You could be forgiven for thinking, even from the front row of a very small room, that the designs on the fabrics at the Alexander McQueen show were prints. It is only afterward, upon closer examination, that the patterns reveal themselves as intricate weavings, a level of workmanship rarely seen outside of haute couture. The small McQueen collection, which the designer had nearly finished at the time of his death last month, was shown to just a dozen people at a time in a salon in Paris over the past two days. The work was exquisite: a fitted, high-collared coat made of hand-painted gold feathers, a short dress fashioned from a single bolt of wrapped and folded fabric, obliterating the need for even a single seam.
Inspiration came from Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and other fifteenth-century religious art. There were angels everywhere: amid hand-carved, tangled ivy on the heels of elaborately high shoes, and in the prints of floor-length dresses which were big in volume, but seemingly as light as air. And there were wings: printed on backs, but also implied by carefully folded satin floating above the shoulders. Every single piece in the collection was cut by McQueen himself, anything that remained unfinished was polished off by his red-eyed design team.
The small collection served as an emotional reminder of what, exactly, the world will now miss. McQueen combined modernity — new software enabled him to create designs digitally that could then be realized on an old-fashioned loom — history, and technique (all volume was created by draping, bulleting, and hand-mounting onto organza) to create something entirely unique.