Patterns of Glory

Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty makes its way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala

Curator Andrew Bolton has headed down the rabbit hole in search of that which made Alexander McQueen what he is known for today. Where he began this mystifying journey was Lee Alexander McQueen’s upper right arm, or, to be specific, the tattoo there inscribed. The text, taken from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream, states “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.” Although written centuries before, no better words could describe the core of what McQueen instinctively was, while simultaneously embodying what he ultimately became.

Known publicly as Alexander rather than Lee, McQueen’s career in fashion would span a decade before his untimely death at age 40, and would come to represent his history, his creative passion, and his beliefs. With just over a year between his death and the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute's annual gala, Bolton took on the enormous depth of McQueen’s work, curating what he aptly titled “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.” A retrospective not to be missed, the exhibit (on from May 4, 2011– July 31, 2011) brings to life the range of his work during this esteemed evening of art and fashion.

The annual benefit celebrating the opening of the exhibit takes place May 2nd this year, and is co-chaired, once again, by iconic American Vogue editor, Anna Wintour. Primarily a star-studded fundraising event, the gala evening promotes strong ties between the fashion industry and the Met’s Costume Institute, encouraging collaborations including exhibitions, acquisitions, and capital improvements. And, as the first lady of American fashion, Wintour’s involvement with the Costume Institute is integral to the evening and exhibit alike.

“Anna’s support and commitment to the museum is both tireless and unwavering, driven by her deep love of the arts and fashion in particular,” Bolton mused at a private preview at London’s Ritz Hotel during London Fashion Week in February, an event also hosted by Wintour. “[She] believes in the artistic and cultural merits of fashion passionately, and the museum is extremely fortunate to have her as its champion.”

Anna’s praise for Bolton is equally as gracious, noting that the young curator has done wonders in preserving the memory of McQueen.

Extraordinary as the Costume Institute’s exhibit is, the gala celebrating its opening is an event unparalleled in glamour. In the past, The Costume Institute has organized exhibits featuring the works of famous designers including Cristóbal Balenciaga, Chanel, and the late Yves Saint Laurent, as well as doyennes such as Diana Vreeland, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Iris Apfel, guiding and championing the cause since the benefit element was introduced in 1948 as a midnight supper, aptly dubbed “The Party of the Year.”

The House of McQueen is still operating as a successful and thriving design business. Although it is clear that his designs were appreciated well before his demise, it goes to show the spirit of his creation is one that defines a genre that can be carried on. His personal impact on fashion has inspired many to explore the hidden corridors of British Fashion. With this, in these new talents his spirit lives on.