McQueen shocks New York with an unlikely fit

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The Independent Online
WHAT A SHAME that the torrential rain stirred by Hurricane Floyd had petered out to a drizzle by the time Alexander McQueen showed his collection in a 100ft-long paddling pool. But then, who needs a storm when there's the drama of a McQueen extravaganza?

His move to show in New York instead of London this year had already caused shock waves throughout the British fashion establishment.

But this was nothing compared to the alarm bells set off when it seemed the most eagerly anticipated show of the week might not happen at all because of the rumoured threat that the Hudson river would swallow up Manhattan.

On Thursday night in New York, the fashion clan dodged the puddles as they entered the dimly lit cavernous hall. They waited, willing McQueen to present one of his vintage shock treatments.

But first he offered his collection - a mass of evocative themes - on glistening black-wigged models, who splashed down the shallow catwalk cum water tank. Contradictory messages were sent out from the start with girls in purdah behind jewelled masks and billowing silk yashmaks, followed by sado-masochistic silver studded leather bondage gear.

An 18th-century coat or two, ornately patterned with crystals, was followed by a plain, yet exemplary sharp-shouldered suit or white leather trench- coat. There were armoured chain-mail bodysuits with matching balaclavas juxtaposed with sexy soft jersey toga dresses in scarlet. Also in the McQueen medley was some all-American sportswear in star-spangled red, white and blue.

The music swelled, and the catwalk's watery surface was pierced by what at first looked like a mass of bullets, until they grew into thick spears.

Out of the darkness, 10 feet above the lethal spikes, a figure moved towards the photographers - crossed legged as if meditating.

More stunt women followed in the shadowy guise of inanimate, black-clad ghosts or graceful acrobats somersaulting or striding through the air in harlequin silks. Why McQueen decided two of his phantoms should convulse under the strobe lighting, as if they were suffering an epileptic fit, is anyone's guess, but it had a nasty pointlessness to it.

Part of McQueen's skill is in creating an atmosphere, especially as the audience waits for the show to begin. The more outrageous creations have come thick and fast over the years, causing all too predictable offence. Models have endured being trussed up in corsets and hobble skirts. One unfortunate soul was manacled to a square silver frame that meant she had to walk down the catwalk bent double, another was spray-painted by robots borrowed from a car manufacturing plant.

But these are the show pieces, engineered for maximum hype. In New York, McQueen succeeded in what he set out to do - wow the crowds with his imagination, his equal measures of good and bad taste, and give them a fright in the process. It was, though, hard to tell which the Americans found more disturbing - the epilepsy scene or Alexander McQueen dropping his jeans to reveal a pair of American flag boxer shorts when he took his bow at the end of the catwalk.

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