I’ve been an admirer of some of McQueen’s designs for a long time. They’re audacious and challenging. They often combine an element of the familiar with a leap into the wildly alien. I’m not hugely well-grounded in haute couture, and of course I can hardly fail to have problems with the fashion industry, but McQueen’s creations are arresting. On the Met’s blog, the photographs of objects from the wildly popular exhibit are accompanied by quotes from experts and from McQueen himself.
“My designing is done mainly during fittings. I change the cut.”
“I spent a long time learning how to construct clothes, which is important to do before you can deconstruct them.”
These quotes really struck me, because something I’d thought as I looked at the photographs was that you can’t easily imagine a fashion drawing of these pieces. You often see a fashion drawing which is the purest expression of a concept, and then the realized item, which is just a little descended, a little off. These creations of McQueen’s, love them or hate them, are the real object, the thing itself.
You’d be hard pressed to express the essence of this mossy dress as a drawing, or communicate with a sketch the complexity that defines this dress designed from its fabric. And I think part of the power of these things, whether or not you like them as clothing, is that they were made with deep knowledge.
Part of any artist’s craft is having something to say, but another part of it is deep knowledge, passion and application, immersion. Here was someone who knew the shape of his medium intimately, and that mastery shows in the product: we should all aspire to that, as artists, even if we shy away from other aspects of McQueen’s legacy.
I was moved once by a craft talk by one of the poetry profs at my grad school, where she talked about memorizing poetry to learn rhythm. When I sum up that talk, the wisdom she conveyed, I think of it as ‘eat poetry so that your body is made of it’. You are what you eat, right? Eat words, eat art, eat poetry and prose — think about it, be aware of it, be a mindful mouth — and you can have that knowledge and love in every sinew. You’ll still be you, just made of your art. That’s what I aspire to: to be a story elemental with bones made of words.
What are you taking in that you want to keep? Out of what are you making yourself?
Photographs ©Sølve Sundsbø from the Met blog