May 15, 2015 § 1 Comment
If Alexander McQueen’s innovative prints reveal his interest in technology, the designer’s work with tartan shows his engagement with history. Continuing our celebration of Savage Beauty at the V&A, this post looks at McQueen’s use of tartan. (See Part 1: Prints, or my roundup post here.)
The MacQueen clan tartan appears extensively in the designer’s breakthrough collection, Highland Rape (Fall 1995). The collection—which used Lochcarron tartan and lace found in Brick Lane—was a highly personal response to the violence of the Highland Clearances and fashion’s appropriation of Scottish culture (watch Tim Blanks’ show video here):
McQueen also used his family tartan at the house of Givenchy. In his second couture collection, Eclect Dissect (Givenchy haute couture Fall 1997), which was built on the idea of a mad scientist, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias for tailored pieces overlaid with black lace:
The McQueen tartan reappears the following year in Joan (Fall 1998). Named for Joan of Arc, with an opening soundtrack of burning wood and runway covered in cinders, the collection thematized martyrdom, with the McQueen tartan referencing the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots (see Constance C.R. White, Review/Fashion, and Kate Bethune’s note; full collection at firstVIEW):
McQueen also worked with other tartans. The check pattern might be manipulated to appear blurred or bleeding, or it could be overlaid or embellished as in Eclect Dissect. In The Overlook (Fall 1999)—named for the haunted, snowbound lodge built on a Native American burial ground in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)—a long, grey tailcoat was lined with tartan to match loose trousers, and an overlaid tartan jacket was paired with a balloon skirt in a large blanket check with tartan accents (full collection at firstVIEW):
McQueen’s 1960s-inspired collection, The Man Who Knew Too Much (Fall 2005), included bias-cut separates in a wool ombré check, together with a black, white, and pink check party dress covered in beaded fringe:
The Girl Who Lived in the Tree (Fall 2008), a fanciful narrative of the British Empire, had several bias-cut pieces in a black, white, and red tartan, and two coats in a grey mohair tartan for a bleeding effect:
There were several pieces in the McQueen tartan in Alexander McQueen’s Fall 2006 menswear collection, which was inspired by vampire movies Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Interview With the Vampire (1994). Vogue editor Hamish Bowles wore the appliquéd kimono-and-pants ensemble to the Costume Institute gala in 2011 (see the collection and read Tim Blanks’ review on style.com; video at AlexanderMcQueen.com):
The same season, McQueen returned to Scottish history with Widows of Culloden (Fall 2006), a romantic collection commemorating the final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. The show invitation had the title in Gaelic: Bantraich de cuil lodair (see Kate Bethune on Widows of Culloden). As in the Givenchy couture, the McQueen tartan was cut on the bias, embroidered, and trimmed with lace and tulle (click to enlarge):
For more see Jonathan Faiers, McQueen and Tartan, and Ghislaine Wood’s essay, “Clan MacQueen,” in the V&A catalogue.
Like other traditional tartans, the McQueen tartan can be ordered from Scottish textile mills in different weights and fibre contents. (It’s often listed as ‘MacQueen.’) Alexander McQueen used tartan from Lochcarron, a mill established in the mid-nineteenth century in the Scottish highlands.
As a memorial to the late designer, Scotweb owner Nick Fiddes designed a mourning version of the MacQueen clan tartan.
What would you make in the McQueen tartan?
Sourcing Tartan Fabric
- Lochcarron has an online shop; Lochcarron tartans are also available through Mackenzie Frain and other suppliers.
- My swatch is from the Scottish Tartans Authority.
- The House of Edgar’s MacQueen Modern tartan is available from the mill’s retail site, tartankilts.com.
- If you prefer ordering locally, many Scottish shops stock fabric and can special-order tartans they don’t have in stock.
May 11, 2015 § 5 Comments
As part of this blog’s celebration of Savage Beauty in London, I’ll be devoting two posts to Alexander McQueen fabrics. (See my earlier roundup post here.) First: a look at McQueen’s distinctive prints.
McQueen’s fellow Central Saint Martins student Simon Ungless, who went on to become director of the School of Fashion at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, designed the barbed hawthorn print in McQueen’s graduate collection, Jack the Ripper Stalks his Victims (Fall 1992; interview here. Oberto Gili photographed Isabella Blow in the coat for British Vogue.) Ungless also designed the swallow print in The Birds (Spring 1995):
Freelance print designer and Central Saint Martins Textiles tutor Fleet Bigwood designed fabrics for Alexander McQueen’s first three seasons. (See Fleet Bigwood: Breaking the Rules at Texprint, or the BBC’s Blast videos.) The top in this ensemble from Nihilism (Spring 1994, McQueen’s third collection) was printed using an iron filing paste that was rusted through exposure to air and salt water (see Louise Nutt on Pinterest; full collection at the Fashion Spot, or video here):
In 2002, immediately after presenting his award-winning Central Saint Martins graduate collection, Jonathan Saunders was hired to design prints for Alexander McQueen’s Spring 2003 collection, Irere. Working with designer Christopher Pearson—a member of the Alexander McQueen design team from 2001 to 2006 and a founding member of the company’s fashion print department—Saunders produced Irere’s celebrated Bird-of-Paradise prints (see the V&A on Irere):
The following year, Pearson co-designed the Alexander McQueen skull scarf with Jennefer Osterhoudt, who was head of accessories for McQueen at Givenchy and later at Alexander McQueen. The pattern is based on a skull scarf found in Camden Market:
For McQueen’s later collections, the prints were produced by a team of designers that included textile design interns who might be hired back after graduation. From 2006 to 2011, the company’s head print designer was Central Saint Martins graduate Holly Marler, who is now head of embroidery, fabric, and print design at Temperley London.
Lilly Heine, now head of print fabric development at Dries Van Noten, interned with Jonathan Saunders and later Alexander McQueen as a textiles student. (See her profiles in the Frankfurter Allgemeine [German only] and the Independent.) During her internship at Alexander McQueen, Heine designed some prints for La Dame Bleue (Spring 2008). The collection’s rainbow bird-of-paradise print appeared on several looks including the feather-collared Bird of Paradise dress—recently worn by FKA twigs to perform at the V&A’s Savage Beauty gala:
Torunn Myklebust, today a senior print designer at Givenchy, also did a textile design internship at Alexander McQueen. As an intern, Myklebust worked on prints for Natural Dis-Tinction Un-Natural Selection (Spring 2009), and she rejoined the company in late 2009. (Read an interview in Natt&Dag [Norwegian only]; see Myklebust’s tumblr.) The wood-grain digital print from the Spring 2009 collection was later used for the endpapers of Andrew Bolton’s Savage Beauty catalogue:
In her review of the Spring 2009 collection, Sarah Mower identified engineered prints as a trend out of London: “bright, multicolored allover prints, engineered to fit around jackets, leggings, and cocoon dresses—new on the Paris runway, but also part of a general trend emanating from London’s young designers.” The Spring 2009 advertising campaign, shot by Craig McDean, features a jacket and leggings in one of the collection’s crystalline digital prints:
In her Savage Beauty interview with Tim Blanks, Sarah Burton discusses McQueen’s meticulous design process when working with patterned fabrics such as prints or jacquards. From Fall 2009 on, McQueen would drape the initial design using a rough version of the fabric, with the team producing miniature, 3-D paper dolls to show the pattern placement. When a working version of the fabric was ready, he would finalize the pattern placement on a mannequin, after which the print or jacquard would be re-adjusted to match at the seams. Only then would it be sent into production. (See Andrew Bolton, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, pp. 229-30.)
Frederic Alexander, who worked as an assistant to Holly Marler and now designs for his own label, Saint Etienne, worked on prints for Alexander McQueen’s Pre-Fall 2009 and Fall 2009 collections. The Escher-inspired magpie houndstooth print recalls Simon Ungless’ swallow print:
Advances in inkjet technology enabled the thirty-six circle-engineered digital prints in Plato’s Atlantis (Spring 2010). (For further technical discussion of textiles in Plato’s Atlantis, see the Savage Beauty section of the Alexander McQueen website.) Freelance textile designer Chinsky Cheung interned at Alexander McQueen and returned to the company for several collections, including Plato’s Atlantis. In an article published in Hong Kong’s Milk magazine, she shows aspects of the design process including pattern placement:
(For more scans see Augustine Wong’s post, The Queen of the Prints.)
The Fall 2010 menswear (An Bailitheoir Cnámh – the Bone Collector) and women’s Pre-Fall 2010 collection had the same catacombs print:
The textiles in McQueen’s posthumously presented Fall 2010 collection (known as Angels and Demons) were patterned with digitally manipulated images drawn from early religious painting and sculpture. (See Dazed Digital and the V&A on the collection.) Some of the patterns were not prints but jacquards, while the reworked Old Master prints looked back to pieces like the Fall 1997 Campin crucifixion-printed jacket:
For more on digital prints, see the webpage for the Phoenix Art Museum’s 2013 exhibit, Digital Print Fashion (more in Corbin Chamberlin, “Phoenix Art Museum Embraces New Technology with ‘Digital Print Fashion’ Exhibit“). If you’re interested in designing your own digital prints, Kathryn Brenne recently wrote a primer for Vogue Patterns magazine’s February/March 2015 issue, and textbook on the subject, Digital Textile Design (Laurence King, 2nd ed. 2012).
With thanks to Kate Bethune.
Next: Alexander McQueen and tartan.
March 17, 2015 § 5 Comments
The London incarnation of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty has just opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum. (See British Vogue on the additions to the Costume Institute show.) Accompanying the exhibition is a full calendar of events, including a two-day conference in early June. The exhibition catalogue by Claire Wilcox is available in hardcover and paperback from the V&A, with a North American edition to be published by Abrams in May.
Several London galleries are hosting related exhibitions. At Proud Galleries, McQueen: Backstage – The Early Shows by Gary Wallis presents Wallis’ behind-the-scenes photographs from McQueen’s early career (to April 5, 2015; book). Tate Britain’s Nick Waplington/Alexander McQueen: Working Process brings together Nick Waplington’s photographs of The Horn of Plenty (FW 2009), recently published in his 2013 book (to May 17, 2015). At the Gallery at Foyles, Inferno: Alexander McQueen – Photographs by Kent Baker will present backstage photographs from Dante (FW 1996) (March 20 to May 3; book). And next month, London College of Fashion’s Fashion Space Gallery will host Warpaint: Alexander McQueen and Make-Up (April 30 to August 7, 2015).
To celebrate the opening of the London retrospective, here’s a roundup of my posts on sewing patterns by Alexander McQueen, both for Givenchy and his own label:
- Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 1 (1997 collections)
- Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 2 (1998 collections)
- Alexander McQueen for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns, Part 3 (1999 collections)
- Free Designer Pattern: Alexander McQueen kimono jacket
- Vogue 2248 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy
- Year of the Snake: Vogue 2086 by Alexander McQueen for Givenchy, Part 1
February 17, 2015 § 1 Comment
This month Gareth Pugh celebrates the 10-year anniversary of his label. SHOWstudio is marking the anniversary—and Pugh’s return to London Fashion Week—with an editorial project, Gareth Pugh: 10 Years, and Melissa’s London flagship is hosting a retrospective exhibition of the designer’s work. (See Samantha Conti, “Gareth Pugh Sets London Retrospective.”)
SHOWstudio’s Gareth Pugh Design Download is a pattern for the striped balloon from the designer’s 2003 Central Saint Martins graduation collection. According to the site’s original notes, “Rather than submitting a traditional garment pattern to the design_download series, Gareth Pugh chose to contribute a pattern for a balloon which he had previously created. The bold, red and white striped beach-ball fabric balloons are, like much of Pugh’s designs, inspired by shape, proportion and process.”
As Sarah Mower remarked in her review of the designer’s London Fashion Week debut (Fall 2006 RTW), “Pugh has a thing about balloons.” The red and white version was a recurring motif in his graduation collection and typifies his playful, experimental approach to fashion design.
(Click the above image for more runway looks from this collection.)
Nicola Formichetti, then senior fashion editor at Dazed & Confused, put one of Pugh’s balloon looks on the cover of the magazine:
Download the balloon pattern (7 pieces)
Fabric requirements: approx. 1 meter (1 yd 4″) each of fabric and contrast fabric.
Recommended fabrics: Non-stretch fabrics with a sheen. The originals were made in a thick, non-stretch acetate satin.
Notions: 18” (45 cm) invisible zipper to match contrast fabric, 1 large latex balloon.
Notes: includes 1 cm (approx. 3/8″) seam allowance. The pattern is laid out on A3 sheets, so copy shop printing is recommended.
See the SHOWstudio submissions gallery here.
January 12, 2015 § 3 Comments
Today John Galliano presented his first collection as creative director at Maison Martin Margiela: the Spring/Summer 2015 couture. It was the first time Margiela showed in London; the collection will also be viewable by appointment during Paris couture week. (See Suzy Menkes, “Galliano for Maison Martin Margiela” and Melanie Rickie, “John Galliano: penitent return of an enfant terrible.”)
The show comes four years after Galliano’s last runway presentation. It’s been nineteen years since his first couture collection, for the house of Givenchy in January, 1996.
To celebrate the designer’s return, here’s a roundup of my posts on sewing patterns by John Galliano, both for Givenchy and his own label:
- John Galliano for Givenchy: Vogue Patterns
- A Fourth Givenchy Pattern by Galliano
- Free Designer Pattern: John Galliano Jacket
June 13, 2014 § 7 Comments
When I first started collecting sewing patterns, Naomi was baffled. She couldn’t understand my interest when the styling on modern pattern envelopes was bland or worse. This new, occasional series looks at designer patterns that fail to convey the strengths of the original—not as an end in itself, but in the hope of provoking reflection and discussion of the frequent disparity between designer fashion and the licensed versions offered to home sewers.
(You can see an earlier discussion in the comments on my Alber Elbaz post.)
Launching the series is Vogue 2893, a top and skirt pattern by Donna Karan from 2006. The off-the-shoulder, back-laced ensemble is drawn from Karan’s Spring/Summer 2005 collection, and was the centrepiece of the Peter Lindbergh advertising campaign starring Erin Wasson.
The look was even chosen to open the Spring 2005 runway presentation. The second photo shows the top’s contrast mesh inserts, elasticized shoulders, and decorative zigzag stitching detail:
Now consider the pattern envelope:
The envelope replaces the original’s bared shoulders, open back, and slight flare at the hips with a much higher décolletage and tightly laced back. The result is a more covered-up, middle-of-the-road, body-con look that lacks the original’s confidence and wit.
What do you think? Did Vogue Patterns assume the original styling wouldn’t appeal to their customers?
January 9, 2014 § 2 Comments
5. Anna Sui, Spring/Summer 1999 collection
Sui’s Spring 1999 collection was inspired by American sportswear designer Claire McCardell. Nylon dresses invoked McCardell’s functionalism, while denim pieces developed the Americana theme. Further New World references ranged from Mexican clothing, Día de los Muertos handicrafts, and Haitian voodoo, to glam rock and Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949). (Browse the full collection at firstVIEW.)
Vogue 2305 is a pattern for two dresses with gathering details. View A is sleeveless, with a raised, drawstring waist and scarf collar; view B has a mock-wrap bodice, off-the-shoulder puffed sleeves, and a midriff cutout above the flared skirt:
Kirsten Owen and Giselle Bündchen modelled the dresses on the runway:
6. Anna Sui, Spring/Summer 2001 collection
One of the main inspirations for the Spring 2001 collection was the Mudd Club, a locus for New York’s cultural underground in the late 1970s and early 1980s. An Edo Bertoglio polaroid of Mudd Club co-founder Anya Phillips in her blue, lace-up dress was a reference for some of the pieces. (As well as being an independent fashion designer, Phillips was art director at Fiorucci; see Tim Blanks, “Mudd Quake.”) As Andrew Bolton notes, even the collection’s less overtly ’80s designs reflected Sui’s “Mudd Club thrift-shop punk aesthetic.” (See the full collection at style.com.)
Vogue 2551 is a pattern for two LBDs for stretch knits. The one-shouldered view A is cut on the bias, with the right skirt front extending into a twisted hip drape; view B has pleats at the right shoulder and a left side slit:
Here are the two dresses on the runway. The one-shouldered jersey dress was modelled by Hannelore Knuts:
These two Edo Bertoglio portraits from the Mudd Club era show Anya Phillips, in her blue dress, and Anna Sui (photos via New York Magazine; the Sui portrait was first published in Vogue Italia):
(More Mudd Club-era photos may be found in Maripolarama [powerHouse Books, 2005], which contains a recollection by Anna Sui.)
7. Anna Sui, Fall/Winter 2001 collection
Sui’s inspiration for her Fall 2001 collection was another legendary New York venue: the Factory, Andy Warhol’s studio. In reference to Warhol’s Factory parties and ideas about celebrity, the runway presentation incorporated a screening of a black-and-white, short film, commissioned from Zoe Cassavetes, of Sui’s famous friends attending a cocktail party. Other ’60s inspirations included “Baby” Jane Holzer’s eclectic wardrobe, the work of Rudi Gernreich, and William Klein’s film Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (1966). (Full collection at style.com.)
Vogue 2640 is a pattern for a jacket and dress with contrast binding, plus a matching scarf:
Vogue 2640’s striped jacket and dress ensemble was the spring collection’s opening look:
The collection’s stripes are a reference to a particularly Op-art scene in Klein’s Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?:
8. Anna Sui, Fall/Winter 2003 collection
The concept of art deco skiwear inspired the Fall 2003 collection, which Sui designed during another cold winter (2002-3) when urban skiwear was dominating New York street fashion. In the colours, motifs, and especially the geometric patterns of art deco, as well as the distinctive, tubular 1920s silhouette, the collection chanelled the flapper’s modernity, but with a dose of fun fur. (Full collection on style.com.)
Vogue 7950 or 639 is a pattern for five different faux fur pieces: a jacket, vest, hat, mittens, and legwarmers. The jacket is cropped, with elbow-length sleeves, while the vest has an exposed zipper. The hat has a contrast scarf that could be made to match the mittens’ contrast palms and cuffs, and the legwarmers have elasticized leg bands:
Here are some detail shots of the hat and legwarmers on the runway:
L’Officiel’s collection image shows the ’20s ski theme, complete with Anna Sui-branded snowboard (click to enlarge):
Anna Sui’s work wears its postmodernity lightly. The designer’s myriad references, fantastical narratives, and hybrid concepts mean her collections keep evolving while staying true to a bohemian, thrift-store aesthetic. I’m already planning to make several of these (one of the hazards of research). Which are your favourites?