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."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Senior BI Engineer (BI/MI, Data Mining)

    £60000 - £65000 per annum + Bonus & Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior BI Enginee...

    Retail Promotions Manager – TV and Film Catalogue

    Up to £171 PAYE per day (equal to 40 – 45K ) : Sauce Recruitment: This is a te...

    Nursery Nurse

    £7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Level 3 or above Ear...

    Special Needs teacher

    £90 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Special Need teachers required t...

    Day In a Page

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on