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Inside the new Alexander McQueen exhibition Roses

The new installation at the Old Bond Street flagship store celebrates the symbolism of flowers and supports new fashion talent

Alexander McQueen celebrates the power of the flower with the opening of a new exhibition, Roses, at its Old Bond Street store, detailing the creative journey behind the house’s iconic wildflower pieces. 

The installation – which is open to the public and is free – centres around floral symbolism and features a selection of McQueen dresses spanning more than a decade, all of them inspired by the form and energy of flowers.

The highlight of Roses is two finale pieces. The first is a dress Lee Alexander McQueen constructed with fresh flowers, which made such an extraordinary impact when it debuted at the Paris Cirque d’Hiver for the finale of the Sarabande show for Spring/Summer 2007. This stands amongst other exquisite pieces which have flowers and petals between layers of tulle or spilling from necklines and cuffs, from the same collection.

© Tim Beddow

The second show-stopper is a swirling red Rose dress by Creative Director Sarah Burton, which walked as the finale of the Autumn/Winter 2019 show. Alongside the dress, a display of work-in-progress and background research is arranged on a studio cutting table at which practical masterclasses and interactive discussions are planned to take place.

Further juxtapositions of dresses with English roses, camellias, exploded carnation-shapes, garden flowers and bees unfold throughout the space, alongside sketches and swatches of material, and visitors are invited to pick up the labels on every mannequin to read the composition of each dress.

Alexander McQueen Roses, Red Rose Dress
© Tim Beddow

A video of Sarah Burton explains how flower iconography has been used by the atelier, detailing sources of inspiration including team field trips to gardens, historical houses and museums, the crucial hands-on parts played by the fabric and embroidery teams, right down to the collaboration of students on placement.

The exhibition is part of an extensive scheme launched by Sarah, who received the Trailblazer Award at this year’s British Fashion Awards, to make the Alexander McQueen studio real, tangible and accessible to all.

Through a programme of thematic installations, and guided tours made available to every visitor, Sarah hopes to open up understanding into the thinking, research and expertise of the atelier, and the links between the archive and the unique working processes at Alexander McQueen.

Alexander McQueen Roses Floral
© Tim Beddow

The first installation, Unlocking Stories, which took place earlier this year, gave an insight into the creative journey of five final pieces in the Spring/Summer 2019 collection, with records of fittings, samples of works in progress, primary research and archive Lee Alexander McQueen on display.

Throughout 2020, the McQueen studio will also be running study days, workshops, talks and live design briefs, offering students the opportunity to tap into the expertise and skill of the team, and enhance their knowledge of design and craft. This was kicked off with a masterclass on pattern making and couture techniques given to students by Sarah and Head of Atelier Judy Halil.

Alexander McQueen Roses

“I want to show how community is at the heart of everything we do at Alexander McQueen,” said Burton. “Right from the beginning, when I started with Lee, from Central Saint Martins in 1996, and there were only a few of us, he gave everyone – the interns as well – hands-on experience in making things.”

Roses is now open during store hours at 27 Old Bond Street, Mayfair, W1

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