Parallelly with Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at V&A, there is a behind the scenes photography show running at Tate Britain. The exhibition of Nick Waplington´s photos takes a sneaky peek behind the glamorous polished face of Alexander McQueen´s collections, to give an idea of his inspirations and working process, which is far from fancy – instead being raw, bold and thought-provoking, including a lot of hard work. In 2009 Nick Waplington was invited to the House of McQueen to document the creation process of the final Autumn/Winter collection created by Lee himself, a year before his death – “Horn of Plenty”. McQueen was generally very secretive about his working process, so having such an access is something not many photographers have been allowed to witness. Nick captured an intense and theatrical working process, from sketching to production to the Paris catwalk show.
The critically acclaimed collection had recycling as the heart of it. As a retrospective season, Lee McQueen reused his ideas of the past decade – updating silhouettes and cuts, copying fabrics from his earlier collections. The idea of recycling as such was central, provoked by post-credit crunch attitude in the UK. The catwalk was set out of discarded elements from the sets of his past shows and broken mirrors, with a kitchen sink crowning the pile of “junk” in the middle of the showroom. Even though there are dresses that look as if they have been created of black bin bags, best Italian silks were used as the material.
At the exhibition space images of working at the studio alternate with shots taken at the landfills and wastegrounds full of broken bottles, compressed trash and a huge bulldozer, that is supposed to symbolise Lee McQueen himself. The designer liked this idea. This radical theme provided inspiration for Waplington, best known for his photographic work centered on issues of class, identity and conflict.
To be honest, if you expect the same grandiose impression from this exhibition, as from the V&A showcase, you´ll be greatly disappointed. However, if you are a fan of Lee´s work and want to have a peek into his everyday life, this will be just an exhibition to visit.
Open till 17th of May 2015