McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 1999 collection was again presented at the Gatliff Road warehouse, this time transformed into a frozen landscape set within a giant Plexiglas cube. Midway through the show, skaters wearing white ballerina skirts, some made of lace and feathers, glided across the ice around frosted silver birch trees set in banks of snow, under ultraviolet lights. Al Bowlly’s ‘Midnight, The Stars and You’ played softly in the background. It was a vision of pure romance.
The audience – who had been warned to dress warmly – were no doubt expecting a rupture to the charming frozen scene; the collection having been named after the ill-fated hotel in Stanley Kubrick’s psychological horror film The
Shining (1980). McQueen had intimated that the show would have a darker side: the invitation repeated the film’s chilling refrain ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’; the soundtrack – borrowed from the film – was overlaid with baying wolves and howling wind; the presence of two young red-headed models recalled the haunting ghosts of the murdered sisters in the film; and the final looks were presented in a blizzard that recalled the film’s final scene.
However, McQueen drew not on the violent plot of the film but on the isolated, snowbound setting. Beauty and elegance intensified in glistening stiff lace dresses evocative of spun cobwebs, an aluminium skirt with cut-out Gothic script and curlicues, and an exquisite rock crystal bodice by Kees van der Graaf. Luxurious furs, chunky knits and Icelandic parkas in soft pinks offered a vision of modern luxury. As usual, McQueen intrigued with his tailoring, this time manifested in a frock coat with a fantail silhouette, which attested to his interest in asymmetry and birds. The collection also engaged with native and tribal cultures. While the models’ plaited hair, and frosted white stripes painted across the eyes, served as reference to the Native-American burial site underneath The
Overlook hotel, Shaun Leane’s spectacular coiled corset, made from individual rings of aluminium that fitted precisely to the curves of the wearer, found its inspiration in the indigenous Ndebele women of South Africa.