Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition

On Sunday, as part of our Mother’s Day celebrations, I took my mum along to the Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A. I had expected to be impressed by the exhibition, but I wasn’t prepared for its incredible scale and emotional impact. Savage Beauty is quite simply the best fashion exhibition I have ever seen.

The show starts quite tamely, in a room full of beautiful, but perfectly wearable clothes. I particularly admired a gorgeous, orange and black jacket with a pattern of soaring birds, which was inspired by Hitchcock’s The Birds. As we drifted further into the exhibition, though, my excitement rose as each room housed an increasingly spectacular collection.

There is a theme for each room in the show, focusing on different ideas of Romanticism (gothic, primitive, nationalist, naturalist, etc). McQueen’s famous tartans are showcased in what could be an oak-panelled room in some Highland estate; clothes inspired by tribal Africa are set against walls of bones and skulls and futuristic style garments hang from alien mannequins lit in a sterile, white room. At the centre of it all is the cabinet de curiosités, an area filled with an incredible collection of garments and accessories McQueen made in collaboration with the likes of Philip Treacy and Shaun Leane. Monitors set high on the walls display scenes from past runways. The air is electric: this, after all, is about as close to a high fashion catwalk as many of us are going to get. I could have reached out and touched the exquisite butterfly hat Treacy designed with McQueen; it was so temptingly within my reach.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty ExhibitionAlexander McQueen Savage Beauty ExhibitionAlexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition

Every room is made to be experienced, not just seen. The carefully chosen music that accompanies each part of the exhibition brings an added depth to the show. A hologram of a ghostly, but captivatingly beautiful, Kate Moss flutters in layers of wispy white to the haunting theme from Schindler’s List. Further on, a room full of mirrors is made to feel like a huge music box, as gowns reminiscent of Japanese kimonos rotate stiffly to an eerily tinkly tune.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition

Exciting as the sensory experience of the exhibition is, the shock factor comes from McQueen’s ground-breaking designs: crocodile heads embellish one jacket’s shoulders, and horns burst out of another; dresses are made entirely from feathers, shells and silk flowers. Being able to witness in person pieces made famous on the catwalk was truly extraordinary. McQueen’s incredible craftsmanship shines through every voluminous cape, perfectly tailored jacket and gravity defying heel. The spectator, though, is always uncomfortably aware of the dark twist to McQueen’s genius. His obsession with the ‘skull beneath the skin’ lends his creations more than a touch of the macabre, and at times his designs, punctuated by painfully rigid necklines and androgynous masks, suggest a shackling, rather than freeing, of the spirit. Much as this exhibition is a celebration of McQueen’s life and enduring legacy, it is also a reminder of his tragic death.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty ExhibitionAlexander McQueen Savage Beauty ExhibitionAlexander McQueen Savage Beauty ExhibitionAlexander McQueen Savage Beauty ExhibitionAlexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition

I cannot recommend Savage Beauty enough, and I’m planning to return again and again (luckily, as I’m a member of the V&A, I can do so guilt-free!).

Have you been to see Savage Beauty yet, or are you planning to go? If you have seen it already, what did you think?

Images via here, here and also via V&A postcards I bought from the shop! 

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  • Claire

    I’m so excited to go! I booked my tickets for the end of April to avoid the initial rush… Although with rave reviews such as this, that may have backfired 😉

    • I was surprised it wasn’t actually crazy busy! It was pleasantly easy to get around and move in close to have a good look at the clothes. You’re in for such a treat – I know you’ll have a fabulous time! xxx

  • The exhibition looks absolutely brilliant! Such glorious photos 🙂 I hope that I will get the chance to see it too! xx

  • mary

    Wonderful, wasn’t it? And it wasn’t busy the day I went, either. I couldn’t believe my luck as, like you, I expected it to be crazy.

  • I wasn’t able to go yesterday (no tickets!), but I might go Friday 🙂

    • If you can’t get tickets again, you should come with me sometime – I can bring a friend along for free 🙂 xxx

      • um, YES PLEASE! Found out that the show is sold out for awhile! haha.

  • Great post! I’m heading there on Friday and can’t wait to see it. Sounds like it’s an amazing exhibition!

  • This is on my “to see” list! x

  • Wow, it sounds so incredible! I’m sad I don’t have a trip to London planned. 🙁

    Tara x

    • I’m sad for you too Tara! Hopefully you will be here sometime before August though and get to go? I’m sure you’d love it! xxx

  • Oh wow, this exhibition looks truly exquisite! And I’m seriously disappointed I don’t live in London so I can go and see it. The fashion is just incredible – I’m in awe of it just sitting here viewing it through my computer screen. I wish this exhibit would come to Brisbane/Sydney/Melbourne – I’d fly to see it in a heart beat! xo

  • I am SO desperate to go and see this. Also I just found your blog & LOVE it…So chic & I love your illustrations on your design. Gorgeous xo
    Sarah-Jane xo // http://www.vmgirl.me

    • Thank you so much – that’s so kind 🙂 I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed looking around the blog! Hope you get to the exhibition soon – I just loved it! xxx

  • I am dying to see this but don’t think I’ll make it down before it ends. Thanks to your photos though, I feel like I’ve had a nice glimpse of it x

    • Oh, I hope you manage to make it Chiara – it was such an amazing experience! So glad you enjoyed this post about it though 🙂 xxx

  • Wow. The Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibition looks impressive and surprising. I love the fashion style there. I feel like being lost in the fairy tale.