hate. In a way, it's a quest for immortality; your art, ideas and craft all having the potential to be preserved in any number of ways for generations to come. I don't think I could ever be all of those things, or, depending on whom you ask, any of those things.
As an Interior Designer, I look to Fashion, with a capitol 'F', for inspiration, because nothing else continually reinvents itself with an almost manic need for currency, and little else is as close to the human condition as what we choose to armor ourselves in. Among the pantheon of image makers, few inspire me more that McQueen, with his use of color, drama, sensuality, and history.
A gold coin gown with belted fur stole.
Image of the presentation.
Kate Moss in McQueen's Givenchy.
I remember seeing this collection, which will come at the end of this ramble, when it was presented on a network television special hosted by Isabella Rossellini. The title remains a blurred memory for me, but the purpose of the hour long program was to show the American audience the power, art, and history of Haute Couture in Paris.
America has always been the home of Sportswear purchased from Department Stores, while Paris has been the proud home of Haute Couture and the Designers Atelier. These worlds on opposite ends of the ocean couldn't be further apart in theory or execution. Mass production versus hand craft, thousands of options in multiple sizes versus one piece of art made just for you. It's a dichotomy that seems to call into question the exact benefits of democracy in fashion; it's great to have a level playing field, but do we really like to look like our neighbor? Wouldn't we rather wear a bold plumage that is exclusively ours?
A McQueen for Givenchy Haute Couture emsemble
as seen in InStyle Magazine.
When this program aired, the exclusive world of Couture was shrinking, much like it is today (recently, Valentino retired, LaCroix closed his house), but new blood was also being brought into the old houses. McQueen took the reigns of Givenchy (with what I think were staggering results), and John Galliano took over Dior from Gianfranco Ferre. Of course we know the tragic end of McQueen's tale, and the scandalous end of Galliano's, but we can't deny the artistry and legends that were created.
So, here is a three part video presentation of McQueen's collection for Givenchy Haute Couture for Autumn/Winter 1999, courtesy of the wonderful world of Youtube, to enjoy this first Sunday of October. It's a wonderful use of a free half hour.
McQueen's reinterpretation of the past is amazing (part Tudor Court, part Knights of the Crusades, part Scottish Highlander, part Dandy), his textiles and tailoring jaw dropping, and his presentation concept is nothing short of genius. Side stepping the traditional use of live models, he creates awe and drama with static mannequins that rise and descend through trap doors, their heads glowing like stars in the darkness until the lights come up, revealing the sort of decadent wares that built empires and made histories.