McQueen's Savage Beauty in London

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The music starts and a piece of gauzy white fabric floats upwards.  As a figure rises slowly, you realise it is Kate Moss clothed in the gauzy white who is artfully channelling both pride and pathos in her baleful gaze.   She floats above the stage, a spectre of ethereal beauty.  You can’t help but be drawn in by the theatricality of the moment – a testament to Kate Moss as a supermodel and Alexander McQueen as an artist.

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This finale to the 2006 McQueen show in Paris, Widows of Culloden, was recreated for the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the V&A Museum, Savage Beauty.  It was my favourite part of  an exceptional exhibit.

Savage Beauty reflects McQueen’s roots in London and his love of British culture.

As a place for inspiration, Britain is the best in the world.

– Alexander McQueen

The Savage Beauty exhibit was first staged in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2011.  With approximately 65,000 visitors, the show was the most popular in the Met’s history!

Lines for McQueen exhibit at the met
Long queues for the McQueen exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image: Dan Nguyen

When Savage Beauty arrived in London, the exhibit included an extra 40 pieces as well as a special London section.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty Exhibit at V&A Museum in  London

McQueen’s British influence is evident in several ways in his work.

McQueen trained as an apprentice at military tailors Gieves & Hawkes on Savile Rowe.  This early experience helped him learn all about tailoring which was crucial to his success.  For example, his bumster style of trousers would have fallen down around a person’s legs if they weren’t tailored exactly right.  Yes, you can blame McQueen for the hipster fashion trend which has seen bum cracks flashed all around the world!

military staying at McQueen Savage Beauty
Image: SalonNYC

McQueen was immensely proud of his Scottish heritage.  He became really well known for his use of tartan with the Highland Rape collection.  The background was the English subjugation of the Scottish nationalists.  The Widows of Culloden is another nod to the futile fight for Scottish independence from England.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty

McQueen was fascinated with history.  You need only check out his fascination with corsets.  The cabinet of curiosities was very popular in the Victorian era with people interested in collecting all sorts of things.

cabinet of curiosities Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty
Cabinet of Curiosities
Image: V&A Museum

The Kate Moss finale at the Widows of Culloden show used Victorian mirror trickery.

The Victorian era was also the age of Empire.  You could see the work of India and Africa in his work.  Of course, some of the greatest administrators in the British Empire were Scots who had been displaced from their land.  These Scots went to far-flung reaches of the Empire to make their fortune.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty

Bringing it right up to the present, McQueen was also influenced by London’s raging club scene.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty
Image: Salon NYC

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty


McQueen:  Savage Beauty is on at the V&A from the the 14th of March until the 2nd of August.  It is definitely worth seeing.

Alexander McQueen Savage Beauty

Not only are the pieces exceptional but the whole staging of the show is high drama just like his runway shows.  I never went to a runway show but you can see how great his shows would have been. McQueen was never dull, not even in a museum!