October 2009 – Plato’s Altantis by Alexander McQueen

Alexander McQueen’s runway show was always a coveted highlight of Paris Fashion Week. Staged on October 6, 2009, the Spring / Summer 2010 collection would be his last, and it was one of the most phenomenal fashion collections and theatrical shows I’ve ever witnessed.

mcqueen-runway

The atmosphere in the sports stadium on the outskirts of Paris was electric. Two giant cameras on cranes swooped back and forth over the runway preparing to live stream the show (an innovative concept in 2009). The first models walked out perched in the most incredible footwear – McQueen’s now famous Armadillo shoe. The audience was in rapture, and also terrified that one of the bird-like models would trip and snap a leg.

The collection was titled “Plato’s Atlantis” – McQueen was inspired by the island that sank into the sea. He was an avid scuba diver, and his vision of the future saw the evolution of humans as they moved from Earth into water to survive. The first outfits, shown above, were in earthy colours and reptile patterns. As the show progressed, the pieces evolved into watery tones and jellyfish prints.

mcqueen-solo

I’ll never forget the show – there were close to 50 outfits, each one more spectacular than the next. As it evolved, the hair and makeup became more fantastical with soaring frizzy updos and facial prosthetics. Everything about the show was eerie, disturbing and breathtakingly beautiful. As the designer took his bow, I cried – a cliche but true. I didn’t know how to process the experience. I stared dumbfounded at the Japanese editor sitting next to me. He shook my hand and we wandered out of the stadium – past teenaged hockey players coming to practice next door – into the chilly October night.

armadillo
The famed Armadillo footwear

One of the models told me after the show that all of the girls were so afraid of falling. They knew that they were part of something extraordinary and they all wanted the show to be perfect for the designer. McQueen dedicated his blockbuster show to his mother Joyce. From day one, she was a huge supporter of the troubled designer. She died the following February and McQueen committed suicide, at age 40, the next week.

mcqueen
Portrait of Alexander McQueen by Tim Walker for British Vogue

I read earlier this week that the story of the McQueen’s creative process in the months leading up to the Plato Atlantis show will be the subject of a new film starring Jack Connell (Money Monster, Unbroken) as McQueen. It will start filming next spring. I’ve also read several books about this tortured genius including Gods and Kings: The Rise and Fall of Alexander McQueen and John Galliano by Dana Thomas; and admired the exhibit “Savage Beauty” at the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. I would read or see anything about this phenomenal innovator. McQueen’s death was a loss mourned worldwide by the fashion industry and fashion lovers.