I still haven’t had time to put any order into my menswear collection notes, but I hope I’ll be able to do it soon, and beginning from McQueen may be a good starting point.
The designer is renowned for producing interesting and original collections that really push forward the boundaries of fashion, for what regards prints, shapes and silhouettes and catwalk presentations.
His latest menswear collection was definitely a triumph of prints and interesting textile experiments.
The designer used magnified computer-engineered photo prints of knitwear (a must come next Autumn/Winter, judging from what I saw at Pitti Uomo), Medieval chain mail, fur and dripping water and printed them on his suits and outerwear, but also employed intricate prints of bones to create mesmerising and slightly architectural printed motifs.
After seeing the collection it was almost impossible for me not to think about the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini (Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins) located in Rome’s Via Veneto.
A visit to its crypt (not recommended to the faint-hearted…) will in fact allow you to admire entire walls literally covered in the bones, skulls or entire skeletons of 4,000 capuchin friars.
The main idea behind the crypt wasn't originally to frighten people, but to show how, once you die and the soul abandons your body, what remains can be used also for other purposes, even decorative ones.
The crypt has often been used in the past by artists, fashion and accessory designers as inspiration for their works.
Such a place allows you indeed to play with different themes, from life to death, identity and eternity, applying them to the most disparate fields, such as art, fashion, history and architecture.
Yet there was also something else behind McQueen’s macabre skeletons, skulls and bones, behind those elaborate motifs printed onto shirts and jackets that tackled the relationship between fashion and death: a sort of “contemporary Baroque” inspiration.
Undoubtedly, McQueen has a baroque aesthetic that he tends to project into the future: the designer has the ability to transpose themes that characterised the 17th century, but that also pertain to our lives, such as scientific discoveries, religious wars, fundamentalism and massacres, through sensational images that at times even offend what is conventionally considered good taste.
When I find myself thinking about McQueen’s work, I often think about the complex, irreverent, ironic, blasphemous and iconoclastic work by Orlan, an artist who often played with baroque themes, mixing them with the theme of identity and with the real and the virtual realms, exactly like McQueen.
Printed on the garments, replicated on shoes, gloves, bags and balaclavas and repeated onto the runway and the walls, McQueen’s memento mori message, transformed into a repeated visual illusion, inspiring awe, fear and, why not, desire.
Yet decadence is only one side of McQueen and, while the intricate patterns of his new designs really caught your eye, the trompe l’oeil effects the designer recreated weren’t the only interesting aspect of his collection.
McQueen has an undeniable talent for the cut and construction of his garments and that was clear in the streamlined yet sensual designs included in this collection, and in particular in the coats characterised by round shoulders in which he played a sort of game between different surfaces matching more natural or organic materials such as wool or leather with shiny plastic.
If there is a designer that has so far played really well with eroticism and death, beauty and horror, cruelty and sensuality that's Alexander McQueen and it's interesting to see that, after all these years, he is still able to do it in a refreshing and original way.