By  on April 13, 2009

Brilliant showman that he is, Alexander McQueen understands the power of high contrast and visual metaphor. By showing his ultrahaute, ultraglam fall collection against the backdrop of a giant— albeit highly stylized— junk heap, he determined, in typical style, to use his runway to make bold pronouncements rooted in spectacular fashion but with a deeper essence. The topics thus covered with silent bravado to provocative effect: the value of history, recycling materials and ideas, self-acceptance and toughing it out in hard times (not to mention an almost surely deliberate swipe at his former employer LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton via flamboyant retro Dior references). McQueen most likely did not intend, however, to offer a stark, somber snapshot of the season as a whole, one like no other in memory. Yet he did, his fabulously high-style red, white and black peplumed, houndstoothed, bustled, feathered, New Looked extravagance set against— and competing for attention with— that ominous pile of junk. Love among the ruins. Such was the season as a whole, a season of wonderful fashion juxtaposed against, and fighting for relevance within, a worldwide economy in shambles.

The shows approached amidst much conjecture: Would designers stare down the doldrums with defiant fashion or play it safe? From the start, the former proved true. The earliest, most overt expression of that force came via Marc Jacobs’ riotous, vibrantly hued ode to New York in the Eighties. By the time the season closed a long four-plus weeks later with a beauty of a Miu Miu collection, it could boast countless dazzlers, including a wistfully romantic Ralph Lauren, an exotic Christian Dior, a girly military hybrid from Comme des Garçons and, from Prada, a Forties-inspired affair that put coats, suits and itchy wool short shorts with thigh-high waders in a perfect marriage of not-so-subtle perversity and chic.

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