Image of Kate Bethune on the Orchid shoulder piece

Kate Bethune on the Orchid shoulder piece


This Orchid Shoulder Piece was made for McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 2004 collection, which was called Pantheon ad Lucem, meaning toward the light. The collection had a very futuristic, otherworldly feel to it and it affectionately became known as ‘The Alien Show’, and this shoulder piece sat inside the neck of a dress. It was a breath-taking gown that was made from lengths of pleated silver tulle and it had a tightly synched in waist that contrasted with the funnel neck and the full A-line skirt. The model walked out at the end of the show and she raised her hands and looked towards the ceiling, and it was almost as though she was being summoned by an extra-terrestrial life force to another planet. When I spoke to Shaun about this piece he said that he had no idea that it was going to sit inside a dress and that the only brief McQueen gave him was to produce a shoulder piece from metal and that it should include flowers that had an alien feel to them. So this is characteristic of McQueen giving his collaborators a very broad brief and allowing them a creative freedom, and it underscores the absolute trust he placed in them. This shoulder piece in fact was inspired by another piece that Leane made for one of McQueen’s Givenchy collections a few years earlier, which was an electroformed rose corset that involves the same making process. So first of all the head and shoulders were sculpted in clay, which was then left to dry and this was then cast in resin and the resin cast was placed in an electroplating tank for a few days until the silver was 1mm thick. And the flowers Shaun Leane chose orchids, and these incredible spiky, starry flowers that have this pre-historic feel to them. They were made by first of all being carved in wax and then cast in resin and placed in the electroplating tank in the same way but they were then oxidised and this gives them this amazing depth of colour, which contrasts beautifully with the silver form beneath.