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Arty Farty Friday: McQueen and I

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This is the last Arty Farty Friday of September and I wanted to take the series of posts in another direction.

One of my graduation thesis papers was titled “Is Fashion Art?”.

To make a long story short, I summarized that, indeed it was, and when you look at collections produced by top designers, you can have no doubt.

I also included examples of how fashion and art collide, one inspiring the other, but that deserves its own post.

When I was at Fashion Design school I realised how hard it is to come up with a collection that fits trends, it sellable but original, one that is your voice but appeals to others.

It really is a terribly hard task (not to mention expensive) and as much as I enjoyed the process, I knew I’d never make fashion design my profession.

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I think it takes extraordinary talent and tailoring/construction skills to make something that is ground-breaking and beautiful.

When designing you feel like everything has already been done before and the few original ideas  you have (lego shoes anyone?) are beyond difficult to construct and make practical.

The world of fashion looks glamorous on the outside, but it really is all blood, sweat, and tears, tantrums and even the odd tiara.

The “it” designer at the time, the one all students looked up to in awe, was Alexander McQueen.

He was a visionary who combined theatricality with superb tailoring, a new voice in the stale world of fashion.

He had taken the catwalk show and had turned it into a performance.

I came across a 2011 documentary titled McQueen and I which follows the designer’s journey into the world of fashion, but which especially focuses on his muse and friend Isabella Blow.

Their relationship was both a burst of inspiration and creativity, but also one marred by depression and resentment.

Blow had an incredible eye for talent and would use her influence in the fashion world to launch new talent like McQueen or McDonald, but felt unappreciated when they’d inevitably move on.

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McQueen designed some of the most recognisable fashion pieces of our generation and I regret that the documentary doesn’t focus more on his creations, having said that we learn about his tumultuous private life and what would inspire his vision.

This is a tale of an incredibly talented and sensitive visionary who led a pace-paced life releasing 10 collections each year, but also about the pitfalls of fame and the pressure to constantly produce something that will outdo everything you’ve done before.

About AgzyM

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons". A fangirl through and through, anglophile, and admirer of beauty whereever I can find it. I love books and art, and spend too much time admiring Richard Armitage and other amazing British actors.

20 responses »

  1. I’m going to watch it first chance I get. Do you get to see Project Runway or any of the other fashion competition shows? And I totally agree that some fashion is art. And let’s not forget fabric designers – a talent and skill that is often overlooked.

    Reply
    • I LOVE Project Runway, season 8 is my favourite. Funny you should mention it, they are making a Polish version and on Thursday at 11pm I get a call from my dad who had seen the ad for the show and was (and still is) convinced I should take part. Unfortunately I’m an OK designer, I don’t sew or construct clothes and that’s not good enough to make it in the business, I don’t care about it enough to make it my profession. I certainy don’t want to take part in a program on national television where I exhibit my so so talents…
      Then again my dad wants me to get a doctorate as a Christmas present for him, so I think he’s going through a phase of a much too high opinion in his daughter’s abilities. Bless him though😉

      Reply
      • Do you think you could finish a doctorate by Christmas?
        I love fashion,too and played around with design – but I can’t ( and this is not hyberbole) sew a button on properly although I own a brand new sewing machine.

        Reply
    • I LOVE Project Runway, season 8 is my favourite. Funny you should mention it, they are making a Polish version and on Thursday at 11pm I get a call from my dad who had seen the ad for the show and was (and still is) convinced I should take part. Unfortunately I’m an OK designer, I don’t sew or construct clothes and that’s not good enough to make it in the business, I don’t care about it enough to make it my profession. I certainly don’t want to take part in a program on national television where I exhibit my so so talents…
      Then again my dad wants me to get a doctorate as a Christmas present for him, so I think he’s going through a phase of a much too high opinion in his daughter’s abilities. Bless him though😉

      Reply
  2. Curiously, throughout the years I found myself more and more interested in fashion. I agree that is also a form of art that tells a story of a person, of a culture, of a time… Personally I don’t admire any particular stylist, but I think they brought a new light and color to the our every day life.😉

    Reply
    • I did a post a while back about how art inspired fashion. I wrote on of my thesis on this topic and the combination is so unbelievably beautiful, especially the Laurent/Rothko dresses.
      https://iwanttobeapinup.wordpress.com/?s=The+Beauty+of+Art+inspired+Fashion
      I think we are slowly moving away from the notion that clothing (and I mean high fashion) must be functional or wearable and can simply be beautiful, something to feast our eyes on, much like a sculpture.

      Reply
      • I missed your previous post. What a pity. Guess I was on holidays!!! But I agree entirely with you about high fashion. I think the catwalks are a wonderful opportunity for designers to show their criativity and a more artistic work.

        Reply
  3. I am not trying to be funny here, but do people wear these fashions other than on the runway? Or do the designers make another line of toned down clothes for the people to wear? I’ve always wondered about that. Some of the things I look at and think, “What were they thinking?”

    Reply
    • That’s a very good question. Most designer appear at Fashion Week and have their fancy performance art runways as means to raise their prestige and profile but they make some of their money from ready to wear clothes, but the big bucks come from accessories, perfume, especially handbags. Most of us regular folks won’t buy a dress for 2000 USD, but a handbag that doesn’t require being produced in a variety of sizes, it still within our grasp.
      I encourage you to check out “Fashion Babylon” from the Babylon series that describes the insider perspective of a specific industry. It shows how the fashion world may well be one giant con. Designer buy vintage or of the rack high street clothing sew in their own tag and send it down the runway charging an obscene amount of money.
      I think top designer earn their dosh on the lipstick effect, so when times are bad we tend to buy one small expensive object, like perfume, as a pick me up when we need to budget in other areas. Of course they do have a clientele that can invest a fortune in expensive clothing, but I doubt it’s their bread and butter.

      Reply
  4. Tim Gunn would approve😉

    Reply
  5. Poruszający dokument, dzieki Agzym.

    Reply
  6. Interesting — didn’t know about this documentary and will put it on the list for eventually. I remember reading about McQueen’s suicide and the statement he made to friends that just before he died he was revolted by, could not look at, fashion.

    I’m always so amazed that people *don’t* realize that creating fashion is blood, sweat and tearsy — my interest in it was fostered by my mother’s belief that every woman needs to know how to sew her own clothes, thus sewing lessons from her when I was a preteen and early adolescent. I thought it was a useful skill and interesting, and I did it gladly, but it was always, always aggravating. I’m always stunned when I see Project Runway or some other show with a prospective designer who basically doesn’t know how to sew.

    Reply
    • When you don’t sew, you also have no idea about construction, so when you’re drawing out your design, you don’t know if it’s even possible. We have a saying that the paper will accept anything and I remember handing in designs of a mini collection and my teacher would just ask: how will they put it on? How will THAT stay up? All good questions🙂
      I wish I had learned to sew, although we had classes it was impossible to require the skills in such a short time that would allow for a perfect finish, so I just had a nice lady who charged a fortune who’d take my designs and translate them into reality. I know designers just “Jeff Koons” it and have a talented staff that realise a designers ideas. It’s just not for me.

      Reply
      • Wszędzie podobne problemy. Kilka lat temu miałam przemiłą klientke która sama projektowała sobie bizuterię. Niestety zawodowo zajmowała sie projektowaniem tkanin więc spedzałam kupę czasu na tłumaczeniu tej dośc zamoznej pani że nie wszystko moge wykonać..nawet za wieksze pieniądze….na zasadzie kompromisu pani projektantka przerabiała projekt a ja poświęcałm 2 tygodnie(bo to lubię) na wykonie np.broszki (przepieknej ale kompletnie dla mnie nieopłacalnej;)) Nie tylko rzemieslnik ma swoje ograniczenia ale materiał niestety również.
        Niestety takie teraz czasy że nic sie nie opłaca a ludzie wola kupować maszynową masówkę …albo po prostu chleb.

        Reply
  7. Mc Queen i ja, AgzyM.
    Na mokrym londyńskim bruku odbija się tęczowe światło neonów. Czerwień i szafir w dziwnym złotawym konturze tak ładnych ciemnych kostek ze szklistymi śladami mżawki(?). W nastrojowym chłodzie wieczoru spacerują ludzie, zaglądając lub mijając obojętnie różne mniej lub bardziej ekskluzywne wnętrza. Gdy sztuczne światła zgasną, zniknie złudna tęcza na bruku, odzierając go z tej przyjemnie kolorowej poświaty. Brudny, szary, nierówny chodnik stanie się tłem innej chwili, być może przekleństwem kogoś, kto nawet w bardzo wygodnych butach straci równowagę i ponarzeka na cholerny świat. Markowe wystawy nawet nie zostaną omiecione jakimkolwiek zainteresowaniem…
    Przeczytałam, AgzyM. Obejrzałam film. Zapamiętałam ten bruk, bo skojarzyłam z nim coś, co metaforą nie tylko życia tych dwojga wrażliwców o duszach palonych wewnętrznym ogniem, tempem życia i jakąś dziwną dla większości tęsknotą. Ptaki i motyle. Te były jakoś nocne, bo uparcie krążące w szalonym pędzie wokół sztucznych świateł własnych wielowymiarowych wizji i kaleczących obciążeń. Drapieżne też i zachłanne na wrażenia, działające w wielu przestrzeniach. Tyle czynników musi się zgrać, żeby powstało coś interesującego, jak napisałaś… Tworzenie bez żadnych wątpliwości będące sztuką, bo przynajmniej w moim odczuciu w pełni sztuce służące. Teatr mody, dosłownie własna twórcza jej wizja i chyba takież posłannictwo. Przedstawienie w sztucznych, efektownych światłach atrakcyjnej i jakoś odczłowieczonej nierzeczywistości nastawionej na metaforę. Taki syreni śpiew. Tak to wszystko jako laik odczułam i jako nie laik usłyszałam. Zachwycająca i niezwykle nastrojowo wpasowana muzyka, która czasem zupełnie skutecznie odciągała mi uwagę od słów. Cudowne kapelusze, zwłaszcza ten intensywnie czerwony z pierścieniem wąskich piór w tym samym kolorze i białe futro z kapturem, które zamiast dodać uroku kobiecie, podkreśliło bezlitośnie jej właśnie niezdrowe zmęczenie. Mistrz i Muza. Niepiękni z pięknie artystycznymi/skomplikowanymi duszami w tym świecie tworzonym z prawdziwą pasją i w prawdziwej udręce tej pasji, realizowanej z takim wielkim rozmachem. Czy moda to sztuka? Myślę, że ta na pewno, w wymiarze wielkiej sceny i wielkiej pełnej scenicznej oprawy. Widowisko, choć wolałabym, żeby i projektantom, modelom obu płci i odbiorcom dawała więcej szczęścia i praktycznej satysfakcji w postaci wygody i całych nóg nie tylko na tym scenicznym „bruku” w blaskach sztucznych, choć pięknych świateł.
    Dzięki za ten dzisiejszy post z wstawką i okazję do pomyślenia, AgzyM.

    Reply
    • Myślę że ktoś kto ma tak niesamowity talent, pasję, wizję musi się spalić. Zwykle żyjemy płomykami, ale są osoby które buchają niesamowitym ogniem który w końcu ich do końca wypala. Wrażliwośc jest elementem kluczowym przy tworzeniu sztuki, ale wyniszcza w świecie biznesu. McQueen był londyńskim “chłopakiem z Pragi” ale urodził się z wizjami, I pewnie koszmarami, które potrafił przełożyć na język mody I wybiegu. To nie ciuszki na szkieletach-modelkach, to sztuka boleśnie piękna.
      Nawiasem, watro pogrzebać w necie i poszukać zdjęć innych kapeluszy Philipa Treacy. To jak modowa jazda bez trzymanki😉

      Reply
      • Wciąż za mało wiemy o tym, co zwykło się nazywać mianem „natchnienia” czy iskry Bożej… W każdym razie są to takie momenty, w których przekraczamy stereotyp i kiedy potrafimy zaskoczyć nawet sami siebie… Właściwie wziąć klinem własny ból.
        Dzięki za te kapelusze, AgzyM.

        Reply
  8. Bit late, as I am currently in the Fatherland, but this, again, sounds very interesting, Agzy. Didn’t know that you were an ex-fashion student, btw. I will watch this once I am back home. Keep up your great suggestions.

    Reply
    • Don’t you mean Vaterland?
      BTW, although my Arty Farty posts aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think I’ll schedule posts for October too, there’s plenty of delicious documentaries that I’d like to share. I have a good one for next week. I’m going back to painting and sculptures but it’s about how even if art is privately owned sooner or later officials will get their sticky hands on it despite your wishes😦

      Reply
      • Yep, the Vaterland, aka the “Fazerland” *ggg* – I think you Arty Farty posts are brilliant. but then again, you seem to hit my interests pretty well with your posts. So I will definitely tune in for October!

        Reply

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