Savage Beauty with Claire Wilcox

On Monday I was treated to a tour of the V&A’s brilliant Savage Beauty exhibition. I was guided by our own Chair of Fashion Curation at LCF, and the V&A Museum’s Senior Curator of Fashion, Professor Claire Wilcox.

The exhibition, showing the work of the late, visionary designer Lee Alexander McQueen, only has a couple more weeks to run, but there were still hundreds of people queuing for tickets.

The exhibition has proved so popular the museum has decided to open its doors for 24 hours during the final two weekends of its run, but already most of these tickets have gone, so I felt fortunate to be getting my own private tour.

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Claire’s knowledge and insight made the tour a fascinating experience, hearing her thoughts on McQueen, his relationship with art, and her vision for curating the show was a real privilege.

The exhibition itself was also a real visual treat, and testament to one of the most innovative designers and creative talents in UK fashion history.

Although the show began its life at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, it seems apt that the exhibition was expanded and edited to be brought to London, where McQueen was born and learned his craft.

As McQueen is quoted saying in the exhibition : “London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and it’s where I get my inspiration.”

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Claire mentioned that McQueen used to come to the V&A archives regularly and he was very knowledgeable about fashion history.

This is easy to see in his designs, which often had multiple influences and layers, attempting to make their own mark on fashion history

He is also quoted stating: “I want to be the purveyor of a certain silhouette or a way of cutting, so that when I’m dead and gone people will know that the twenty-first century was started by Alexander McQueen.”

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During his lifetime, McQueen managed to combine an eclectic range of influences with a mastery of tailoring and respect for traditional craftsmanship – a combination that often led to such thought provoking designs that were close to being works of art, not just items of fashion.

It becomes clear walking through the exhibition that McQueen’s work was not only beautifully crafted, but that the narrative was also very carefully considered. He was interested in exploring the potential of fashion to be theatrical; to stage an event, much like a performance art.

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Savage Beauty is a very moving exhibition, not just through its theatricality and intense creativity, but because you are left feeling both sadness at the loss of such an inspiring artist, and also celebration of such incredible talent.

I will be returning to the topic of McQueen later in the summer as Claire has agreed to write a guest post on his relationship to art which I am very much looking forward to.

For now, the exhibition at the V&A runs until 2nd August, and LCF’s Fashion Space Gallery are hosting Warpaint: Alexander McQueen and Make-up, a satellite exhibition to Savage Beauty, focussing on Alexander McQueen’s catwalk make-up, until 7th August.

For those unable to see the exhibition, you can also read Claire’s beautifully produced book accompanying the show, Alexander McQueen, available at the V&A Shop.

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