The swirling red rose dress that walked as the finale of the autumn/winter 2019 Alexander McQueen show by Sarah Burton and the poetic dress Lee Alexander McQueen constructed with fresh flowers for the end of the Sarabande spring/summer 2007 show, marks the centrepiece of a new exhibition Alexander McQueen are showcasing on the second floor of the brand’s London flagship, which is dedicated to experiences.
The ‘Roses’ exhibition explores the fashion houses’ ongoing love affair with the symbolism of flowers, with the red rose dress standing in a cluster of materials which document how its petal-like 3D form came to life, while the Sarabande dress once filled with fresh flowers, is featured alongside pieces which have flowers and petals trapped between layers of tulle or spilling from necklines and cuffs from the same spring/summer 2007 collection.
The dresses lead to a walk-in glass cylinder, where inside the original video of the flower dress making its entrance on the stage at the Paris Cirque d’Hiver show is playing.
This is an exhibition that is much more than just about incredible fashion, it is also dedicated to blossoming new talent, with samples of work-in-progress and background research arranged around a studio cutting table, at which practical masterclasses and interactive discussions with students will take place.
While other elements include a video following head of atelier Judy Halil as she makes the dress itself, a step-by-step demonstration to inspire, and visitors to the exhibition are also invited to pick up the labels on each mannequin to learn the composition of each dress.
Further juxtapositions of dresses with English roses, camellias, exploded carnation-shapes, garden flowers and bees unfold throughout the space.
Sarah Burton shares memories behind each collection, from team field-trips to gardens, historical houses, and museums, to the crucial hands-on parts played by the fabric and embroidery teams, right down to the collaboration of students on placement in a typographical narrative.
The exhibition also features a facsimile of the original Sarabande show invitation and a poster for Roses celebrate the installation.
This is the second installation within the new Alexander McQueen flagship, with the purpose of bringing alive the links between the archive and the unique working processes of the house, and allowing universities, colleges and schools and teachers around the country to enhance their knowledge of design and craft with the help of members of the McQueen studio.
The first installation, Unlocking Stories, framed the background of the creative direction which went into five pieces in the spring/summer 2019 collection, featuring records of fittings, samples of work in progress, field trips and primary research related to Lee Alexander McQueen pieces which Sarah Burton brought from the archive to restudy.
‘Roses’ exhibition now open at Alexander McQueen 27 Old Bond Street, London.
Images: courtesy of Alexander McQueen