October 02, 2020
Lee Alexander McQueen used many different materials and fabric manipulations throughout his career. He is known for his expertly tailored nipped suits, as well as impressive outfits using unusual materials. His chosen themes are often dark, and theatrically represented. I see McQueen as the Clive Barker of fashion. The Damien Hurst of fashion. He takes the darker side of humanity, and turns it into art.
McQueen’s choice of fabrics and materials changes often, depending on the chosen theme for the collection. The house tartan is a recurring pattern in McQueen’s designs. In the Widow of Culloden dress (Mcqueen, 2006-2007, Fig 1) the wool fabric is carefully draped to create a flowing texture, then belted at the waist. An underskirt adds volume to the skirt, and an interesting soft yellow contrast to the strong red.
When it comes to unusual materials, McQueen has experimented with a lot of different types, including glass, aluminium, wood, and plastics. The aluminium coil corset (McQueen, 1999, Fig 2), a collaboration with Shaun Leane, is a beautiful example. Much as this would not be practical to wear, it gives an impression of strength and is a meticulously crafted piece.
McQueen experimented with 2D fabric manipulations by digitally printing custom designs or using unusual dyeing techniques. The print in the Nihilism collection (McQueen, 1994, Fig 3) was made using iron filing paste, rusted through exposure to air and salt water. This technique gave the garments a unique look, in beautiful, almost metallic, earthy tones which work very well with this floral design.
In terms of 3D fabric manipulation, McQueen again uses a wide variety of techniques, from pleating to boning, ruffles to sequins, 3D fabric flowers to weaves. In figure 4 (McQueen, 2007, fig 4) we see an example of structured shoulders and neck, using visible boning. In this particular garment this gives an almost Victorian look.
To conclude, Lee McQueen experimented in all aspects. Using unexpected materials, unique custom prints, innovative design collaborations, all presented in lavish theatrical shows aimed to create strong emotional responses.
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