Alexander McQueen's Top Runway Moments
Alexander McQueen's Top Runway Moments
On the Runway
Alexander McQueen never wavered about wanting to “shove fashion in your face,” so the outrageous, the surreal and the staggering were as much a component of each season’s collection as new fabrications and innovative silhouettes. But if his audacity had been the primary calling card, we wouldn’t be so devastated by the loss of Alexander McQueen. Instead, McQueen enthralled, ensnared and enriched us with another explosive synthesis of multiple unparalleled talents every time. This season, more stars than ever-Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz, Kate Bosworth, Camilla Belle-looked their best in McQueen, which makes the news of his passing all the worse. “I want what I do to speak volumes,” McQueen told InStyle. There were so many more books left to be written.
-InStyle Fashion Director Hal Rubenstein
NEXT: Rubenstein's take on Alexander McQueen's most memorable shows
During his five-year tenure as Givenchy's head designer, McQueen injected his own edgy sensibility into the iconic design house. "His collections for Givenchy were very contentious," says Rubenstein. "Givenchy was the designer for Audrey Hepburn and did really ladylike clothes. McQueen’s feeling was that he got to take over a couture house and use the amazing craftsmanship to create incredibly angular and laborious-crafted pieces."
In a memorable moment, McQueen unleashed rain on the runway. “This collection highlighted all his white shimmery pieces," says Rubenstein. "Basically every model was soaked to the skin.”
Utilizing model Shalom Harlow as a human canvas resulted in an iconic moment for McQueen. “The model stood in the center of a revolving platform and her dress was spray-painted," explains Rubenstein. "It was spin art as fashion!"
Staged in the Conciergerie, the famous Paris jail known for holding Marie Antoinette, the runway show featured exaggerated silhouettes and canine props. "The pieces have a bizarre take on Little Red Riding Hood, but the women were also entrapped in very tight corseted harnesses and walked with wolves on chains," explains Rubenstein. "There were guards everywhere—half of the audience was terrified!”
Inspired by a nomad's desolate journey into the tundra, McQueen placed models inside a torrential wind tunnel. “The models could hardly walk, yet the hand-painted silk and chiffon fabric that was billowing behind them was just completely breathtaking-some pieces stretched over 20 feet!" says Rubenstein. "You thought the models were going to blow away.”
This runway show re-enacted a dance scene from the movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? “This is my favorite collection. He staged it using the idea of the dance marathons of the Depression Era, where people danced until they dropped to get money," says Rubenstein. "The models had to train in ballroom dancing before they walked. Karen Elson (pictured) was the star."
For this romantic and girlishly Edwardian collection, McQueen positioned every look on a chessboard floor. "He had models walk against each other as if they were diametrically opposed on a chessboard," muses Rubenstein. "The unbelievable virtuosity of the clothes presented-the lacework, the embroidery-was just extraordinary."
This collection was a tribute to Hitchcock heroines, from Tippi Hedren in The Birds to Kim Novak in Vertigo. "Dresses were inspired by all the great Hitchcock blondes," recalls Rubenstein. "Featuring highly tailored, sculpted waists and lots of suits, it was very much the tailoring of the Fifties.”
McQueen's use of holography reinforced his reputation as both a meticulous designer and outstanding showman. "This beautiful ethereal collection climaxed with this holographic image of Kate Moss in a pyramid," explains Rubenstein. "You had to be there, but you swore she was inside. It was one of the most haunting things I’ve ever seen."
Inspired by Barry Lyndon, Goya and the Marchesa Casati, McQueen merged historical references with modern elegance for this spring collection. "Still using the bondage pieces from earlier collections, he threw everyone off by setting the show to a string orchestra and sending out one of the most beautifully feminine collections of his career,” says Rubenstein.
The collection's bird theme served as a symbolic tribute to the late Isabella Blow, McQueen's close friend and mentor. “This collection featured a neon bird behind the models," says Rubenstein. "The whole show was based on the intricacy of feathers and plumage and the idea of turning women into these divine ontological creatures.”
After Queen Elizabeth II appointed him a Commander of the British Order in 2003, McQueen paid tribute to her with this collection. "Everything had a regal, coronation quality to it," says Rubenstein. "I think it is important to remember that while McQueen was an international designer, he was very proud to be an Englishman. He constantly used elements of high-tailoring and royal imagery in his collections.”
For this collection, McQueen commented on societal excess by setting the stage with scrap debris from past shows. "This happened after the economic collapse and it was McQueen’s way of saying we all have too much, want too much, do too much," says Rubenstein. "The classic houndstooth check dress is completely over-the-top with the most extraordinary tailoring. A lot of the models wore trash bags on their heads.”
In his last runway show, McQueen made an indelible mark on fashion with his awe-inspiring 10-inch Armadillo shoes. “Every model that walked in these shoes-not once did they ever teeter!" recalls Rubenstein. "These must be so ergonomically extraordinary.”