Here are my twenty favourite moments from 1994 to 2010;
1. The lace-masks of F/W 1996`s 'Dante' collection
McQueen's theatrical 'Dante' collection was staged at a church in Spitalfields in 1996. The show opened with organ music filling the church that was soon drowned out by gunfire. Models walked the runway looking wearing wore crucifix masks, denim splashed with bleach and lots of lace. McQueen commented that the collection was "not so much about death, but the awareness that it's there".
2. Models walking on water in F/W 1997`s 'It`s A Junge Out There'
The F/W 1997 collection was shown in Borough Market. The backdrop was a screen of corrugated iron, which was covered in bullet holes. Models with horns and painted faces walked around car wrecks wearing cowboy boots and traditionally tailored pieces made out of hides and leathers.
3. The fire ring ending 'Joan' in F/W 1998
The finale of the show was marked by a blaze of fire that encircled a bondage-clad representation of Joan of Arc’s ghost in order to celebrate the power of femininity against the institutionalized machismo of both French military leadership and modern dayreligious institution. While the set reflected the ecclesiastical cell of Joan of Arc and the clothes themselves were given a medieval context, it was apparent that McQueen is contained and operates in a suspended past space as a way to process structural inequalities on the social and economic level. What resonated highly with the critics of the presentation was the assertion of femininity and reminder of past repression of women within the political arena, a notion that would be revisited two years later when McQueen relocated to Paris.
4. Models ice-skating in snow & ice for F/W 1999`s 'The Overlook'
McQueen's "The Overlook" fall/winter collection was based on Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film 'The Shinning' and featured models ice-skating wearing elaborate pieces. The artificial snow landscape was the perfect backdrop to show off luxurious furs, soft knits, shiny bustiers, trapeze and swing skirts and floor length coats.
5. The wooden legs in S/S 1999`s 'No. 13'
McQueen's 1999 spring/summer collection opened with leg-amputee athlete/model Aimee Mullins walking the runway wearing prosthetic legs, a rigid leather bodice and a delicate lace skirt all designed by McQueen.
6. Robots spray-painting Sharlom Harlow in the end of S/S 1999`s 'No. 13' collection
McQueen caused a sensation by ending his show with model Shalom Harlow standing in a white dress on a rotating platform, being spray painted by robotic arms adapted from a car factory. It was an extraordinary statement: a most beautiful moment, but menacing too… vandalism almost; and it spoke volumes about the relationship between man and machine, between fashion and mass production… the seeming contradiction of automated machines creating something truly one-off, before the very eyes of the audience. Never mind this was just a part of a mere fashion show, it could easily have passed off as an art installation in its own right, as Modernist ‘mechanical ballet’ performances and the like sprang to mind.
7. A model hanging above a bed of spikes in S/S 2000`s 'Eye'
McQueen's 2000 spring/summer show marked his first showing in New York and it was met with mixed reviews. Fashion's "enfant terrible" turned the runway into a terrifying bed of metal spikes and nails and models were lifted into the air showing off sheer knits, body hugging jerseys and a re-working of the burka.
8. The insane models in S/S 2001`s 'Voss' collection
The audience sat around a double-mirrored cube, which, when lit from inside, revealed itself to be a mental-hospital holding cell. Demented girls, wearing hospital headbands and everything from extraordinary mussel-shell skirts to impossibly chic pearl-colored cocktail dresses, slithered and strutted while uselessly attempting to fly over the cuckoo's nest.
There were gothic, theatrical pieces, like a dress with a miniature castle and rat posing as a shoulder pad; a top made out of a jigsaw puzzle; and a huge feathered creation with stuffed eagles suspended over the model's head, poised to attack à la Hitchcock. But amidst all the insanity, there was a cornucopia of startlingly elegant—and wearable—pantsuits, flouncy party dresses, and even a spectator pump or two.
9. The finale of S/S 2001`s 'Voss'
After everyone thought it was all over, another cube within the psychiatric ward-cum-runway opened up to reveal a portly nude woman, her face covered by a mask, breathing through a tube, surrounded by fluttering moths. It was a truly shocking and enthralling tableau: Francis Bacon via Leigh Bowery and Lucien Freud.
10. The wicked clowns on the rotating Merry Go Round of F/W 2001
Cavorting and gyrating around poles, a posse of wicked clowns took over the stage wearing shiny patent-leather jackets and jeans, scalloped coats and skirts, S&M overcoats, skintight leather pants and ornate military jackets that would've put Napoleon to shame. A nearly naked princess turned up in little more than a feathered headdress, a net gown and a few chains; her cohorts wore frayed sweaters with giant skulls and bones, and long suit jackets that became dresses as they wrapped around the body and then draped at the side.
One model dragged a golden skeletton around on her leg.
11. The "impaled" model of S/S 2002`s 'Dance of the Twisted Bull' collection
With scenes from a bullfight projected onto a screen at the back of the runway and models in bicorn hats, matador jackets and flamenco skirts, this, McQueen’s first ready-to-wear collection produced in partnership with the Gucci Group and shown in Paris, is amongst the most clear examples of the play between masculine and feminine that characterises his work. Body-skimming jersey cutaway to mimic harnessing is paired with sharp, low-slung tailoring, crisp white shirts are layered with laced corsetry in traditional Savile Row fabrics. Jewel encrusted epaulettes, polka dots, ruffled, tiered skirts and more crafted out of what look like Spanish fans are all executed with the complexity of pattern and attention to detail McQueen is known for.
12. The wind tunnel at the F/W 2003 'Scanners' show
A glass wind-tunnel corridor bridging a snow-covered wasteland: that was the bleak techno-meets-nature setting for Alexander McQueen’s mind trip for fall. "I wanted it to be like a nomadic journey across the tundra," he said. "A big, desolate space, so that nothing would distract from the work."
The clothes, sculpted into his signature nip-waisted, stiff A-line skirt silhouettes, exhibited all the intense craft and some of the shapes that he learned during his stint at Givenchy couture. It bumped his ready-to-wear up to a new level, and if the plot—which traveled through Eurasian ethnic into punk and on to motocross.
13. The S/S 2005 Chess-board
Using a futuristic chess game as mise en scene, McQueen this time offers up an intricately worked and determinedly youthful collection featuring pieces that whisper of fashion fantasy although always with a typically tough edge. And so a floral print, primrose yellow baby doll dress is finished with signature leather harnessing, for example, amply demonstrating the play between power and vulnerability that the designer has by now made his own. The starting point is filmic again. This time clothes are inspired by Picnic At Hanging Rock - quintessential McQueen territory given its ultra-feminine and innocent spirit undermined by a significantly dark undercurrent. Everything from Edwardian children’s wear to embroidered fairground horses makes an appearance. The chessboard motif allows the designer to explore different types of women – Americans face Japanese on the board, redheads are placed opposite Latin Americans and so forth.
14. The head-dresses of F/W 2006`s 'Widows of Culloden'
With this collection McQueen revisits the subject matter of The Highland Rape – the show with which he made his name – but applies to similar territory a sophistication and expertise that reflects his experience as both couturier and designer. The inspiration here is highly personal – the designer’s own heritage – which goes at least some way towards explaining the exquisite hand-craftsmanship that goes into each piece as well, of course, as bird head-dresses and McQueen tartan. The collection is luxurious and romantic but melancholic and even austere at the same time.
15. The Kate Moss hologram in the end of F/W 2006
Inside an empty glass pyramid, a mysterious puff of white smoke appeared from nowhere and spun in midair, slowly resolving itself into the moving, twisting shape of a woman enveloped in the billowing folds of a white dress. It was Kate Moss, her blonde hair and pale arms trailing in a dream-like apparition of fragility and beauty that danced for a few seconds, then shrank and dematerialized into the ether.
16. 'The face' of F/W 2007
Did Romina Lanaro wear a mask or dramatic make-up in the 'In Memory of Elizabeth Howe, Salem, 1692' collection?
17. The white feather dress of F/W 2009`s 'The Horn of Plenty'
A dress completely made of feathers with its overskirt pulled up vertically to hide the model's head.
18. The metal-armour in Fall 2009`s 'Horn of Plenty'
Subtitled 'Everything But The Kitchen Sink', the concept here is a play between a profound respect for and the subversion of the haute couture tradition. The set features a pile of debris - everything from rubbish bags and crushed car parts to broken fairground horses and castaway chairs - much of it recycled props from past McQueen shows. The clothes themselves draw on haute couture signatures - Dior's iconic hounds tooth check, the elegance of Audrey Hepburn in Givenchy - and takes them apart at the seams. Aforementioned check breaks away into a magpie print inspired by M.C. Escher, or is scarred with vinyl reminiscent of the splatter paintings of Jackson Pollock. Gowns are crafted in what looks like bin-liners or broken records but are in fact highly expensive paper nylon and lacquered silk respectively. Hats echo the ordurous theme - washing machine hoses, umbrellas, lampshades and more are transformed into objects of beauty. McQueen's models stand taller and prouder than ever in hugely elevated footwear. All in all, this is power-dressing at its most elaborate and extreme.
19. Alexander McQueen wearing a bunny costume at the end of S/S 2009
The genious himself appeared in a bunny costume in the end of his 'Natural Dis-tinction Un-natural Selection' collection.
20. The underwater-atmosphere of 'Plato`s Atlantis' in S/S 2010
When Charles Darwin wrote The Origin Of The Species, no one could have known that the ice cap would melt, that the waters would rise and that life on earth would have to evolve in order to live beneath the sea once more or perish. We came from water and now, with the help of stem cell technology and cloning, we must go back to it to survive. 'When the waters rise, humanity will go back to the place from whence it came. ‘but then again, I’m no Nostradamus…’ said Alexander McQueen.