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Alexander McQueen's Final Collection Unveiled

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Alexander McQueen's Final Collection Unveiled

Art & Design

Alexander McQueen's Final Collection Unveiled

Alexander McQueen's Final Collection Unveiled

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This week a group of fashion editors gathered in a Parisian salon to view the pieces that designer Alexander McQueen was working on before he committed suicide. Robin Givhan, the fashion writer for The Washington Post, was on hand for the Paris Preview, and talks about the collection.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

In show business there's a saying: The show must go on. And so this week, a select group of fashion editors gathered in a Parisian salon to view the pieces that designer Alexander McQueen was working on before he committed suicide.

McQueen was known as a hooligan of high fashion because of the way he barreled through life, thumbing his nose at popular convention. He worked under great secrecy, and the fashion world was eager to get a glimpse of his last collection.

Robin Givhan is the fashion writer for The Washington Post. She was one of the lucky few on hand for the Paris preview. In fact, she just got back from France, and she joins us now. Welcome home.

Ms. ROBIN GIVHAN (Fashion Writer, The Washington Post): Thank you, it's very nice to be home.

NORRIS: It sounds like you haven't even had a chance to unpack yet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, certainly not enough time to do my laundry.

NORRIS: Well, tell us about the clothes and about what perhaps inspired this collection.

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, these were the 15 pieces that he had cut himself on a dress form without the use of a pattern and had completed himself. He was inspired by the paintings of old masters, you know, Botticelli and Hieronymus Bosch.

One of the interesting things that he did was to take the actual images and have them digitally printed on the clothes and sort of shrunken down a little bit so that they actually fit the clothes. So you got these really extraordinary prints that looked like you were actually viewing a work of art.

NORRIS: The clothes are absolutely luscious, the colors and the brocade and the intricate beading. What does that say about his state of mind?

Ms. GIVHAN: You know, it's so hard to know, and I feel like it's almost just, you know, presumptuous to even attempt to know, but what I thought was interesting is that these were not clothes that come across as angry or sorrowful or melancholy. They're just extraordinarily beautiful clothes.

NORRIS: Robin, we love speaking to you because you're able to call upon your great, descriptive powers. We're going to ask you to do just that in describing one or two of your favorite pieces.

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, I think my favorite piece was probably the finale piece, which was a coat that sort of fell about mid-calf, and it was constructed entirely of feathers, golden feathers. I mean, they really looked like, you know, a winged creature that had just sort of folded its wings in on itself.

And then from the bottom of this coat, you could see what appeared to be a full-length gown that was just sort of exploding from the hem, and it was just all white tulle with gold embroidery on it. And it spoke, really, to a lot of the things that he was known for - the precision of the construction, the emotion that each piece was filled with, as well as just this sort of wild, wild imagination.

NORRIS: May I ask about one outfit in particular? There's a pantsuit in here that looks like that's something that Get Christie Love might've worn.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: It's gold and it's got this tight, cinched belt, and I want you to tell our listeners about it.

Ms. GIVHAN: Well, one of the things that people should really know is that for all of McQueen's theatrics and drama, he was fundamentally a tailor. The man could cut a spectacular suit. So even in the midst of, you know, these other pieces that are such, sort of, high fashion art, he could still cut a suit that worked in that context.

NORRIS: Was there any consternation about a posthumous show?

Ms. GIVHAN: I don't think so. I mean, I think for a lot of people there was obviously the curiosity to see what he was working on, but I also think that people felt like, you know, a lot of these garments had been completed and it would've been sort of sad for people not to get a chance to see, you know, a little bit of his creativity for one last time.

I mean, certainly at the end of the show, there wasn't a designer to come out at the end and take a bow and that was very much felt. But I think it was a very respectful way to honor the work without making people feel like they were somehow being inappropriate voyeurs. I think it was a really well-balanced presentation.

NORRIS: Robin Givhan is a fashion writer for The Washington Post. Robin, thanks so much for speaking with us.

Ms. GIVHAN: My pleasure.

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