Alexander the great's show must go on

The smoky aroma of Diptyque Feu de Bois filled the air as guests filed into an elegant townhouse in the 8th Arrondissement yesterday to view the collection that Alexander McQueen started but never lived to complete.

This was far from the grand-scale performances for which the designer was famed. Instead, and out of respect for both this man and his work, clothes were presented to small groups of visitors throughout the day, all of whom took their seats on muted gold blocks and accompanied by a soundtrack courtesy of the flame-haired opera singer, Simone Kermes. McQueen was listening to her arias while he worked on this collection in the weeks before he died.

The designer had been inspired this time around by Byzantine art, the carvings of Grinling Gibbons, and Old Master paintings and altarpieces, including, in particular, works by Jean Fouquet, Sandro Botticelli, Stephan Lochner, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes, Jean Hey and Hieronymus Bosch. This was quintessential McQueen territory, exploring the sublime and the macabre, the light and the dark, and religion too.

Let's not forget that McQueen's was the hand behind collections entitled both Dante – wickedly sharp violet silks and torn black lace, shown in an 18th-century church in London in the mid-1990s – and Joan – McQueen's embodiment of the martyr took her place on his catwalk at the end of that decade dressed in fire-red sequins and surrounded by a circle of fire.

On this sad occasion, however, the ideas that preoccupied the designer were treated in a more gentle and reverent way. While each of the 16 patterns shown had been cut by McQueen himself, it was left to his team, many of whom had collaborated with the designer for 15 years, to fit and finish the work. They did so with love and sensitivity – all the while living up to the ambitious technical expertise – and with just a hint of the underlying anarchy that drove the designer throughout his career.

And what clothes these were. Exquisite gold bullion hand embroideries made their way across gently structured top halves cut close to the body that morphed effortlessly into sweetly puffed skirts or more fluid, floor-length, designs. Byzantine tigers and Tudor Roses appeared on the finest jet black and cardinal red silks. Draping revealed gold-tipped feathers peeping from the hemlines. Here too was the Madonna whose draped robes, the colour of stone, were extended into the folds of a skirt.

McQueen's love affair with the engineered print in this instance reached its most pioneering conclusion as some of the greatest works of art in history were captured digitally then woven into precious jacquards, each entirely unique and wrapped around the body in an ever more accomplished way.

Every piece here was painstakingly worked – no two were the same. Jewelled gold thread glories adorned models' throats and delicate angel wings enveloped their arms and shoulders as the proceedings became increasingly ethereal and, at times, ecclesiastical also. Even the shoes – featuring gilded, hand-carved tangled ivy, acorns and broken skulls, alabaster angels and more – will go on to become treasured artefacts.

In the end, this was a heartbreakingly beautiful and perfectly judged tribute to one of the greatest talents the fashion industry has known, realised by a tightly knit and gifted group of people who have protected his name and what it stands for since he started out.

"All the patterns in this collection were cut on the stand by Lee Alexander McQueen," the show notes read. "Each piece is unique, as was he."

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

    £35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

    Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
    UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

    39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

    There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
    Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

    Computerised cooking is coming

    From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
    Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

    Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

    The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
    Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

    Education: Football Beyond Borders

    Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
    10 best barbecue books

    Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

    We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
    Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

    Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most