London is such a vibrant city! There's always something exciting going on! Last night, Dana Thomas, author of the much acclaimed "Fashionpolis, the Price of Fashion Fashion and the Future of Clothes" talked about Alexander McQueen with fashion editor and creative consultant Anne-Marie Curtis at the beautiful Hatchards bookshop in Piccadilly. Find out all about it!
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They were both super enthusiastic about a particular show - McQueen’s breakthrough 1995 collection, Highland Rape — addressing the abuses rained upon his Scottish forebears by the English — held in a rough area of East London.
McQueen invited many fashion students to this show, there were shots of tequila flowing among them, and everyone had to wait for about an hour in a dark warehouse, lit only by torches on the floor, before the show started with pumping electronic music.
Just as the show started, a group of students held at the door stormed though the venue and as they came in, they knocked one of the torches down which fell onto a car that started burning. Some people thought it was part of the show! The DJ just grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the fire down and everyone was euphoric!
The lights suddenly went out and back in, resuming a highly charged show, Dana recalls. It was marked by precise tailoring, McQueen started training as a tailor in the renowned Savile Row when he was only 16 years old.
It was an amazing spectacle, the level of craftsmanship on the stunningly beautiful clothes and how McQueen was making a statement through them definitely revealed a visionary creative genius.
Dana pointed out this happened before the #metoo movement and when not so many people were talking about women's empowerment. Not everyone interpreted it as such, but the controversy around his shows only fuelled his success.
Anne-Marie said the level of anticipation before a McQueen show was super high, "there was a sense that something amazing was about to happen." On the other hand, Dana was particularly impressed by his vision, and how poetically he translated it on his shows, using robots signalling the pervasive and even intrusive role technology would have in our life.
For further details about his creative genius, you can read Dana’s book “Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano” . There is a sad ending to it, as creatives are crushed by the profit goals that govern the fashion industry and businesses in general.
"Fashionpolis" is about how this approach is destroying our planet and abusing the rights of those who work to satisfy our relentless consumerism and the amoral greed of stakeholders.
I am now reading it and happy to add up to my collection of signed books from different authors such as Nobel-prize winner José Saramago, Naomi Klein and Kofi Annan, amongst others. Of course, I had to ask about the sustainability of fashion weeks as we know them today.
Dana said that maybe we would go back to a time when Paris was the epicentre of fashion, as to this day it maintains an indisputably top position on the fashion calendar.
Despite the current concerns around fashion sustainability, "Fashionpolis" presents a hopeful future, from DNA produced leather, tailored to specific needs, to direct to consumer and rental businesses...
There are innovative ways to continue enjoying fashion without sacrificing the planet or exploiting vulnerable people. Anne-Marie said that maybe we will go back to the "maison" type of business.
That would be such a dream! I would love to design specifically for clients who would become friends, according to their lifestyle, clothes to be loved for many years and passed on from one generation to another.
One of my most treasured pieces is actually a black velvet cape-like coat that my grandmother bought in Paris when she was young. It’s just not possible to get that quality of velvet these days and it still looks absolutely amazing!
One of the things I find more shocking today is the way the value of clothes lies on their Instagram potential, people just seem to put clothes on to add them onto their feed. There's no love or memories attached to them anymore, but just a cold business acumen.
A single dress on my wardrobe evokes so many special moments! Dana referred the Duchess of Cambridge, as she doesn't shy away from being photographed wearing the same clothes, and somehow they tend to be Alexander McQueen! Leading the way by example is always the most inspiring thing to do.
Note: Dana Thomas has just written about what has changed in the fashion industry since the death of Alexander McQueen for Vogue Business. Click here to read it.