“I see beauty in the grotesque.” -Alexander McQueen
In case you were wondering, this is the driving inspiration behind one of the most influential designers of the past couple of decades. A strange pairing of words, no?
The first time I saw the Alexander McQueen “Armadillo” shoe I was completely aghast. While his designs were always avant-garde, this bizarre foot contraption seemed like a farce. It resembled a cross between a lobster claw and an armadillo. Not really what you’d think of as the “it-shoe” of the season, even for the most daring of fashionistas.
After going to see the McQueen ‘Savage Beauty’ exhibition at the Met, I was mesmerized by the designer’s vision of beauty. Rows of body forms were dressed in wooden skirts and leather sling-tops, jackets with crocodile heads placed on top of the shoulders, and there was even a giant blob of a coat made from synthetic fur. The collection was provocative, bizarre, dark, and at times disturbing. But it was also undeniably disarming with its breathtaking detail and craftsmanship. A couple of dresses, aptly named “Shipwrecked,” were made of shredded chiffon and organza silk and resembled tangled sheets of seaweed and white foam. And yet, the shredded fabric was meticulously draped, and despite its depiction of “disaster at sea” (not the kind of look one typically goes for), it was beautifully poetic.
As bizarre as they were, there is no question in my mind that these creations came from a place of pure passion and inspiration – even if that inspiration came from what McQueen himself called, “the grotesque.” He brought together strange textures, and distorted and exaggerated the female shape with his designs– yet his creations are so clearly deliberated and born from a vision, and who’s to deny the beauty in that? Plenty of people can’t even be bothered to create anything at all.
In advertising, it reminds me that we need to keep our eyes and minds open when we think about our work, and how we can bring beauty to life in unconventional ways. I have a feeling that hairy coats and armadillo shoes probably aren’t what our Noxzema target audience is looking for, but then again, you never know. After all, I stood next to a girl at the exhibition who claimed she wanted to be buried in a dress made of metal wires and torn leather.