Six months after the crash of the Lehmann Brothers and two months prior to his untimely demise, Alexander McQueen exhibited his autumn/winter 2009 collection. It was a collection that would not only change the tone of conversation at the time but leave a long lasting impression on fashion aficionados everywhere. Featured were culottes that embodied the spoils of capitalism, quilted coats that ridiculed the glorification of consumerism and make up that forced the Dior woman into fraternising with a ragbag of Felliniesque clowns strutted down a runway made of broken mirrors and discarded elements of McQueen’s past shows. The collection, entitled Horn of Plenty: Everything but the Kitchen Sink, revisited a 15-year archive of McQueen’s most poignant work, to which, photographer Nick Waplington, was given the opportunity to bear witness and document.
Commissioned by McQueen in 2007, Waplington catalogued the designer’s every move, from the visceral and textured rendering of fashion being made to the final fittings before the show. The result: a raw, bold and thought-provoking commentary on consumerism, recession, and creativity in the fashion industry. Through his vivid immersion in Atelier activities, Waplington was able to produce a richly articulated and detailed account of the designer at work. Juxtaposing candid shots of Italian silks with rigorously produced photographs of landfills, he interspersed couture with detritus. In a manner that is at once ironic and satirical, both Waplington and McQueen outline destruction and creative renewal through their use of contrasting aesthetics. McQueen uses the finest Italian silks in contradistinction to soda can rollers and trashcan lids as Waplington photographically readapts this to shots of mood boards and waste sites respectively. The contrast, as McQueen suggests, is intended to not only be an iconoclastic retrospective of his career, but also a commentary on the world one finds themselves in, which to McQueen “is a mess.”
Additionally, Waplington’s set of photographs does not fail to make mention of McQueen’s excellent craftsmanship. Pinched folds of flesh seeping from lucidly designed corsets and the photographic documentation of silhouettes being carved to perfection leave the viewer with a comprehensive understanding of McQueen’s appreciation for tailored excellence.
Opening its doors to the Middle East after enormously successful stints at London’s Tate Modern and New York’s Guggenheim, Working Process by Nick Waplington is an honest and unpolished visual commentary on the fashion world, through the eyes of one of its most revered. -Tanika D’Souza
Working Process runs until March 3 at East Wing in Dubai.