Inspired by nomads, the Antarctic and the elements, McQueen announced his Autumn/Winter 2003 collection (which can be seen in full here) by sending out invitations adorned with X-ray scans of his own brain. The collection appeared to be a commentary on both isolation and the designer’s own nomadic lifestyle, beautifully represented in a series of garments that took their inspiration from all over the world.
The show’s set was phenomenal, depicting an icy Antarctic dystopia complete with an enormous wind tunnel which loomed ominously above the runway. The desolate, industrial landscape contrasted severely with the clothing which was, despite its varied inspiration, some of the most traditionally beautiful that McQueen had ever made. Embroidery featured heavily throughout the collection, used to create both intricate tapestries and sparse florals which were shown on light silk fabrics in a reference to the Japanese kimono.
It wasn’t just the Orients that had inspired McQueen – shaggy Siberian furs made several appearances, whereas ancient Greece had obviously influenced certain looks that came complete with liberal sprinklings of gold leaf. However, the Asian aesthetic was the most prominent - one which was perfectly embodied by the show’s glorious finale. The climax of the show featured a model battling through torrential wind in a stunning embroidered kimono, complete with chiffon train which billowed some 20 feet behind her. Made from pale pink silk, the kimono was covered with typical Japanese emblems of beauty such as orchids and cherry blossoms. -The delicacy of the garment contrasted with the harshness of the elements and the model’s freezing, exposed body, providing the juxtaposition of the savage and the ethereal that best summarises McQueen’s aesthetic.
All in all, the show was a glimpse into another realm of McQueen’s mind; one occupied by the struggles of a nomadic lifestyle. The brutal surroundings of the presentation only served to underline the splendour of the clothing – as a collection it was one of the most detailed and most intricate that the designer had ever put his name to. It was dramatic, it was poetic and – most importantly, it was beautiful, proving that McQueen’s technical prowess had advanced far enough that he no longer needed to rely on shock tactics to captivate an audience.