Iconic British fashion house Alexander McQueen has long understood the value of drawing connections between different creative fields, dating back to the endlessly inventive work of the brand’s late founder. That mantle has been taken up by creative director Sarah Burton, who since taking the helm has launched a number of projects that blur the lines between art and fashion. This summer, the brand’s Mayfair flagship is welcoming the next exciting project – Process, an immersive art exhibition comprising works by 12 female artists tapped by Burton to respond directly to the Pre Autumn/ Winter 2022 womenswear collection.
At its core, Process, the fashion-meets-art exhibition and accompanying zine, explores the power of different mediums and the creative dialogue that can take place between them. The artists approached by Burton work across ceramics, photography, painting and sculpture, with each finding a new lens through which to interpret and reimagine the bold designs. Post-pandemic, the result is a brilliant celebration of creativity and collaboration.
The project also serves to create a platform for emerging female artists, a cause that was close to McQueen’s own heart — in 2006, the designer established Sarabande, a charitable foundation focused on supporting young creatives, which to this day nurtures talents from across the creative fields, spanning fashion design, visual arts and more. For Process, Burton approached women artists from around the world, sending them early images of the collection and asking them to select any items to use as a starting point for their work of art. The final pieces are varied in both medium and message, moving from the emotional to the humorous, with each work displayed alongside the design it’s responding to.
On a pedestal next to a strikingly sculptural yellow corseted gown sit miniatures by Chilean sculptor Marcela Correa. The freeform, hand-crafted figures see a version of the yellow dress modelled by papier-mache dolls with collaged faces cut from fashion magazines. Simultaneously playful and evocative, the sculptures conjure ideas of broken memories. Further sculptures appear in an alcove next to a graphic blue and black suit. Rumours by Judas Companion — an alumni of the Sarabande Foundation — comprises a series of eight sculptures made from a mix of concrete ceramic, yarn and embroidery. Inspired by their interest in metamorphosis, each one incorporates the blue of the graffiti-print suit and transforms it into an emotional, dramatic figure.
The colours of the McQueen designs are picked up by a number of the other featured artists — a three-dimensional tapestry by Ann Cathrin November Høibo weaves in the rosy peach tone of a corseted gown, and Jennie Jieun Lee ‘Wang’ sculpture is glazed in a deep crimson that echoes a red leather dress.
A standout piece of the project is a series of polaroids by Guinevere Van Seenus, a model and photographer who has walked in McQueen runway shows for decades, inspired by a silver foil-effect strapless dress. The self-portrait black-and-white images see Van Seenus in a crushed version of the gown with her face masked by strings of fairy lights, exploring ideas of beauty and perfection, particularly within the fashion realm. The silver dress also appears in a stop-motion film, Some Walls Are Not Political, by Brazilian artist Cristina De Middel. Intrigued by the 1950s-silhouette of the dress, De Middel used her work to explore the concept of the housewife and how it’s tied to ideas of control and limitation.
These artworks will remain in the Mayfair flagship for several weeks, with the exhibition potentially then travelling to other McQueen outposts. The project has also been permanently memorialised with a special 160-page zine, which explores the artworks in more intimate detail and presents them alongside striking lookbook images of the clothes.
27 Old Bond Street, Mayfair, London W1S 4QE; alexandermcqueen.com