I love fashion - I always have - but part of me has always found it difficult to reconcile the frivolous, bitchy, consume, consume, consume aspects of the business with the artistry of form that I find so attractive. Since luxury fashion is such a high-money industry, it's hardly surprising that designers are increasingly under pressure to push the boundaries, commercially as well as creatively. Hence the era of fashion as lifestyle and not as craft, i.e. it's better if the high street shopper buys a bag and not a dress because of higher profit margins.
Plenty of important people have lived and died in my lifetime and while I've found myself reflecting on the lives of a few, I've never experienced these deaths as a significant loss. My reaction to the news of Alexander McQueen's death yesterday surprised me. I wouldn't say that I felt a profound loss - I'm not sure I could feel so strongly about someone I never knew personally - but it brought me way down. Here was a man, actually in the business, who seemed to embody my own love/hate dichotomy concerning the amazing potential versus the inherent superficialities within the fashion industry.
With McQueen, I always got the sense that it wasn't about the business: the bags, sunglasses, perfume - no side shows here; McQueen was all about the spectacle. Fashion wasn't just about what you wore on any given day, nor about the bag you carried, instead it revolved around an almost Platonic ideal - what clothes could be if you raised the bar as high as possible - fashion not for this world, but for an imagined alter-reality. Not that you couldn't wear his clothes. One of my favourite dresses is a McQueen - it's my Pocahontas dress - butter-soft flesh toned leather, edged neck and hem in tiny safety pins. It's beautifully constructed, whimsical, and tons of fun to wear. Apart from the fact that I look warily at anyone within a five-foot radius carrying a glass of red wine when I wear it...
While Lagerfeld was making runways into giant carousels and Versace was covering them with mirror, McQueen was dragging catwalk shows by the hair into the 21st-century. Robotic arms spray painting dresses on the runway, hologramed models opening shows, breaking all the rules of fashion exclusivity by streaming a show live on the internet using cameras on tracks on either side of the runway - this was true innovation in every sense of the word. Not to mention the clothes. Consistently bizarre and often vicious, brutally constrained or beautiful and loose, I might not always have found his clothes beautiful, but I never found them dull.
To think that there will never be another McQueen dress is sad enough, but to know that there will never be another McQueen show is worse. It sometimes felt like all that was keeping the various fashion weeks from falling off the cliff of their own self-righteousness was the utter insanity and joyous ridiculousness of McQueen's show. To say that his death leaves a gaping hole in the biz is an understatement indeed.