Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fetish Inspiration - Alexander McQueen

I started looking seriously at high fashion designers a couple of years ago, in order to undestand more about the fashion world. I was particularly interested in the extreme styles and the fetish influences to be found there. It seemed to me like the most fetishistic clothing you could possibly see in public would be found in high-fashion magazines, and on the runways of the world's top designers. One standout designer for me was a gentleman from London named Alexander (Lee) McQueen.
His signature style was extreme, baroque and theatrical to the highest degree. And completely sexual and sensual to me as well. There was something raw and primal about McQueen's work, and I often found references to other things and great depth in his designs and shows. His bird outfit seemed to take the transformative power of clothing to the furthest possible degree. I sensed a link to owl mask in the story of "O". Could you imagine showing up at a party in this:
He was known for his expertise in tailoring, and cut many of his own patterns. Most designers have others complete this task, but because of his experience and skill as an apprentice on Savile Row, he had the technical chops to do it himself. His talent can be seen in the cut and incredible fit of his garments. His work in leather just blows me away.
His work in leather ran the gamut, from smooth, almost scuba-inspired looks to quilted, puffy sculptural treatments.
McQueen often flirted with outright sexual symbolism, such as the studs running down the back of these boots (and all the way off the heel)! These are fetish to the nth degree, everything heightened and taken to the extreme.
The shoes he made for spring 2010 are the closest thing to ballet boots I have ever seen on a runway. The prominent ankle strap and rings just reinforce the visual fact that these are bondage bags for your feet. We all know that women suffer for fashion, and high heels kill your feet and keep you from walking right. How many shoes can transform you into another type of creature altogether?
I know that some may find the imagery ridiculous, but for me there is metaphorical weight and heft in his work. The sense of tragedy and drama, caged birds yearning for escape. Don't we all want to be posessed by our lovers in a way? Aren't we all trying to escape?
This striking design was made of metal mesh, with a complete coverage hood integrated into the vest. I couldn't find a still, so this is a screen cap. She's a modern day knight in shining armor. Concealed and revealed, encased.
One season he showed models dressed in what looked like orthapedic braces or cervical collars. Clothing shaping and forming us, restraining and holding us upright. We're all patients in need of help. Don't you feel sorry for her? Isn't all clothing a type of restraint? Bound by beauty...
For fall 2007, McQueen even created full-body molded leather pieces that were just incredible.
The sad epilogue is that only about a year after I discovered McQueen's work, he committed suicide. People say he was distraught over the recent death of his mother, as well as the suicide of his close friend and supporter Isabella Blow the previous year. His work to me was just getting better, and he seemed to be at the peak of his creative powers. It's just a tragic loss for the fashion world, and I am sorry that his light is gone from the world. I really miss seeing what he would have done next.

Hopefully this inspires you to see more of McQueen's work. His dark, baroque, shocking, fetishistic and fantastic lost world.


  1. Hi Christopher. My goodness! I had no idea he designed and produced those pieces in the last two photos! They certainly look as if they were heavily influenced by BDSM and were intended to (at least) signify restraint.

    (might it inspire you to produce something similar...?)

    I had certainly seen a lot of his more conventional work and admired it also but you have shone a new light on him completely.

    And...yes, it was very sad to hear of his the age of 40 I believe? It was quite big news over here as he was a home-grown talent who took on the continental European designers at their own game and triumphed. He was at the height of his powers with the fashion world at his feet. I cannot understand the motivation for such a final and extreme act: suffice to say that you would not wish anyone to feel so bad that they might consider that!

  2. Dear Johannsen,

    Yeah, some of his work was drawing heavily from the world of S&m, as have other top designers and fashion houses: John Paul Gaultier, Maison Martin Margiela, Versace - I should do another post showing some of their most fetish-y designs of the recent past...

    To me it speaks of the universal erotic power of certain types of clothing and materials - designers like to dip into that well.

    I have read a lot of comments about why Lee might have taken his own life, and it seems like he was in a really bad place. A lot of artists feel passionately and deeply about things they go through, and I think the death of his mother, and the ongoing pressure to produce and innovate culminated in a depression that he just couldn't find a way out of.

    To me he joins Van Gogh, Egon Schiele, Toulouse-Lautrec: all artists with a singular vision that died at or below the age of 40.

  3. Clothing... especially female clothing is INTENDED on some level to induce sexual desire in males. Bondage and fetish acknowledge this unabashedly.

    Designers who have not have their head in the sand understand the sexual nature of clothing and are aware of the "in your face" of aspect of fetish attire.

    I'm not sure why they present it in collections to the vanilla world??? I don't object... and they bring enormous design sensibility to this... but we now have design trained persons working in the fetish industry and doing some beautiful work.. FOR fetishists.

    I think it's mostly to shock and get attention and provide some cover for people who want to dress pervy in polite society. The only ones who can provide that sort of cover... is the "straight" fashion world.

    just sayin'