Alexander McQueen exhibition

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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

About author

Christian Koch

Christian Koch

Alongside his work for Director, Christian has written features for the Evening Standard, The Guardian, Sunday Times Style, The Independent, Q, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, ShortList and Glamour in an eclectic career which has seen him interview everybody from Mariah Carey to Michael Douglas through to Richard Branson with newspaper assignments including reporting on the Japanese tsunami and living with an Italian cult.

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