By Claudia De Salvo
The couture runway is the space where fashion exists in its most dynamic form. It is here that collections comprise of equal parts concept and innovation with a dash of performance thrown in for good measure. The garments surpass the commercial framework of the fashion world and are showcased on a platform which allows the designer to reflect upon and critique the fashion industry (i). It seems as though designers have made an effort to comment on everything from social and political events to traditional ideals of beauty and gender. Unfortunately, despite the avant garde nature of the haute couture runway, you will seldom see a model that is more than a few grams short of borderline anorexic. It seems strange, for all the myriad of designers set on putting the industry under the microscope, most will shy away from critiquing the singular constant on the runway; the body from which their clothes hang.
One of the only exceptions to this occurred in 2011 during the finale of Alexander McQueens spring collection, Voss. The four dark glass walls of a glass cube situated in the center of the runway came crashing down to reveal a naked model, showcasing all the natural beauty of the average plus size The fact is this was more than the usual ‘love the skin your in’ campaign from Dove, this existed at the height of fashion and art, on a live runway fashion show. The body of the model was imperative to the shows impact and existed seamlessly as part of the narrative McQueen constructed throughout the duration of the show (ii).
Staying true to his theatrical nature, the runway resembled a padded mental asylum, encased with one way mirrors which prevented the models from the seeing the audience. Michelle Oley, pictured below, was presented juxtaposed conventional models, many of whom danced down the runway in a manner which appeared borderline delusional (iii). Her identity remained entirely concealed by a mask, breathing through a tube, she lay motionless surrounded by a flurry of live moths. The spectacle highlighted the irony between sacrificing sanity for the supposedly ideal body, or remaining confined in a more realistic and natural state.
McQueens use of symbols and theatrics effectively conveyed a clear message regarding the unrealistic standards of the fashion industry. The performative nature of the models and the environment in which the collection was showcased played key roles in demonstrating the critical nature of Voss. Above all, the fact that the centerpiece of the show was not even a garment in the collection, indicated that this was far more than a showcase of innovation in clothing construction. This was fashion for the sake of art.
(i) Berry, J 2014. Fashion and Art, Week 2: Fashion and Art, page 19, accessed 20th August, 2014.
(ii) Voss, d, WordPress, viewed 20th August 2014, http://vossehf.wordpress.com/about/voss/
(iii) Limnander, A 2001, Spring 2001 Ready to Wear: Alexander McQueen, com, http://www.style.com/fashionshows/review/S2001RTW-AMCQUEEN/