As the catwalk show experiences a sea change in terms of format and use of technology, Alexander McQueen is prepared to play King Neptune. For his spring show, entitled “Plato’s Atlantis,” fittingly inspired by the ocean and evolution, fashion’s enfant terrible set out to blow elitist runway tradition out of the water. McQueen streamed his show live, as entertainment for the civilian masses, via a linkup to Nick Knight’s SHOWstudio.com Web site. “It’ll be like live theater—at home.…The audience at home is actually going to see more than the guests at the show,” McQueen told WWD before the event.
This story first appeared in the November 9, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Things didn’t exactly go as planned on the big day, however. Pummeled by a reported 29,000 hits in one second, the site crashed. As for those audience members with a brick-and-mortar pew, the prospect of being watched by the world added a thrilling—if somewhat odd—voyeuristic dimension to the happening. “What if they’ve put microphones under our seats?” gasped model Anouck Lepère in the front row, prior to the lights dimming, as Daphne Guinness hammed it up for the photographers wearing Paranoid Android glow-in-the-dark contact lenses. Following a provocative short fi lm directed by Knight (think coiling snakes on a naked Raquel Zimmerman), two giant motion-sensitive robot cameras on runners sprang into action. They panned the room to scrutinize the audience before roving the runway to get close-ups of models, like dinosaurs sniffing out lunch. The images were transmitted onto a giant LED screen as repeat reflections, providing a kaleidoscopic bird’s-eye view of the action, which, lest anyone forget, was still about clothes. The collection of mostly short chiffon dresses, many molded to the body and done in digital prints, flaunted McQueen’s dark side, as did the styling. The girls, with their sculpted, horny hairdos and blanched faces, had a creaturely quality.
The entire event certainly got people talking, though reactions were divided. In the McQueen camp, Averyl Oates, chief buying director at Harvey Nichols, in her roundup of the week labeled the event “an outstanding, modern theatrical experience, which was all the more fulfi lled by the well-conceived commercial collection in the showroom.”
In her review and on her blog posting, The New York Times’ critic Cathy Horyn said McQueen’s clothing “pushed boundaries,” offering a new silhouette, and “suggested the potential for 21st-century fashion.”
“McQueen [dared], I believe, to offer something that approaches in spine-tingle the awesomeness of the previous era,” she wrote.
For others, however, the spectacle was short lived.
“[McQueen’s] fashion felt insufficient,” lamented WWD’s review. “Up close, these dresses approach art, each one unique and couturelike in its labor intensity. From the audience, however, blurry renderings of one species molting into another across molded superhero shapes and a few ruffl es converged into a depressing norm, one lifted literally, but not in spirit, by scary ‘Armadillo’ shoes.”
Observers were unanimous, though, in that a new technological benchmark had been set.
In her review, Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the International Herald Tribune, deemed the event “the most dramatic revolution in 21st-century fashion.”
Echoed WWD: “As the cameras rolled up, down and back again, they became distractions as well as ominous reminders that the traditional fashion system is evolving as well, and fast—ready or not.”