By  on April 4, 2006

Like some fashion Wordsworth, Alexander McQueen felt the world was too much with us when he was creating his spectacular fall-winter collection.

He sought escape and solace in the remote and rugged Scottish Highlands, and he swept his audience right along with him, delivering a stirring fashion moment. By the time a ghostly apparition of Kate Moss had vaporized as mysteriously as it appeared for the finale—to the haunting strains of the Schindler's List sound track—editors and retailers were on their feet and roaring.

"I'm an avid follower of the news, and sometimes you just can't take any more war, any more disasters, and you want to remind yourself there's beauty in the world," McQueen says of his presentation. "I wanted to show a more poetic side to my work. It was all about melancholy and a feeling of sadness, but in a cine-matic kind of way. I find beauty in melancholy."

The show was in many ways a sequel to McQueen's seminal and controversial Highland Rape collection of 1995; the contrast between them highlights the designer's growing confidence and technical prowess. Yet this season's collection sprung from the same raw, creative impulse that had made McQueen, the son of a taxi driver, a soaring fashion talent more than a decade ago.

To be sure, the original Highland Rape, which McQueen says he intended to counter romanticized images of Scottish history, immediately evoked accusations of misogyny and has remained controversial ever since. "People thought there was real blood and tampon strings hanging," McQueen recalls, denouncing such reports as falsehoods. "It was really just a hedonistic collection: wild women in the Highlands."

Despite a shoestring budget, the earlier show demonstrated McQueen's natural talent for theatricality. Models, some wearing spooky contact lenses that blacked out their eyes, stumbled or stormed out dramatically onto a runway strewn with detritus, wearing clothes that were often ripped, torn and tattered. "Most of the collection was built on remnants from fabric shops," McQueen explains. "I think I made most everything myself."

But McQueen, who has long maintained that his shows are highly autobiographical, was in a different state of mind back then. After all, he once described himself as a "big-mouth East London yob," and his feisty nature and liberal use of expletives earned him a bad rap in the press early on. "I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about fashion," he confesses.

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