October 05, 2009 Paris
Seen from on the spot, it was a big-budget production, for sure. There was a sparkling, illuminated runway in which two sinister, robotic movie cameras on gigantic black booms ran back and forth, while a screen played Knight's video of Raquel Zimmermann, lying on sand, naked, with snakes writhing across her body.
Then the models came out, dressed in short, reptile-patterned, digitally printed dresses, their gangly legs sunk in grotesque shoes that looked like the armored heads of a fantastical breed of antediluvian sea monster. McQueen, according to an internal logic detailed in a press release, was casting an apocalyptic forecast of the future ecological meltdown of the world: Humankind is made up of creatures that evolved from the sea, and we may be heading back to an underwater future as the ice cap dissolves.
The consequences, in fashion terms? Well, it was a one-note, unmissable formula of the kind several other designers have decided is the way to communicate this season. McQueen's message throughout was essentially sunk into the short dress—a steady development of his engineered sea-reptile prints, worked into a nipped-waist, belled-skirt silhouette. The colors—first green and brown, moving to aqua and blue—were exceptionally executed and swagged, and molded across panniered structures. Each dress was a work of computer-generated art crossbred with McQueen's couture-based signature cut.
In a section in which it looked as if McQueen was envisaging a biological hybridization of women with sea mammals, there were trousers whose bulbous flanks mimicked the skin of sharks or dolphins. A reminder of his taste in Savile Row tailoring came via a few looks in which formfitting gray men's fabric was cut away to reveal "portholes" filled with turquoise (an effect akin to the view from a glass-bottomed boat). Finally, then? Although there was nothing to show McQueen breaking out from his set design mold, the way he's embracing new computer technologies and the drama of the moving image puts him at the leading edge of change.