Alexander McQueen was a story teller who created his catwalk presentations around a series of complex narratives. His Spring/Summer 2008 collection, La Dame Bleue, was designed in collaboration with Philip Treacy in homage to their friend and patron Isabella Blow. She championed both designers and encouraged their collaboration.
The model Alice Gibb opened La Dame Bleue wearing this headdress, which features a delicate dragonfly, perched above the wearer’s head, along with a strong-shouldered, tailored day ensemble with a sash-encircled waist.
La Dame Bleue included occasional references to Japanese dress. Thus, it is interesting to consider that in classical Japanese, the word for the insect is akizu. According to Anna Jackson, Keeper of the V&A’s Asian Department, it has associations with the mythical first Japanese emperor Jinmu who, looking down on Japan from the top of a mountain, called it akizushima, or ‘dragonfly island’. Jackson notes, ‘In medieval times the dragonfly was called the victory insect, or kachi mushi, and used as a motif on samurai armour. Thus dragonflies are symbolic of patriotism and valour’. The dragonfly was subsequently used for twentieth-century kimono as a symbol of summer.
In this headdress, the dragonfly is crafted from Swarovski crystal, which encrust the insect’s fragile form and sparkle, even from a distance. The insect’s flitting, frenzied flight pattern is suggested by the swirls of delicate filigree surrounding it.