Thursday, 26 March 2015

Savage Beauty

Yesterday I went to the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A. I have to say that I have never been much of a fan of Alexander McQueen's designs. I had always dismissed him as the "Madonna" of the Fashion World. Someone who wanted to shock as a shortcut to fame. Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I read an article on his life that put his designs into a whole new perspective. According to the Andrew Wilson's biography: "At the age of nine or 10, McQueen started to be sexually abused by a violent man – Terence Anthony Huyler – who was married to his sister Janet. When he later confided in (Isabella) Blow, he said that this man stole his innocence. The young McQueen also watched powerless on several occasions when Janet was beaten or half-strangled by Huyler. Janet, who had no idea that her husband was abusing her little brother, remained close to McQueen all his life, almost like a second mother. Wilson convincingly argues that Janet became “the blueprint” for his clothes, a woman who was “vulnerable but strong”. Sometimes the women on the runway were McQueen himself, other times they were Janet. This, writes Wilson, “was the woman he wanted to protect and empower through his clothes; the patina of armour that he created for her would shield her from danger”. *

Learning about his background changes completely the way you look at his dresses. Suddenly, it all makes perfect sense.

Sadly, Alexander didn't make it. He committed suicide in 2010 aged 40. I'm a year younger than him, and I didn't find out about Narcissism until 2012. Being thrown into the deep end of the fashion world so young, Alexander did not have the luxury of time as I've had. I can't imagine that being in that environment helped either. The ramifications of abuse, whether verbal, physical or emotional, take a devastating toll. The exhibition made no mention of the abuse in his past, and I think it's shame, because it puts all his work into an entirely different context.

* from The Guardian article: Fierce, feathered and fragile: how Alexander McQueen made fashion an art