Monday, 15 March 2010

A fabulous film of Alexander McQueen's 2006 fashion show.

Alexander McQueen

Many recent tributes to Alexander McQueen have quoted the nickname given to him following his early runway collections, ‘the hooligan of English fashion.’

Yet from the very start of his career it was to Scotland he looked for inspiration. “His first ready to wear collection in the fall of 1995 entitled ‘Highland Rape’ was a self-referential retrospective to the experiences that have shaped his own ethnic-cultural location and identity. For the actual showroom, McQueen transformed a loft-like industrial space into a brooding battleground of mayhem to symbolize 1746's Battle of Culloden in which his actual ancestors, the Jacobite Highland-Scots, were defeated and then subsequently ousted by the British troops under the Duke of Cumberland, ‘the Butcher.’ The rest of The Ghosts That Haunt Us by Matthew Callahan can be found here.
Interviewed in 2006, he reflected, 'at the time, I was finding out so much about my heritage. My mum was researching our family tree, and traced the McQueens back to Skye and the Mull of Kintyre. I learnt about the Highland clearances - it was genocide, and people still feel strongly about it up there. But, anyway, this time I turned all the angst into more of a letting-go. It was more romantic.' here

Shorn of its original rawness and anger, the result in 2006 was a poetic and technically accomplished tale that involved romantic images of Scottish fantasy heroines wandering glens and castle halls in vaguely Victorian tartan crinolines, bird-wing or antler-and-lace headdresses, feathered gowns, and pieces made from brocades that might have been dragged down from ancient wall-hangings.

Some of McQueen's references—like the ones that influenced his sinuous black velvet dresses—appeared to be culled from pre-Raphaelite paintings of Lady Macbeth; others, like a fierce, bell-skirted warrior-woman plaid dress with lace armlets, seemed to owe more to punk. On the down-to-earth side, there was plenty of McQueen's sharp and saleable tailoring on show, and some great coats, like a herringbone fur chesterfield. At the end, though, the ecstatic applause was primarily in honour of the experience—a memory that will go down as one of fashion's all-time highs.“ The full text of the piece by Sarah Mower can be found here.

To us and to his Scottish dad Ronald, a taxi driver and his mum Joyce, social science teacher, he was certainly no ‘hooligan of English fashion‘. On February 11, 2010, Alexander McQueen was found dead at his London home. His mother had died days earlier and it is believed that his death occurred in a period of despondency over her loss.

Paisley Pattern

An extraordinary exotic pattern know as Paisley is called after a Scottish town once famed for its textiles, The original motif, derived from the date palm frond, was first used by the ancient civilisation of Babylon and probably symbolised fertility.
The design first appeared on shawls in India in the late 17th century and by the middle of the 18th, traders of the British East India Company were returning home with shawls as casual gifts. But the design became popular and the traders soon found they could not supply enough of the scarce Indian shawls to meet a growing, very commercial demand. Responding to the market, Edinburgh was the first city to produce imitation shawls from about 1775.
It was not until the Napoleonic War, when French blockades restricted the import of raw silk, that Paisley became involved. The town was famed for its silk weaving but many highly skilled weavers, denied resources, became desperate to find a new product to revive their trade. In 1805, Paterson, an Edinburgh shawl manufacturer, sent an order to the unemployed weavers in Paisley. At first a draw loom was used to manufacture the shawls but the introduction of the Jacquard loom in the 1840’s allowed infinite possibilities to vary the pattern. By far the longest and most painstaking process in the production of a Paisley shawl was its design which could take up to four-fifths of the total production time and a design school was eventually set up in Paisley.
Shawls remained fashionable for over a century, altering shape and colour to match what was worn underneath.
In the late 1960’s the pattern was revived. At first, echoing the psychedelic dreams of the flower children, it appeared only on clothing but soon was found its way onto household textiles and everyday objects.
The examples here are among my favourites from pattern books in Paisley Museum and Art Gallery. The colourful pattern and other examples from Scottish art and design, puts paid to the often held belief by our southern English neighbours that Scotland is a dour, dark country still labouring under the guilt of a bleak Reformation!