It has been four years since Alexander McQueen has passed on yet his legacy is brimming with life in the current fashion world. This interesting dialogue conversation (watch film at bottom of article) between Nick Knight of SHOWstudio and English supermodel Erin O’Connor explores Erin’s thoughts and experience through her perspective as a model in the late-Alexander McQueen’s highly-theatrical Spring/Summer 2001 show.
Coined as “The Mozart of Fashion”, McQueen who was considered a political man, was well-known for creating some of the most elaborate gowns and dresses that evoked much emotion and thoughts, and have sparked much controversy and hovered at dangerous edges at the some time. A visionary and pure genius, he has honed and fine-tuned his outstanding tailoring skills during his years of training on Saville Row and at Givenchy. Be it an animalistic garb made of unconventional fabrications or a dress which eventually gets squirted by ink guns, he was a designer and artist, at the same time, who regularly questioned the definition of “what is ugly” and “what is beautiful”, giving his audience a glimpse of his thoughts on the duo-complexity nature of both notions in a totally new perspective.
Up till his death in 2010, he made waves with every single fashion show of his. Created with utmost strategic planning and intrinsic attention to the tiniest detail, from lighting down to the choice of models and ambience to emulate, McQueen’s fashion shows were always abound with fresh stories and overhanging concepts to tell in the most theatrical manner. They were also deemed as the sort that would whisk his audience on a trip to a fantasyland, peppered with the communication of deep, profound messages as well as connotations.
One particularly strong example that transcended the powerful yet creative ideologies of his was none other than his Spring/Summer 2001 collection, VOSS.
Held in a dark room with a huge mirrored cube placed in front of audiences, Alexander McQueen took his audience by surprise when the box suddenly lit up, exposing a room that was designed to resemble an asylum with white padded walls and even more mirrors on the inside.
A dress from Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2001 “VOSS” collection. The bodice of the dress is made out of microscope slides painted red to represent blood, while the skirt is made of Ostrich feathers dyed red and black. According to Alexander McQueen, “there’s blood beneath every layer of skin”.
The ‘asylum’ of Alexander McQueen in VOSS
One by one, models started appearing in the box, dressed in the likes of bandages, cascading feathers and brocade. As the mirrors were double-sided, the models inside the box could not see the audience, and thus, the audience was in fact watching the models as they look at themselves, whilst staying in character. Some of them started dancing freely within the box to resemble a delusional person in an asylum, while others showed no restraints or qualms at sticking their faces right up against walls, laughing hysterically as they see their own reflections.
In one particular segment of the show, Erin O’ Connor (below) who was clad in a dress made entirely of white razor-clam shells that was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” (1963), began walking to the front and center of the box and tearing the shells off her shells, as if releasing herself from a possession she was under.
‘To me it defines why I love my job,’ stated O’Connor of her performance in the now iconic runway show, ‘It was stripping away the pain, and the armour, and going ‘here I am’… he pushed me, and I’m glad’.
– Erin O’Connor in the video interview with SHOWstudio
The show finally closed with Michelle Olley who was trapped inside a glass box with a mask and tubes sticking out of her, transcending a message that individuals not considered to be “beautiful” were often put away behind masks for fear of ridicules.
And the deed was done.
Erin O’Connor discusses modelling for the late Alexander McQueen in SHOWstudio’s film
About SHOWstudio’s ‘Subjective’ series
Nick Knight and SHOWstudio present the history of contemporary fashion photography as told from the subjects’ perspectives. When envisaging ‘Subjective’, Knight sought to empower models by putting their oft-unheard stories in the spotlight. He talks to a range of women, including Kate Moss, Alek Wek, Lily Cole and Tatjana Patitz, whose faces and forms helped create the world’s most iconic images.