“I have always love the mechanics of nature and to a greater or lesser extent my work is always informed by that”
Lee Alexander McQueen
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savage beauty

naturalism

EVOLUTION & THE ORGANIC

Nature was the greatest, or at least the most enduring, influence upon McQueen. It was also the central theme of Romanticism, with the painters J.M.W. Turner and Constable, and poets Keats and Coleridge, considering nature itself as a work of art – a view shared by McQueen and propagated through much of his work. It was a relationship with the natural world which began in childhood, when Lee would spend weekends swimming and watching birds, and one that manifested itself later in life with the designer poring over the pages of National Geographic, David Attenborough’s documentaries, and a exhibiting a passion for exotic fish, which he kept in tanks in London and Paris. As it was for the Romantics, nature not only evoked feelings of the sublime; it provided a locus for the development of new ideas and concepts.

"I have always love the mechanics of nature and to a greater or lesser extent my work is always informed by that." LEE ALEXANDER MCQUEEN
"Birds in flight fascinate me. I admire eagles and falcons. I’m inspired by a feature but also its colour, its graphics, its weightlessness and its engineering. It’s so elaborate. In fact I try to transpose the beauty of a bird to women."
Lee Alexander McQueen
Sarabande, Spring/Summer, 2007 Photograph by CHRIS MOORE
Widows Of Culloden, Autumn/Winter 2006 Photograph by CHRIS MOORE
"women should look like women. a piece of cardboard has no sexuality."
Lee Alexander McQueen
Sarabande, Spring/Summer, 2007 Photograph by CHRIS MOORE
Widows Of Culloden, Autumn/Winter 2006 Photograph by CHRIS MOORE
Having stated that as he designs, he tries “to transpose the beauty of a bird to women”, McQueen created a number of looks with their surface made entirely out of plumage, such as the long ruffled dress from The Widows Of Culloden (Autumn/Winter 2006) composed of thousands of mottled pheasant feathers. Here, the dress’ length and late-Victorian line evoked the shooting of game birds in Scotland, a sport indulged in by absentee ruling English landlords – a pastime that was critiqued again in a look from the same collection, where resin antlers ripped through a draped piece of lace embroidery atop a cream silk dress. “We had to poke them through a £2,000 piece of work”, McQueen said of the ensemble. “But then it worked because it looks like she’s rammed the piece of lace with her antlers. There’s always spontaneity. You’ve got to allow for that in my shows.”
Sarabande, Spring/Summer, 2007 Photograph by CHRIS MOORE
Sarabande, Spring/Summer, 2007 Photograph by CHRIS MOORE
Backstage, Sarabande, Spring/Summer, 2007 Photograph by ANNE DENIAU
"Remember Sam Taylor-Wood’s dying fruit? Things rot… I used flowers because they die. My mood was darkly romantic at the time"
Lee Alexander McQueen
The relationship between humanity and the natural world was one the designer engaged with many times throughout his career, with McQueen would often integrating the delicate remnants of living creatures into his collections as he explored the “mechanics” of nature and its cycles of life. This was perhaps most poetically illustrated in Sarabande (Spring/Summer 2007), a collection which counted the English country garden amongst its inspirations. Sarabande’s long nude dress, embroidered with hundreds of silk and fresh flowers which fell to the floor as the model walked, was intended as an elegy to the inherent beauty found in death and decay, and the transient nature of life – McQueen cited Sam Taylor-Wood’s time-lapse videos of rotting fruit, and Marc Quinn’s frozen flower installation Garden as direct inspirations.
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