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  • Articles by Sonali

    Nick Waplington Alexander McQueen Working Process, at Tate Britain

    Documenting the lead up to fashion designer Alexander McQueen’s final autumn / winter ready-to-wear show in March 2009, entitled ‘The Horn of Plenty! Everything and the Kitchen Sink’; when his working process was photographed by Nick Waplington.

    This collaboration grew from Waplington’s photographs of landfill sites in the East End, which struck a chord with Lewisham born McQueen. As such, large scale pictures of recycling sites, shot by Waplington with permission from Veolia, are displayed alongside his photographs of preparations for ‘Horn of Plenty' - taken at McQueen’s rather messy studio in central London.

    The focus is on McQueen here, very much the artist at work, surrounded by numerous assistants, and creative director Sarah Burton; but sharing the spotlight with his strikingly theatrical outfits. He plays a hands on role in producing every item for display.  We see him cutting material and developing garments.

    These high definition and glossy photographs highlight the fabrics (mainly silks produced bespoke in Italy) in their bold, imposing shapes, mostly bright colours and rich sheen. They channel the intensity of his creative process, even when McQueen is seated and at apparently at rest.

    Images of various mood boards reveal McQueen's inspiration here: swatches of houndstooth patterned fabric (referring to his apprenticeship on Saville Row), films by Alfred Hitchcock and scenes from ‘My Fair Lady’ starring Audrey Hepburn, classic dresses by Dior and Givenchy, and pictures of swans. But McQueen’s vision was iconoclastic and a bit warped. He enjoyed twisting traditions - seen here in the aggressive and garish make up worn by his models, and outlandish headwear designed by Philip Treacy.

    Pictures from later stages capture the heady and hectic atmosphere building up to the all important fashion show in Paris. ‘Horn of Plenty’ was created in response to the global recession, and fans of McQueen will recognize his satirical take, referencing over consumption of resources and recycling (of his ideas and sets from previous shows).

    The images of landfill sites stacked high with (orderly) piles of bottles, cans and waste packaging, which might seem a bit random at first, reflect these ideas, and fix McQueen's work in a wider context, outside the bubble of the fashion world.

    I would like to see some video footage with music from the final show, to finish with a flourish. Waplington does provide a rare glimpse into the world of enigmatic and brilliant Alexander McQueen; and this exhibition serves well as both an introduction and more focused counterpart to Savage Beauty at the V & A.

    Nick Waplington Alexander McQueen Working Process at Tate Britain until 17 May 2015




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