For his A/W1994 collection (see it in full here), McQueen decided to look to the ocean for inspiration. Citing Irish folklore, he described the title of his Banshee collection as a reference to the wailing song that banshees would sing, and this reference was particularly evident in the uncharacteristically ethereal opening looks. The show’s soundtrack began with a wailing song as models walked the runway in floor-length gowns of organza, with layers that mimicked the waves of the ocean. Fishnet dresses draped over models that looked like mermaids captured by fishermen, and the small ruffled edges of one gown looked like tiny sea anemones. Even the first three minutes weren’t short of controversy – a pregnant skinhead in a beautiful black gown walked the runway, ‘MCQUEEN’ emblazoned upon her shaven head, a look which was a nod back to his signature contrast of beauty and aggression.
|Montage, McQueen A/W1994|
Then, the mood started to change. The wailing song was replaced by a thumping techno beat and the first flashes of crimson marked a shift towards provocation. The first clue came in the lyrics of the soundtrack (“You wanna fuck? Let’s go!”), and it soon became apparent that these banshees were feeling horny. Models walked the runway with a seductive smile, winking cheekily at the fashion press as they hitched up their skirts to reveal the PVC undergarments that lay beneath. Shaggy knitwear was fitted with sheer panels that left nipples exposed and even tailored suits were worn with sheer lace tops underneath, or (in one case) a tight rubber bodice that left little to the imagination. It wasn’t just the women that were there to shock either – one sole male model walked the runway clutching his crotch as his bumsters threatened to expose him entirely.
Long-term collaborator, supporter and friend Isabella Blow was also present on the runway, showing that you don’t need a ‘model figure’ to look great in McQueen’s clothes. It was heartening to see the legendary journalist receive applause from the crowd as she took the runway looking fabulous in a black chiffon dress with a cream embellished waistcoat; in a sense, she is the woman that best embodies the spirit of rebellion present in McQueen’s clothes. There was also a spin on the traditional sailor’s uniform – nautical references came in the shape of navy suits with gold buttons, teamed with blood-red chiffon shirts and high-heeled black boots.
|McQueen, backstage at the show|
The collection also showcased McQueen’s ability to work with a range of fabrics – one particularly interesting example was a gold holographic material, emblazoned with oversized florals. The collection also included several variations of knitwear, a mesh dress printed with an intricate floral pattern as well as a few evening coats that appeared to be made from some kind of battered, paint-splashed canvas – the material also made its way onto a few cut-out dresses (which, once again, exposed the buttocks) which provided some of the highlights of the collection.
With this collection, McQueen did what he needed to. He showed versatility by incorporating a few more ethereal looks into the show, and he also reiterated the fact that he is able to take a concept and convey it visually. In addition, he proved that he is more than just shock tactics, one of the most frequent criticisms levelled at him in the early stages of his career. Despite the pregnant skinhead, the exposed flesh and the practically-exposed male model, the real focus of the collection was the clothing – the experimentation with different materials, the unusual take on silhouette and the flawless tailoring were all enough to garner mainstream attention and keep the fashion press interested. However, the punk blood still ran through the veins of the collection – the one element that sets aside McQueen from his contemporaries.