Alexander McQueen Exhibit – new exhibition space in Bond StreetApril 15, 2019
Fashion exhibitions are big business these days and after the huge success of the Alexander McQueen Exhibit at the Victoria and Albert museum it must have got the heads of the brand thinking. Why not make a permanent exhibition space of their own? So that’s what they did. The new flagship Bond Street store, designed by Smiljan Radic, now has a dedicated gallery of its own on the top floor, with a changing programme of exhibitions and talks. It’s free entry and open to all visitors.
It is not as big as The Yves Saint Laurent museum in Paris, of course. That institution turned a large amount of his actual atelier over to the public – most of the building where he designed and presented his collections. That gives them space to show a lot of historic collections. This is just one room but they do well. There must be such a wealth of archive material at McQueen that there is plenty of scope for different angles on showing it in new and different Alexander McQueen exhibit s.
The first show, “Unlocking Stories”, is about the work of the house and its processes. It’s aimed at students but extremely interesting to all. Perhaps the curators thought of students because they might want to learn everything a designer has to consider before their fabulous frock appears on the runway; more likely those same students will find themselves in the positions of the studio assistants hot-gluing sequins to a hem, if they are in the studio at all and don’t find themselves in supply-chain analytics or inventory management. Still, a student can dream like the rest of us.
Alexander McQueen Exhibit at Bond Street
The space is artfully arranged, with bolts of cloth casually leaning in a corner next to a rail with printed fabric samples, on which are also hung manila cardboard pattern pieces, and cream coloured toiles. Books for inspiration are stacked next to a mood board. Paper versions of dress sit on tables like examples of a clever origamist.
There are tiny, always charming maquettes of fully finished dresses about a foot high looking like fancy doll’s outfits – do designers really use these in the process? I know Madeline Vionnet did, at slightly larger scale but since the fabric doesn’t behave the same way when applied to miniature dimensions I’m not sure how helpful it really is. Probably these little dresses were made for a window display but still, here they are and they look adorable. More ragged and well-worked toiles of specific pattern parts seem more realistic – a bodice section in particular has been unpicked more than once and its unhemmed edges are unravelling at quite a rate.
There are polaroids of the models in the fitting room, shot from all angles. The sheets showing a photo of the finished dress with fabric swatched pinned on alongside photos of the shoe and handbag to be worn on the catwalk are interesting in that they are so businesslike and factual. They also show that this records process has barely changed. There are examples of pages like this is the V&A archives of fashion houses from a hundred years ago. The only difference is that then it would be an illustration and now it’s a photo, but the fabric swatches and notes remain the same.
The space is also hosting a program of talks featuring McQueen’s design directors and live models amongst others. Sarah Burton herself has held a talk there, and there are other interesting McQueen staff to come. If you cannot make it to London there are some lovely mini stories, exploring individual garments, on their website.
The Loveliness of Fashion
It is also worth spending time downstairs, of course. The whole building is beautiful, with wooden flooring and cabinets and curving glass accents. Then go and stroll on Bond Street amongst the other shining temples to fashion’s elite. Don’t treat it as a shopping experience, even if you can afford to, but a street long exhibition, a testament to human creativity and craftsmanship. You don’t have to go to a museum or dedicated exhibition space to enjoy what high fashion has to offer.