The work of visionary fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen was the subject of one of the very first V&A Fashion in Motion events – live couture catwalk shows staged in the beautiful surroundings of the Museum. This film combines original footage of the event with a candid interview, in which McQueen discusses his inspirations, his relationship with the Museum and the public's reaction to his work.
Featuring some of the greatest designers of our time, Fashion in Motion is a series of live catwalk shows which bring couture to a wide audience through the beautiful backdrop of the Museum. Milliner Philip Treacy was the first designer to feature, followed – in June 1999 – by his frequent collaborator, Alexander McQueen.
The event showcased designs from McQueen's Spring/Summer 1999 collection, No.13, which was inspired by the late Victorian Arts and Crafts movement. It featured natural materials with designs constructed from wood, leather, lace and raffia and reflected McQueen's interest in craftsmanship:
My basis for anything I do is based on a craftsmanship, be it tailoring, be it woodwork, or be it anything else... I try to involve a lot of hand-crafted things.
The Museum provided different staging to the original No. 13 show, which took place on a simple wooden runway to a soundtrack by American hip-hop artists the Beastie Boys. It was a fitting backdrop for McQueen's work – while studying for his Masters in Fashion Design at Central Saint Martins, the designer would visit the Museum at least once a week to go through the archives. He cited the Museum's diverse collections as a direct source of inspiration:
The collections at the V&A never fail to intrigue and inspire me.
McQueen's work combined a rich array of references. In No.13, soft tiered lace skirts and trousers were contrasted with high-necked, hard leather bodices with lacing and stitching that evoked medical imagery. The original catwalk presentation included prosthetic legs made from ash wood with filigree relief carving echoing the work of the 17th-century British woodcarver Grinling Gibbons. For the Fashion in Motion event, McQueen installed another design from the collection, a balsa wood skirt, in the entrance hall of the Museum.
McQueen's designs were showcased at a second Fashion in Motion event in 2001, with jeweller Shaun Leane, McQueen's long-term collaborator.
Find out more about the No. 13 collection in The Museum of Savage Beauty