THE EFFECT OF THE PRESENT.

Lee Alexander McQueen

Lee Alexander McQueen will always be one of the most influential designers of our modern age. His work was completely different to everyone else in the fashion industry, always. His command of colour and skills of drapery will forever be remembered. But most of all, McQueen will be remembered because of the romance and story that his collections told. Every piece being completely different, but a continuation from the last. The story was always told with Lee’s work, it was his main goal. Lee sadly passed away in February of last year, taking his own life and his brilliance with him. With the death of his two greatest inspirations, Isabella Blow, and his mother, Lee hit depression. He couldn’t get over that Blow had taken her own life. She was everything to Lee, he owed his life to her. Blow discovered him at his final show when he was graduating from Saint Martin’s in London. Loving the whole collection, Blow decided to purchase every piece, and make his dream to be a famous fashion designer come true. Blow was a fashion editor at the time and spared no expense in making Lee her protégé and well known throughout the art world. His major collection at this time was Highland Rape, which sent shock throughout the art world as it was so different and controversial. The collection showed women who looked like they had been raped. They had black eyes, ripped clothing and exposed vaginas and breasts. However, being so different, it propelled McQueen to instant fame. He was known immediately by all throughout the fashion world. To me, McQueen’s most important collection was The Girl Who Lived In A Tree. The collection had a direct break in the middle of it. The first half of the collection was almost Tim Burton like, with models being dress mainly in black, with a youthful darkness to them. They had massive black hair in afro’s and black eyes. All the models looked like they were from the middle east, with tanned skin. The outfits mainly consisted to be made of lace, leather and cloth. Below is an image from one of the models from the first half of the collection that I sourced from google.

One of the models from the first half of "The Girl Who Lived In A Tree"

The other half of the collection was the complete opposite. Caucasian women dressed in gorgeous dresses which looked like they were crafted for the royals. One of which even contained a strategically placed face of Queen Elizabeth. Gems and overly expensive jewellery was one of the main parts of this half of the collection, with every model wearing lots of it. They were made to look royal and part of the upper classes. In the middle of the catwalk was a giant tree made of cloth that twisted and contorted as it went upwards. This collection was clearly thought out, not just in the way of the dresses and pieces, but also on the level of makeup, stage design and accessories. It was a representation of the ladder of success. “How far up the tree of success are you?” was the main question. McQueen used the collection as a parallel between our modern day life. We live in a world where you can buy beauty and amazing things to make you look better. Gone are the days of natural beauty, everything is manufactured nowadays, and looks aren’t an exception. The first half of models were a representation of the middle eastern countries not having as much money as the west, and also not being as self conscious. The second half was a symbol of what the western world has become, with our looks becoming an obsession. We constantly worry about how we are perceived by others, how much money we own and how many materialistic things we possess. Below is an image of one of the models from the second half of the collection that I sourced from google.

A model from the second half of "The Girl Who Lived In A Tree"

The tree in the centre of the catwalk was a symbol for the ladder of success. The base of the tree represented low family incomes and people who could not care about less about their appearance, with the top of the tree representing rich, successful families who obsessed about their looks. There was also the question posed of “Could your success grow, just like the tree?”. Below is an image of the tree made of cloth that was on the catwalk, along with a video I found on youtube of the collection.

The stage for "The Girl Who Lived In A Tree"

The collection was a political statement. Is this who we have became? So money hungry that it’s all that we care about now. The collection was a success to me, firstly because the pieces were beautifully made, and secondly, because it was signature McQueen. He took the medium of fashion and pushed it. He brought back an idea and objective behind his clothes, which most fashion designers bar the Avant Garde hardly do now. The pieces made me think about the times me live in, and challenged my perception of not only others, but also myself. Have I too became one of the royals ontop of the tree?

Peter Howson

Peter Howson is a contemporary artist from Glasgow. Howson was born in 1958 and studied at Glasgow School of Art. His obsession is to depict the true, dark side of human nature. His work is very symbolic and representational. Looking literal at first glance, Howson’s work becomes much deeper and multi layer once you know how to read the codes and conventions that he uses. Religion is one of the main themes that run through most of his work. There is a definite divide in Howson’s work. This divide was caused because of the time he spent in Bosnia as a war artist. He has never truly recovered from the things that he seen there, and because of that, his work has changed. Although his work was already day, his pieces after the war were much sinister and took on many metaphorical meanings. In my opinion, his work speaks volumes and is one of the best artists to portray emotion, and how he felt at the time. By far one of the most influential painting by Howson is “The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew”.

"The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew" by Peter Howson

The piece shows Saint Andrew getting crucified with people around him watching. The grim painting portrays a very dark image of religion, and the lengths people will go to, to make their beliefs heard and known. The piece is very symbolic, even for Howson. One of the main symbols in the piece is the fish in the dirty water at the bottom of the painting. The fish was a way in which people could say that they were christian, to other christians without any others people finding out. It was a code and hidden message that they used to disguise their religion from other religions as you could be killed for your beliefs. The fact that the fish is dying in the painting has so much meaning. In my opinion, it is a metaphor for the dying of the religion itself. That Christianity was dying in this time against the romans. Howson is stating that it was a dying battle, that they couldn’t survive in that climate, just like the fish couldn’t in the dirty water. Also in the picture there is a gutter, with a red glow coming from inside of it. The gutter looks like it is almost looking up at one of the main people who is carrying out the crucifixion. In my opinion, Howson is trying to say that the people are in the gutter, they are all going to hell for what they have done. The red symbolises the fires of hell, and the place where they will all eventually end up. In my opinion, the piece is fantastic. I love the fact that Howson does not shy away from depicting humans as dark and evil, as I believe that those are very human behaviours. I also like that religion plays a major part in this piece, as it does with many others. It shows that Howson himself must be religious and that he is struggling with his beliefs, since the piece is so dark. Overall the piece is very attractive to me as it’s the type of work I truly enjoy, the dark colours and symbolic imagery is fantastic.

Neville Brody

Neville Brody is a british contemporary graphic designer. He was born in London in 1957 and stuided at London College of Painting. Brody is famous for his change on the graphic design world, he turned it on it’s head and added a new twist into what was the norm at the time. He now works as the Head of the Communication Art & Design department at the Royal College of Art in London. Brody caused outrage in the art world when he was commissioned to create a poster for an exhibition called “New French Painting”. The poster looks ordinary now, as times have changed, but back when it was show, the poster sparked anger and rage. The poster shows the words “New French Painting” with a large “X” next to it, with a small image and a white background. Nowadays this looks like the ordinary graphic poster advertising a gallery or exhibition, but at the time when it was made, it was completely different and revolutionary. During this time, and the times before, poster advertisements showed a large piece or many different pieces from the gallery on it. Brody’s didn’t. There was outrage by the commissioners as it did not fit the look for what posters should look like. Brody insisted that they keep it, and in the end, the did. More anger and rage at the poster came, but after a while, people realised that they poster itself was becoming more famous than the actual exhibition, and for good reason. First of all, it did not stick to the norm. It took the rule book, and threw it out of the window. Brody chose to show a tiny image of a piece of the exhibition in the poster as to spark interest. Why would you want to see a large image of something on a poster, then pay to go see the exact same thing? He thought it best to keep it mysterious, as to attract the potential customer, which it did. Second of all, the writing was very random, and looked like it was done with a paint brush, it wasn’t done in normal font. Brody thought it best to do this as to fit in with the name of the exhibition, to make it look painted, as the exhibition was of paintings. The poster is very successful in my opinion, not just because of the fact that it is one of the pieces that made Brody famous, but for the fact is that it achieves what it set out to day. It makes me interested and wonder about what the exhibition will entail. I think about what different types of paintings there will be since that all you can do as there is so much left to the imagination. If I seen this poster, I for one would definitely go to the exhibit, and with that fact alone, Brody has achieved the main goal.

Nicola Formichetti

Nicola Formichetti is a japanese italian fashion designer. He is famous for his works for the Mugler label as Creative Director, and his works with Lady Gaga. Formichetti’s father was italian and his mother was japanese, because of this, formichetti grew up in Tokyo and Rome. He loved his cultural inheritance and tried to combine the two at any chance he could get. With an ambition to move to London, Formichetti done whatever it took to get access to the country. He applied to study architecture in the city, but never attended as his dream was to become a fashion designer. He was thrusted into fame when the exact same thing thing happened to Lady Gaga. As soon as she became famous, so did he. She knew Formichetti before she was famous and they were best friends, he often made many of her outfits for her small, quiet bar gigs in New York City, where the two met. Gaga loves Formichetti’s work a lot, she collaborates with him a lot. My favourite collection by Formichetti was by far, “The Anatomy of Change”. The collection spoke to me so much and has so much meanings to it. Below is a video that has scenes of the collection and a fashion film combined that I sourced from YouTube.

To me the collection is all about the idea that we aren’t male or female. Our sexuality, race, gender aren’t defined at birth, it is something that we choose. Formichetti shows this by using Rico Genest. Genest is the main person, and main part of the collection. Completely compered in tattoos, Genest looks like a skeleton. Genest is shown in the beginning of the video covered in a layer of what looks like latex. Peeling this off, he is peeling off the stereo types in todays society and going back to the template of what a human is, the basic form of it. This shows us that he is no longer male or female and can become who ever he wants to be. Formichetti builds apon that by designing cloths that are masculine in look, but adds very feminine things to them, such as pearls. He uses silk trousers made of silk to show this swell, as these trousers are worn by women. By combining the two, Formichetti is showing us that we can be male, yet female. He is challenging our perceptions of gender identity. Also the fact that Genest looks like a skeleton or zombie is very important, it shows us that we can be reborn and transform ourselves into someone who is beyond a gender. The collection and fashion video made me think about who I am. As a gay person, i know very well that people have stereotypes of me. The collection showed me that I too can made my own self, which I have. I do not live up to the expectations of others, only the expectations of myself. The collection made me realise that I can become anyone who I want to be, as I define myself, not the culture that I live in, nor the people I am surrounded by.

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