McQueen took a pause from spectacle for the presentation of his Autumn/Winter 2004 collection. Although he stated that he wanted to focus attention on purity of design rather than showmanship, Pantheon Ad Lucem (‘Towards the Light’) was not completely devoid of theatre. As scenes from space were played out in the background, models styled to look like androgynous inhabitants from another planet – with pale skin, elongated eyes and hair pulled into short, tight curls – emerged from what appeared to be the door of a spacecraft onto a circular, illuminated runway.
Like most McQueen collections, Pantheon fused multiple, disparate elements. The show centred on a futuristic narrative inspired by sci-fi films such as Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – the soundtrack sampled Richard Strauss’s theme tune ‘Zarathustra’. Yet the title and pared down presentation connected the collection to Ancient Greek dress, which had inspired a number of ethereal, draped jersey gowns that skimmed the body in the manner of 1930s designer Madeleine Vionnet. Some appeared to suggest Princess Leia’s costumes in George Lucas’s Star Wars films of the 1970s, thus further harmonizing the futuristic with the classical past. These delicate creations were offset by thick tweed suits, shearling coats, and a gold and bronze boxy jacket decorated with a pattern reminiscent of crop circles.
Other cultures and historical eras were referenced, too. While black gowns with long sleeves and embellished yokes hinted at Plantagenet queens, high-necked, feathered-shoulder capes with glass beads pointed to Native American culture. The final looks – presented in darkness and lit by LED lighting – re-focused attention on the future and McQueen’s development of new silhouettes. A gold dress overlaid with a geometric pattern extended upwards from the bodice to form a funnel covering the model’s chin and outwards at the hips to shift attention from the waist. The finale was a staggering frothy gown of lengths of pleated silver tulle arranged on the diagonal. An ornate silver shoulder piece by Shaun Leane, with neck collar and orchid detailing, rose out of the funnelled bodice, which offset the cinched waist and balanced the A-line skirt that flowed out into a voluminous, scalloped train.