Following last month’s flashback to a John Galliano-era Christian Dior collection, I thought now would be a good time to put the spotlight on an Alexander McQueen collection given that the basis for the previous post was the book that I read about the two designers, Gods and Kings by Dana Thomas. I chose to feature McQueen’s Spring 1995 collection, entitled “The Birds” and themed around the Alfred Hitchcock classic film of the same name. Inspired by the tight, restrictive pencil skirts worn by Tippi Hedren in the movie, McQueen chose to use that silhouette and magnify it to extreme proportions. Dana Thomas, a somewhat expert on McQueen wrote an entire essay on the collection for The Cut which explains everything better than I ever could – read it here.
“The Birds” was one of Alexander McQueen’s first big collections. It was the third show he ever presented to the public and is extremely impressive for a designer at such a young stage in their career. Of course, McQueen had been working for quite some time before this point, even undertaking an apprenticeship at Saville Row, an experience that shaped his work for years to come. This collection has the sharp tailoring and almost restrictive cuts that he would be known for. It also plays on the themes of destruction and androgyny which McQueen would reference throughout his career.
I just finished reading “Gods & Kings”, Dana Thomas’ book profiling two of the most prolific designers of the past quarter century, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano. Often touted as rivals, the two designers experienced growth and fame at the same time, with their careers on an almost parallel path, before everything went south. McQueen famously died in 2010 and not so long afterwards Galliano was fired from his position at Christian Dior after being filmed on a drunken, anti-Semitic outburst in a Parisian bar. McQueen is widely revered. His creativity is said to be unmatched and where Galliano often made costumey pieces that were nothing like what was actually sold in stores, McQueen was said to make ultra-creative and artistic pieces that clients could actually see themselves wearing. Both men had similarly tortured private lives and similarly profiled public lives.
This collection is one of Galliano’s most controversial. It was even the inspiration for Mugatu’s collection entitled Derelicte in Zoolander. Basically, Galliano took inspiration from the homeless population of Paris and repackaged what he had observed from the underprivileged on the streets of the city and the banks of the Seine, where he used to go jogging, as haute couture. He was also inspired by images taken by photographer Diane Arbus of mentally ill patients. Rightly so, he received intense criticism for this move. However, 17 years later we are still talking about the collection. This New York Times article, written back in 2000 when the collection was debuted, explains the whole situation well and features quotes from Galliano who failed to see anything wrong with his actions. From what I have read about Galliano, a lack of accountability seems to be a common thing for him which is sad as it can overshadow his artistry. Regardless of the intention of this collection and the initial reaction, it has secured an important place in fashion history and that is something to remember.