Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty windows at Bergdorf Goodman

I bailed on the Met gala celebrating the new Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty exhibit. I did not ditch work to watch Daphne Guinness get ready for the big party at Barneys despite your urgings on Twitter. I did however admire Alexander McQueen’s work that very night in front of the magnificent Bergdorf Goodman windows on the très chic 5th Avenue.

Update: my pictures and reviews of Savage Beauty can now be viewed here.

Remember when I told you about this department store? It had the best holiday windows in New York according to you. Bergdorf’s David Hoey once again outdid himself and shares with McQueen a legendary artistic talent for visual fairy tales and an amazing sense of detail.

The first window is symbolic of Alexander McQueen’s sources of inspiration. Threat and macabre – represented by armor, wolves and bird skeletons – mingle with femmes fatales and romanticism – butterflies, feminine and soft fabrics.

Two of the dresses were designed for the spring-summer 2008 collection, La Dame Bleue, which paid tribute to McQueen’s Pygmalion, muse and dear friend Isabella Blow several months after her tragic death. Butterflies, symbols of metamorphosis, recall one of mad hatter Philip Treacy’s incredibly beautiful designs for the show.

A smaller window showcases two Brittania clutches with emblems of Great Britain: the Union Jack and royalty. Passionate about his homeland, McQueen said “As a place for inspiration, Britain is the best in the world. You’re inspired by the anarchy in the country.”

As an apprentice on Savile Row, Alexander McQueen once stitched “I am a cunt” in the lining of a handmade suit for Prince Charles. 20 years later in 2003, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the Queen. Did he ever imagine his house would one day design the future queen’s dress for her royal wedding?

Do you remember the fall-winter 2009 show, the one with the models bearing huge red lips? I just realized by watching the video that the stage featured a huge pile of trash and that smaller elements (beverage cans and plastic bags) were styled into the models’ hair or as hats by Philip Treacy.

Did you notice how McQueen parodied Christian Dior’s New Look and Chanel tweed suits? Journalists interpreted the show as the designer’s angst and anger towards commercial fashion and a collapsed economy, especially since his usual romanticism was noticeably absent.

The falcon towering above the mannequin recalls the passion McQueen and Isabella Blow shared for falconry. Notice the plastic-wrapped cans in the hair, just like in the show!

Let’s go back to romanticism and leave the bad witch behind: the princesses charming invite you to a land of molten wax flowers and antlers. The middle dress comes from the spring-summer 2005 collection, “It’s Only A Game” or fashion’s great chess match, which remind me of the outfits worn by young Japanese eccentrics.

The dress on the right is from the fall-winter 2006 show, “Widows of Culloden”. You know, the one where Kate Moss virtually appeared at the end by magic?

Alexander McQueen revisited his Scottish roots to create this collection: he recalled the widows of soldiers who died in the battle of Culloden against the British in 1746, which explains the 18th century inspiration and ruffles.

Finally, the window at the corner of 58th Street pays tribute to the last collection Alexander McQueen presented in October 2009, Plato’s Atlantis. The designer was inspired to create these Manta dresses while scuba-diving in the Maldives that year. If you look up close, you might see that the digitally-enhanced prints feature mantas, snakes and other exotic creatures.

We have clothes and bags covered so far, but it would be wrong for me not to mention the glorious Alexander McQueen shoes in this window. What do you think: pieces of art, instruments of torture, both?

I realized as I wrote this post that watching Alexander McQueen’s shows is essential to comprehend his style and vision. Always unique and spectacular, they were awaited each season with excitement by an army of blasé journalists and fashion-lovers. Sarah of Style on the Couch told me that seeing Shalom Harlow whirling between two robots spraying her white dress with paint had been one of her fashion highlights of the past decades. My favorite show remains the one inspired by the movie They shoot horses, don’t they? with its boisterous choreography.

And you, is there a collection or show by Alexander McQueen that is dear to your memory?

Updated: You can view my pictures and review of Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty at the Met here.

Je n’ai pas daigné me rendre au gala du Metropolitan Museum of Art de New York célébrant la nouvelle exposition Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty. Cependant j’ai admiré le soir même sur la très chic 5e Avenue les créations du regretté bad boy de la mode exposées dans les magnifiques vitrines  de Bergdorf Goodman. Vous vous rappelez ce grand magasin ? C’était votre préféré en vitrines de Noël. Leurs créateurs ont la réputation de véritables artistes et font preuve comme la maison McQueen d’un talent hors-norme dans l’élaboration de contes imagés avec un délicieux sens du détail. En attendant de voir l’exposition au Met, je voulais partager avec vous ce bel hommage au couturier british.

La première vitrine est symbolique de l’univers d’Alexander McQueen. La menace – armures, loups, squelettes d’oiseaux – côtoie la femme fatale et le romantique – papillons, matériaux féminins et doux. Cette vitrine expose deux robes de la collection printemps-été 2008. Baptisée La Dame Bleue, elle a été élaborée en hommage à Isabella Blow, Pygmalion et muse d’Alexander McQueen, quelque mois après son décès. Les papillons, symboles de la métamorphose, évoquent la magnifique création du chapelier Philip Treacy montrée à cette occasion.

Une vitrine plus petite met en scène les pochettes Brittania et les emblèmes de la Grande-Bretagne : la royauté et l’Union Jack. Viscéralement attaché à sa patrie, Alexander McQueen disait : « Il n’y a pas d’endroit au monde plus propice à l’inspiration que l’Angleterre. On est inspiré par l’anarchie dans ce pays. » Apprenti à Savile Row, Alexander McQueen avait écrit dans la doublure d’une veste destinée au Prince Charles « I am a cunt ». Près de 20 plus tard en 2003, il est fait Grand Chevalier de l’Ordre National de L’Empire Britannique par la Reine. Se doutait-il qu’un jour sa maison créerait la robe de mariée de la future reine d’Angleterre ?

Vous rappelez-vous le défilé automne-hiver 2009 avec ses mannequins aux énormes bouches rouges ? Je viens de me rendre compte que les détritus dominaient la scène mais aussi les cheveux des tops : cannettes de soda, sacs en plastique, enjoliveurs… Vous avez remarqué les parodies du New Look de Christian Dior et des tailleurs en tweed Chanel ? La critique avait interprété cette collection comme la colère de McQueen envers une mode commerciale et la  crise économique, d’autant plus que son romantisme habituel n’est pas au rendez-vous. Le faucon surplombant la vitrine rappelle la passion d’Alexander McQueen et d’Isabella Blow pour la fauconnerie. Remarquez les canettes entourées de film plastique dans les cheveux du mannequin, comme dans le défilé !

Revenons au romantisme à la McQueen. Après la méchante sorcière, voici les princesses dans un décor de bois de cerfs et fleurs de cire fondue.  La création du milieu provient de la collection printemps-été 2005, « It’s Only A Game » ou l’échiquier géant de la mode, qui me rappelle les tenues des jeunes Japonaises excentriques. La robe de droite est issue de la collection automne-hiver 2006 « The Widows of Culloden ». Vous savez, celle pour laquelle Kate Moss est apparue virtuellement à la fin du défilé comme par magie ? Alexander McQueen avait revisité ses racines écossaises à cette occasion, évoquant les veuves des soldats morts à la bataille de Culloden contre les Anglais en 1746, d’où l’inspiration très 18e siècle de cette robe.

Enfin, la vitrine au coin de la 58ème Rue rend hommage à la dernière collection présentée par Alexander McQueen en octobre 2009, Plato’s Atlantis. Elle met en scène trois robes Manta, pièces emblématiques du créateur inspirées de sessions de plongée aux Maldives en 2009. Si vous les regardez de près, vous verrez que les imprimés symétriques représentent des raies, serpents et autres créatures exotiques. On a évoqué les vêtements et les sacs mais ce serait une hérésie de ne pas mentionner les chaussures en parlant d’Alexander McQueen. Œuvres d’art, instruments de torture ou les deux à la fois ?

Je me suis rendue compte en écrivant ce billet à quel point visionner les défilés d’Alexander McQueen est fondamental pour comprendre son œuvre. Uniques et spectaculaires, ils étaient le point d’orgue de chaque saison. Sarah de Style on the Couch m’a raconté à quel point voir Shalom Harlow tourbillonnant entre deux robots aspergeant sa robe blanche de peinture l’avait marquée. Mon défilé préféré reste celui inspiré du film On achève bien les chevaux avec sa chorégraphie endiablée.  

Et vous, quels collections et défilés de McQueen vous ont marqués ?

Vous pouvez voir mes photos et lire ma critique de l’exposition Alexander Savage Beauty ici.

31 Comments

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31 responses to “Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty windows at Bergdorf Goodman

  1. dressingmyself

    Those windows are simply fantastic – they seem to convey the thought process that went into designing the clothes.

    When Alexander McQueen died, my husband suggested that I should immediately buy a dress. I didn’t and now regret it!

  2. Brian

    Thank you SO much for posting these great photos of Alexander McQueen’s magical and spectacular creations! I hope to get to New York to see the show at the Met and already have the book in hand. You’ve given me a much needed fix! Bless your heart! : )

    • You’re very welcome! As soon as I saw these windows I knew I had to make a post about them. How is the book?

      • Brian

        Dearest Miss,
        The book is outstanding! From the lenticular cover and kaleidoscopic endpapers to the full page color photos of the most beautiful dresses on the planet!
        I thought at first that it was missing the runway experience as the clothes are on mannequins. But then realized it must have been done this way so nothing would distract, and it works beautifully. All the exquisite patterns, details and show-stopping effects are all there.
        The man designed the clothes and the clothes defined the man.
        Brava and thank you again for this wonderfully sumptuous post!

        • Oooh you’ve convinced me to seriously consider getting this book! I’ll probably go to the Met tomorrow afternoon; I can’t wait to see this for myself!

          • Brian

            This just in from softgrey at The Fashion Spot. WOW!

            everyone—GET THE BOOK!!!
            it’s the best…
            those are not mannequins the clothes are shot on…
            they are photoshopped models with white make up and jointed hands and heads to make them appear to be mannequins…
            but mannequins don’t MOVE like that!!!…

            shot by solve sundsbo.

  3. I wish I was in New Your and would be able to see the exhibition! I went through absolutely everything on the Met’s blog! :)
    I’d agree with Sarah on the fashion highlight – Shalom’s dance with robots was absolutely mesmerizing! I don’t know why but every time I get teary.

    • You know, I hadn’t watched the Sharlom bit before Sarah reminded me about it. I wish I had seen this before, it’s haunting!

      • I’m so pleased you both found this show piece – I really do find it a sunning piece of art and beauty. I would also say it probably inspired me a great deal in terms of exploring fashion more.
        I agree, Anne, that watching his shows is the best way to understand his work. Your comment about the shoes as instrument of torture vs piece of beauty? I suspect both – also, we probably don’t understand the true extent of his depressive ‘demons’ – especially after the death of his mother. Such a tragedy to lose an amazing talent.

        • It is a tragedy and sadly it makes his clothes and watching his shows even more poignant. At least it’s a good thing that Sarah Burton remains so true to Alexander McQueen’s style!

  4. Are you going to go to the Met eventually? It would seem a shame to miss it! Especially after such a great intro with all the windows. You are obviously very passionate about his designs. And I am amazed how you produce such a wonderful post from the windows! I bet they were much less crowded then the opening though;)

    • Thanks Lani! Yes, the exhibit at the Met is unmissable! I’ll be going this month and will try to sneak some pictures ;-)
      McQueen is not my favorite designer but I am very touched by the emotion and genius that we could experience through his shows. I never tire of watching them years later!

  5. wow dear, thank you for this. I really loved loved looking at these pics.Not only are the windows themselves great, thepics are really good too.
    And for us not so fortunate to see them live this is priceless, so thank you for that once again.:-)))

    M

    • Thanks Maya! Showing things that are not accessible to readers is exactly what I want to do through my blog so I’m glad you appreciate the windows so much :-)

  6. Les vitrines sont vraiment incroyables ! On n’a pas ça à Paris ! :)
    J’ai toujours admiré McQueen pour son travail et son audace, je dois avouer que ça m’a fait un choc quand j’ai appris sa mort… Je me souviens surtout de la collection qui avait été présentée après sa mort, ça me faisait bizarre de me dire que ce ne serait plus lui qui designerait les collections. Enfin, Sara Burton fait plus que bien son job, je trouve.

    • Je suis d’accord avec toi: les vêtements sont déjà emouvants par eux-mêmes, mais quand on connait la fin tragique du designer ils sont encore plus poignants. Et oui, heureusement qu’ils ont choisi quelqu’un d’aussi proche pour lui succéder!

  7. Lovely shots, my dear! You have quite an eye. Looking forward to seeing the exhibit in all of its glory in the near future.

    Best,
    Mariah

  8. Just the windows could be a whole museum exhibit! Incredible. I didn’t make it to Bergdorfs on my last trip to New York, but I’m definitely going back to the city before Savage Beauty closes. The last trip ended up being a mother/daughter weekend, but the next time around, we’ll have to grab a drink!

  9. Such a great post. I loved the narrative that you put together with the pictures. Alexander McQueen has always been one of my favorite designers, precisely because of his playfulness and darkness. The chess show has been my favorite since I discovered it a year ago. It’s frightening and beautiful all at once.

    His tragic death only amplifies the beauty of his vision, because you realize that it’s truly gone. For me, it’s also that way with Michael Jackson. I burst into tears any time I see concert footage of him on tv, because I realize that talent like is only discovered once a century. (Not to say that such talent doesn’t always exist, but it’s the discovery that provides an audience).

    I hope you get to see the show at the Met so that I can experience it vicariously :)

    • Thanks Ava! I can relate 100% to what you say. When I was shooting the pictures and writing the post, I was amazed once again at such talent and genius, yet so sad knowing its creator was gone for good and it would never be renewed.
      I’ll be going to the Met next week (so excited!) and will of course try to take pictures for you to enjoy, but security will be very high no doubt so we’ll see how it goes!

  10. Don’t tell me you won’t go to the Met! Living in NY you simply have too! I got the book yesterday and it’s an amazing overview of McQueen’s designs. They’re photographed up close on mannequins, so you can study all the details and experience the craftmanship. it’s not a ‘sexy’ book, but even if you’re not interested in the clothes the hologram cover will take your breath away. I’m a huge fan and have bought quite a few suits over the years which I will never ever let go off. I also have the first edition of the skull scarf (and shoes which are so pretty, but absolute torture. I’m divided on that issue hehe).

    Thanks for the great pictures and post!
    Bisous,
    Le Choix Trois

    • Thanks Esther! I’ve heard so many good things about the book, including from you, I can’t wait to see it for myself!
      Your wardrobe seems amazing. Are you sure you shouldn’t do a Le Choix Trois post featuring yourself? Please? ;-)

  11. Wow they’re all so stunning! An amazing display of McQueen’s work.

  12. I never coveted a McQueen piece, but I have to mirror everybody else’s view: wow! Talk about craftsmanship and vision – how does one even come up with such designs. Excellent!

    • Like you I didn’t particulary follow McQueen’s work even though I was amazed by his shows. Yet when you see the clothes up close, you can only be impressed by his talent, whether you like his collections or not!

  13. Pingback: Christmas in New York: Bergdorf Goodman windows | Ritournelle

  14. Pingback: Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations windows at Bergdorf Goodman | Ritournelle

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