The most anticipated presentation of the season was Alexander McQueen’s debut by 35-year-old designer Seán McGirr.
We are living in the Gatsby era of fashion.
The fabrication of myths, fantasies, and exquisite falsehoods requires a great deal of time, money, and talent, yet it all serves to replicate the past.
Though no designer who put their name on an atelier door before the 21st century truly thought in such terms, conglomerates, particularly LVMH and Kering, desire designers who would modernize what everyone already knows about companies formed decades ago to update the codes.
And even if the fashion wasn’t all that fantastic, to begin with, and even if the people voicing these demands weren’t alive to see the moments, to begin with, shoppers and fashion analysts want items that have the power and mystique of fashion from decades past.
Even if it seems like it when you’re standing in front of a rack at a store or admiring the elegant style of an online luxury retailer, the conflict in fashion today is not whether or not people desire anything. It concerns how well a designer can mimic the past and whether they live up to the collective ideal of what came before them.
For this reason, among others, the 35-year-old designer Seán McGirr’s Saturday night Paris debut at Alexander McQueen was the most anticipated of the season, possibly even in recent memory.
McGirr studied for three years at JW Anderson, so he’s not in a particularly fortunate situation, even if almost all designers his age looked up to McQueen. He takes over for Sarah Burton, the adored heir to the brand’s creator, Lee McQueen (whose middle name was Alexander), who succeeded the designer following his suicide in 2010.
A master tailor who poured his demons and traumas into his collections, McQueen was a once-in-a-lifetime artist who left his audiences both emotionally bruised and stunned.
François-Henri Pinault, the head of Kering, and his wife Salma Hayek, along with hundreds of editors, influencers, and celebrities, trekked to a remote corner of Paris on a chilly, rainy night, shivering in a semi-outdoor space to see what McGirr had cooked up.
There are other reasons why all eyes were on McGirr. The paucity of female creative directors at McQueen’s parent company, Kering, and in the fashion industry at large was a topic of discussion following McGirr’s October hiring.
Numerous white males with similar haircuts had positions of authority, but numerous competent women were overlooked. Hehe.
What then did McGirr provide? Nice tailoring—not as good as McQueen’s or Burton’s—along with very edgy lads dressed in tight leather jackets, skimpy suits, and quirky headgear. Perversion efforts were made: he dressed the figures in decent jackets and shoes that resembled hooves, with one gray ponytail hanging down from the heel. He was a McQueenism, but he also manufactured enormous sweaters, a talent he would have developed at JW Anderson.
Though less often than the designer intended, the opening garment, which was made of sparkling black jersey, had the model’s hands crammed inside. It was sensual at moments.
The song “Orinoco Flow” by Enya, included on the soundtrack, had a hint of cheekiness that verged on cheesecake.
You can’t just put out there that McGirr’s models walked with strange wobbles or akimbo arms following John Galliano’s eerie January couture presentation for Maison Margiela.
All in all, it read like a final thesis from art school, too carefree to convince us that these animals were nasty foreigners.
One model donned a death gaze while swinging a pretty ordinary-looking studded purse like a war ax. She was dressed in an incandescent yellow knit skirt, jacket, and tube top.
Some of you questioned what this lady could be so furious about, given her appearance as though she were heading to a music festival supported by some unremarkable late-capitalist organization like a firm that claims to disrupt water.
Exacting, clever, if somewhat emotionally stunted, McQueen was particularly so at his peak, when Kering became an investor and he could apply his Savile Row-shaped abilities to beautiful materials from Paris. The play might have appeared violent and deranged, or it could have looked flawless to appease the Gatsbyites. Rather, it was neither.
McGirr, who exudes a youthful charm akin to that of Sally Rooney, expressed backstage that he aspires for his McQueen to be “uplifting.” He’s as sweet as pie: His evening plans included hugging his mother and taking a bath. In addition, he declared that McQueen’s devotion to “people on the fringes” is “more relevant than ever” and that he finds these “outsider” characters attractive.
Though his collection had the manners of a Spice Girl greeting the queen, McGirr said, “I’m kind of into this idea of anti-politeness, because we live in a very uniform time.”
This is more than just McGirr’s problem. The fashion industry demands too much of its designers and rushes too quickly to help those who are struggling. A designer doesn’t need to have a luxurious lifestyle to create exquisite clothing; many successful company owners create strange and even disturbing works of art. I can think of Simone Rocha, Demna from Balenciaga, and Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garçons.
In addition, is it fair to expect a designer to give up emotional stability to create amazing work? Perhaps McGirr does contain something that he has to let out via his clothing. (You never know how a fresh position or artistic endeavor can transform you.) After all, he had just started in October.
It’s up to you to judge a rookie designer’s potential for becoming something extraordinary (or, at the very least, entertaining). Thoughts like his towering, rigid shield tops and big knitwear may develop into something more refined, McGirr appears like an enthusiastic student of his new home.
Studying McQueen brings up a whole new way of understanding fashion, as many people have discovered because of the 2011 hit show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. McGirr could get corrupted very soon.
In any case, this is an opportunity for the rest of the fashion industry to see what they’re dying to see when they bow down to McQueen. Few people are aware of or take the time to learn about how contentious McQueen’s concerts were at the time, frequently receiving negative press coverage.
Few defended his low-rise jeans, which McQueen developed, or his now-classic collections like his Givenchy debut and Highland Rape series.
Writing about him would have required you to acknowledge the controversy: Longtime fashion writer Robin Givhan for The Washington Post called his clothing “bawdy, sometimes mean-spirited,” especially toward women. Even in her praise of the collections, Givhan mentioned retailers’ issues with the clothing’ fit.
McGirr would be better off turning away from the green light across the lake and forging his path, looking to McQueen for his bluntness and his unwillingness to back down, than trying to feed the McQueen fantasies of the past.
Content courtesy of Washington Post & NFH