Under creative director Sarah Burton, Alexander McQueen has become a brand uniquely dedicated to sharing the physical process of making extraordinary clothes. The top floor of the brand's London flagship, on Old Bond Street, is outfitted with a space dedicated to exploring the materials and stories that go into the "work in process," as its website says.
Alexander McQueen’s most recent project, debuting in the Old Bond Street store this week, is entitled just that: PROCESS. Acting as the space’s latest avant-garde installation, and the debut of the Autumn/Winter 2022 pre-collection, PROCESS granted twelve international artists, from Chilean based sculptor Marcela Correa to Boston photographer Jackie Nickerson, access to the clothes, inviting them to illustrate their “individual working practices inspired by the collection,” as the show notes describe it.
Each artist was asked to select one look from the collection, and respond by engaging with their preferred artistic medium, offering a new and at times conceptual iteration of the original McQueen look. The concentrations of these artists include abstract canvases, detailed textiles, and meticulous ceramics.
One example of the mixed-media developed as part of PROCESS is a beautiful dress from Chinese artist and activist Bingyi; paying homage to a McQueen dress made from paper, Bingyi created “The Wedding Dress that Takes OFF Itself,” another paper dress that leaves the bride in only the “underwear” of the dress at the end of the aisle. The corresponding men’s suit is calligraphed with a love note for the bride.
Whereas many collaborations between artists and designers involve them creating alongside each other, Burton gave the chosen artists a freer, even more innovative approach by designing the collection and inviting a response. The artists, Burton said in the press release, are “creating bold and thought-provoking conversations with their works.”
The collection itself is a balance of sleek suits and shoulder pads, complimenting edgy dresses and buckle-heavy bustiers. The color palette is also unpredictable; some pieces spotlight a neutral black and white scheme, while others highlight occasional pops of vibrant pastels, representing a hybrid of traditional and modern design. Possibly knowing that this collection would serve as a prompt for other artists stirred inspiration within Burton, as well.
In one partnership, textile artist Ann Cathrin November Høibo’s work is inspired by Look 27 of the collection, described in the notes as "an off-the-shoulder corset dress with bow drape detailing and drape sleeves in crushed apricot poly faille.” Using a similar colorway as the dress, Høibo applies the soft structure and color palette of this look to her weaving expertise.
American model and photographer Guinevere van Seenus, another featured artist of PROCESS, takes on her own interpretation of Look 07, “a strapless corset dress in crushed silver poly faille,” by focusing on the metallic element of the dress. Perhaps the beauty in Seenus’s work lies in its ambiguity; although the heart of the piece is a photograph, the 3D element, sculpture-esque pose, and vintage tone leaves viewers longing for more.
The London show debuts simultaneously to the fashion industry and the public, so that store visitors and editors alike can absorb in these myriad of perspectives expressed through art. The creative processes highlighted in this collaboration will now flourish through the eyes of countless spectators. The show will be on view by appointment this summer, and you can explore it digitally here.