From skull knuckleduster bags to royal wedding gowns… the V&A’s Alexander McQueen retrospective highlights the UK fashion industry’s extraordinary success
Question: which sector is worth more to the UK economy; cars, publishing, telecommunications, or fashion? Answer: fashion – worth an annual £26bn, more than the other industries combined, constituting 4.5 per cent of the workforce. And this month, London’s V&A museum pays homage to one of its icons.
Featuring more than 200 ensembles and accessories from his ostentatious catwalk shows (plus a life-size hologram of Kate Moss), Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty celebrates the avant garde-tinged stylings of the designer, who died in 2010 aged 40, and whose brand – now headed by Sarah Burton – is arguably greater than ever. In 2011, the Duchess of Cambridge wore a McQueen dress for her wedding, while the label came 13th in CoolBrands’ 2014 list of desirable lines. Owned by French company Kering, McQueen’s sales have escalated in recent years (£52m in 2012). Kering’s annual turnover was €9.7bn (£7.3bn) in 2013.
McQueen isn’t the only brand to raise Britain’s fashion profile: Burberry and Topshop have enjoyed huge commercial success. And with start-ups using innovative materials such as Piñatex – a textile made from pineapple leaves – and eel leather (used by handbag designers Heidi & Adèle), the story shows no sign of unravelling.
Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, V&A, 14 March–2 August. For more information visit vam.ac.uk