Alexander McQueen Inspired Millions With This One Epic Show

Isaiah McCall

Through his provocative runway creations, Lee Alexander McQueen proved to be one of the most creative fashion designers who ever lived. Yet, he was a tortured soul. McQueen was only 40 years old when he hanged himself in his London home, the day before his own mother’s funeral.

The world will miss McQueen and his extraordinary London shows that often brought audiences to tears.

“Give me time and I’ll give you a revolution,” he once said.

Every McQueen show was special. You fought for tickets. His show “№13,” however, was something different. He himself said it was “the only one that actually made me cry.”

№13 was McQueen’s 13th show, and it may be his greatest. A coup de théâtre that has made ever-living history, surely up there among the top 10 fashion show thrills of all time, as one Vogue writer puts it.

McQueen himself said, “If you want to know me, look at my work.” Fan of fashion or not, there is a clear genius to this performance…

Coup de Théâtre

This was the finale of №13, and it’s a moment that words can hardly describe (but I’ll try).

It featured Shalom Harlow, a former ballerina, flailing on a wooden turntable. Between Harlow are two metal robots hired from a car manufacturing plant gunning her with black and neon yellow paint.

It’s tragic, wonderful, and a bit sexual too. It’s beautiful.

“She did exactly what she wanted to do,” said Sam Gainsbury, who produced the show with her partner Anna Whiting. “We couldn’t rehearse it. She knew how to keep her center on the turntable because she was a dancer. She didn’t flinch when they came near her face. It was completely spontaneous.”

There’s an entire story in this brief 2-minute encounter. You feel as if Harlow and McQueen are completely in the zone. They both know how strange and alienating this moment could be. How it’s never been done before. But they plunge into the chaos and establish a masterpiece.

A little over a year after McQueen died, Harlow had this to say:

“I walked right up to it and stood on top of this circular platform and as soon as I gained my footing the circular platform started a slow, steady rotation. It was almost like the mechanical robots were stretching and moving their parts after an extended period of slumber.”
“And as they sort of gained consciousness they recognised that there was another presence among them and that was myself. At some point, the curiosity switched and it became slightly more aggressive and frenetic and engaged on their part. And an agenda became solidified somehow. And my relationship with them shifted at that moment because I started to lose control over my own experience and they were taking over.”
“So they began to spray and paint and create the futuristic design on this very simple dress. And when they were finished, they sort of receded and I walked, almost staggered, up to the audience and splayed myself in front of them with complete abandon and surrender.”

Always fearless Harlow, Alexander McQueen Spring 1999 Photo from Vogue

McQueen’s life wasn’t perfect, but he stayed true to himself — and that showed most in his work.

His shows often offended many, and yet McQueen’s thought-provoking work proved to be something that the fashion world may not have always wanted but needed.

№13 is unapologetically McQueen. He didn’t let critics stop him; he didn’t let fear stop him. He showed the world his vision — and it was his magnum opus.

“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment.” — Alexander McQueen

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USA Today Reporter and Ultramarathoner. I write about Cryptocurrency, Fitness Hacks, and Greek Philosophy. Also a diehard Trekkie |

Jersey City, NJ

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