I was second in the queue for the 11:30 slot of the Savage Beauty Exhibition on the 12 of May and there was a definite air of anticipation. As the public is let in, it walks in slowly and one feels a sense of reverence; the atmosphere gets eery from the first dark room you walk in, with a giant portrait of McQueen staring at you.
The exhibition starts with a room full of creations showcasing McQueen's perfect tailoring skills gained at Saville Row. I have sewn all my life (for the same reasons as I create jewellery: making clothes in shapes, fabric, colors, patterns that reflect me), always from purchased patterns. Suffice to say that McQueen's tailoring skills are mindblowing. Custom pattern design has always intimidated me but as soon as I got home, I purchased a book to debunk some of the myth behind pattern drawing.
This exhibition, for me, was like no other as I felt compelled to stop for as long as I possibly could -before feeling the "pressure" to move on-, to look at every detail and angle of each exhibit. This was exacerbated by the fact that no pictures were allowed, a good thing -I thought- as one would have spent more time taking pictures, tweeting and social sharing than actually looking. Instead, I disconnected and was immersed in this universe of creations presented across many rooms, each staged around a theme (feathers and skulls recurring).
The public moves slowly and quietly, enthralled from the first pieces.
The 'Cabinet of Curiosities' gallery was probably the pic of the exhibition -for me- in that this central room became more and more crowded as nobody was leaving and all stayed to look at every single display and tv screens, from floor to ceiling, a room in which sensory stimulations culminate. .
When you see his work, you understand that McQueen's dresses are not just about fashion but art, history and it's personal: a glimpse of the man's psyche.
The dresses, the accessories all encapsulate everything I love about visionary fashion design: every creation materializes a vision, tells a story, stirs strong emotions, makes you think and leaves you with an understanding of what reinventing is about.
However, I walked in the exhibition with little biographical knowledge of McQueen. I knew a bit about his excesses through the media but probably like most visitors, I first went to see his work. By the time I walked out, it was clear that I would read some biogragraphy about his life to fill the knowledge gaps I felt as I walked thorugh the exhbition.
In the train back home, I started reading several online articles about McQueen and felt indeed that although this exhibition is primarily about his work, the pieces should be associated with more information about his life, influences, context of his creations.
As someone who enjoys creating, I desperately wanted to go to this exhibition to see what creations of a genius looked like "pour de vrai". I left, galvanized to explore more materials, all materials; buzzing with the realisation that the source of inspiration is deeper than I thought, that inspiration is also in what we reject due to the social norms which, unbeknown to us, encase our vision, imagination and creativity. For some reason, I felt empowered to be fearless in my designs.
Exhibition until 2nd August at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. It is adviseable to buy your ticket (with associated viewing time - don't come before or after, you won't be allowed in!) before you turn up, especially as the holiday season is about to start.