For his A/W10 show, Alexander McQueen presented a provocative, outlandish display of distorted shapes, dramatic print and smeared, oversized sex-doll red lips. Houndstooth took flight in the form of exoskeleton structures, harlequins and exaggerated corsetry, accompanied by headwear by Philip Treacy built from trash-bags, tin cans and hubcaps, which altogether culminated to portray McQueen's theme of recycling to mark his 15th anniversary show.
The collection exuded the McQueen stamp of a dedication to couture, historical dress and exquisite hand-craftsmanship, contorted with an eccentric twist. It embodied a dark humour and a strange sense of fragility, characteristics that defined McQueen himself. Hardworking, erratic, often hilarious and frequently withdrawn, his collections represented a controversial and grotesque beauty that flouted convention and established a new era in fashion while paying homage to the historically old.
"The collection exuded the McQueen stamp of a dedication to couture, historical dress and exquisite hand-craftsmanship, contorted with an eccentric twist"
The creative process of this collection was documented by Nick Waplington, who McQueen invited to photograph the months leading up to the show. Unknown to Waplington, he would capture some the final days of the late designer at work. He would report a candid, rare and compelling series of photographs that catch McQueen at his most fraught, thoughtful and happy moments. A juggernaut of ups and downs, vulnerable yet assured and intensely loyal to his inner circle.
Perhaps his A/W10 collection marked a dark turn for McQueen; looking back, there is an odd mix of both anger and defiance within each look; a lingering sadness within each girl, now an indicative nod to the tragedy that followed. A year later, Alexander McQueen would be found dead in his flat; these images by Waplington would mark his final days and summarise a character which now stands still and forever in time. McQueen remains in 2009, that charismatic and electric combination of creativity and charged emotion that shook the fashion world.
Alexander McQueen: Working Process by Nick Waplington is published by Damiani and is available from September 3.
Text by Mhairi Graham