Only Alexander McQueen could provide the astonishing feat of techno-magic that ended his show. Inside an empty glass pyramid, a mysterious puff of white smoke appeared from nowhere and spun in midair, slowly resolving itself into the moving, twisting shape of a woman enveloped in the billowing folds of a white dress. It was Kate Moss, her blonde hair and pale arms trailing in a dream-like apparition of fragility and beauty that danced for a few seconds, then shrank and dematerialized into the ether.
This vision was in fact a state-of-the-art holograma piece by the video maker Baillie Walsh, art-directed by McQueen. The gown, a pale cascade of multiple organza ruffles, wasn't just an optical effect, though. It subsequently reappeared in the collection's victory line up, which wound its way around the glass box as the audience was still reverberating with wonder at witnessing this incredible event.
The quality of the performanceand the extraordinary workmanship in the clothes that preceded itwas a timely reconfirmation of McQueen's unique powers as a showman-designer, and a far cry from the more straightforward presentations he¿s given the last few seasons. For this collection, he delved into his past, revisiting his Scottish family roots and refining the contents of the rampaging tartan "Highland Rape" show with which he began his career in London in the early nineties. Shorn of its original rawness and anger, the result was a poetic and technically accomplished tale that involved romantic images of Scottish fantasy heroines wandering glens and castle halls in vaguely Victorian tartan crinolines, bird-wing or antler-and-lace headdresses, feathered gowns, and pieces made from brocades that might have been dragged down from ancient wall-hangings.
Some of McQueen's referenceslike the ones that influenced his sinuous black velvet dressesappeared to be culled from pre-Raphaelite paintings of Lady Macbeth; others, like a fierce, bell-skirted warrior-woman plaid dress with lace armlets, seemed to owe more to punk. On the down-to-earth side, there was plenty of McQueen's sharp and salable tailoring on show, and some great coats, like a herringbone fur chesterfield. At the end, though, the ecstatic applause was primarily in honor of the experiencea memory that will go down as one of fashion's all-time highs.