Alexander McQueen and Savage Beauty: An Overview

Lee Alexander McQueen was like the other high-end designers in some ways, but estranged from them in others.

Google the top designers in the world – you’ll notice that the first Alexander McQueen photos which pop up are a bit darker and quirkier in aesthetic than what you’d find with the vast majority of other designers.02-HornofPlenty-AnneDeniau.jpg

As it so happens, this is a blog that cherishes imaginative and dark twists more than anything, and so anything Alexander McQueen always has a home here.

That brings us to the topic of this entry: Lee Alexander McQueen’s famed Savage Beauty exhibition.


Savage Beauty belongs in such a brilliant niche of high fashion expression that it has been dubbed nothing short of art.  In fact, it was even shown in the Metropolitan Museum of Art back in 2011 – and it’s still highly relevant six years later.

Its ever-continuing relevance is not present only because of the striking demeanor of the collection, but because the most compelling art is timeless.  Lee Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty easily qualifies as grand artistic expression.

That’s how it perseveres.

Since Savage Beauty is fashion artistry, the Met’s Anna Wintour Costume Center took charge of the exhibit with Andrew Bolton and Harold Koda as the curators.  And, needless to say, the exhibit was an unforgettable hit.

This blog will revisit Lee Alexander McQueen’s Savage Beauty later on and in more detail, but for now, let’s get started with a brief overview.

The exhibit was divided into the following six galleries:

  1. “The Romantic Mind”

This gallery contained some of McQueen’s most aboriginal works from the 1990s.  The featured pieces are true McQueen classics and celebrate the stunning potential of a liberated mind.

  1. “Romantic Gothic and the Cabinet of Curiosities”

This was where McQueen’s [Victorian] Gothic-themed work was placed in the exhibit.  In exploring these ideas and aesthetics, McQueen’s affinity for history was highly apparent in his Gothic works.

In this exhibit was also McQueen’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which demonstrated his celebration of the extraordinary in a world seemingly bound by nature.

  1. “Romantic Nationalism”

A British fashion designer, McQueen sought to explore the Scottish and British identity through his work.  Along with exploring his own national identity, he also integrated cultural awareness into these creations.

  1. “Romantic Exoticism”

Branching out from his origins, this was McQueen’s exploration of foreign themes and how they fit into his fashion creations.  In these creation studies, he centered his focus on the non-western stimuli that were playing a hand in his designs.

  1. “Romantic Primitivism”

Alexander McQueen did not exclude nature from his designs.  This was the area of the exhibit which illuminated McQueen’s experiments with Earth and organic materials as they pertain to fashion.

  1. “Romantic Naturalism”

Taking the natural world a step further than materials alone, this part of the project combined the natural world into the dominance of technology.  Here, McQueen demonstrated the harmony between man and nature.


This project embraces the very reason why when I observe the best fashion, I find myself absorbing art.  That is what high fashion does.

Sarah Burton stated, “Lee was a genius and a true visionary who pushed boundaries, challenged and inspired.  He believed in creativity and innovation.”

And that is exactly what transforms fashion into art.  Fashion isn’t just clothing.  It isn’t just purses or makeup or jewelry.

Fashion is expression.  It’s a way of living, it’s a way of breathing – it’s a way of being.  That is precisely what Lee Alexander McQueen epitomized in Savage Beauty and throughout his life’s work.


{The images used in this entry belong to Alexander McQueen.  The featured photograph was taken by Chris Moore, and the three photographs within the entry itself were taken by Anne Deniau}.


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