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."

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
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

    Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments