Milan Fashion Week: Alexander McQueen piles on the lovely bones
Reporting from Milan -- Alexander McQueen's Fall/Winter 2010 men's collection plumbed some of the same icy depths as his Spring/Summer 2010 women's collection, referencing the pace of technological change, melting polar ice caps and other seismic cultural shifts.
McQueen called it "An bailitheoir cnámh," (a Gaelic phrase that means "the bone collector") and based the collection on the lives of the seafaring folk who dwell in the harsh conditions near the North and South poles -- the ends of the earth.
The result was trompe l'oeil ice-print shirts, melting-ice jacquards on wool-silk suits and water-droplet jacquards on leather. Mohair suits, leather parkas, bags and gloves were printed to look like they'd been made from fur.
McQueen's signature love of skulls was in evidence, manifesting itself in a repeating photo-realistic print pattern that evoked the neatly stacked piles of bones found in underground catacombs. That same print was used to paper the floor and some of the pillars in the venue, which heightened the macabre feeling.
But the main recurring motif was twisted interconnectedness, through Celtic knot patterns and chain-mail prints on felt, cashmere and leather coats, a pattern that extended into footwear and bags as well.
Despite citing the rugged knitwear of the hardy fishermen as inspiration for the collection, there was only one actual chunky cable-knit sweater to grace the runway, a voluminous gray knitwear piece with a detachable fur-trimmed explorer hood.
But it was enough -- especially when one takes into account the legendary origins of the cable-knit designs, and the immense cable-knit skull and crossbones across the torso. Apparently, the story goes, back in the day, each fisherman would have a unique design to his sweater so that when bodies that had been swept out to sea later washed ashore unrecognizable, they could be returned to their families for proper burial. (So remember, dead men tell no tales, but their clothes speak volumes.)
The repetition of pattern, along with the predominantly gray-black color palette and rounded shoulder line on some shirts and jackets, gave some of the models a vaguely reptilian look, like deadly hooded cobras.
After the show, some attendees could be heard kvetching that the show wasn't up to McQueen's usual production values, but I disagree. Like a lot of what was on the Milan men's runway this week, McQueen's Fall/Winter collection was delivered in perhaps a more subdued manner than in the past (last season --- which was shown in a presentation format -- included a looping short film of a man wandering around an abandoned insane asylum and smearing the walls with his own excrement), but as a showcase for his considerable talents and technical abilities, it got the point across.
No bones about it.
-- Adam Tschorn
Photos: At top, looks from the Alexander McQueen men's Fall/Winter 2010 runway collection, shown on Jan. 18, 2010, during Milan Fashion Week. Center, close-up detail of a catacomb-inspired print that appeared on suits, shoes and the floor of the venue (click to enlarge). Bottom, close-up detail of a pant leg and shoe bearing a looping chain-link print, part of the collection's recurring motif of interconnectedness. Credit: Peter Stigter / For the Los Angeles Times