Though predominantly a museum that shows the old history of the world, the V&A champions young talent and offers them a space to artfully present their work to an audience that might not necessarily be aware of fashion, jewellery, and their many contexts. The general audience, however, seems to have a growing appetite for exhibitions concerning fashion; one of the reasons why Savage Beauty is such a success. Coinciding with the exhibition, the V&A, Swarovski and Central Saint Martins BA Jewellery students collaborated. “Alexander McQueen’s work drew on crucial and surprising themes; unfettered by convention,” BA Jewellery Design course leader Caroline Broadhead said, “the impact of his work extended way beyond the world of fashion.”
The aim of the project entitled Savage Beauty was to use themes that appear in Alexander McQueens work, while designing a piece that celebrates Swarovski crystals or gemstones. The BA Jewellery Design course has a long-lasting relationship with Swarovski; they’ve worked together on projects for over twelve years, and the company is also one of the exhibition’s main sponsors, hence the collaboration falling well into place. Ten students were selected to produce their piece.
“It takes imagination and skill to take on ideas and images created by the creative powerhouse of McQueen. The students have responded to the theatrical, the dark and the extravagant in McQueen’s work, from clawed gloves knitted from blood red threads, a jewelled mask with a fixed smile, a sparkling leather tam o’shanter, a dazzling viewfinder to frame its wearer to an opulent collar of menacing talons.” – Caroline Broadhead
Last Friday, the students gave a seminar at the museum, presenting their work based on their research and inspiration, while showing sketches and mood boards on the screen. The winner of the project was Akiko Shinzato, and the runners-up were Dennis Song and Jessica Pass. On Saturday 13 June, the students will host a workshop, ‘Extreme McQueen: How to Wear Accessories’, where they’ll demonstrate how to wear pieces that aren’t just simple rings and bangles… And, on the 24th of June, the BA Jewellery Design Degree Show will open at Central Saint Martins — all dates to take note of and check out.
Photography by Phillip Koll for 1 Granary
Materials: Leather, Acrylic Sheet, Swarovski Crystals
Nature presents an index of elemental attributes that the human form can evolve as a response to a changing physical environment. Inspired by McQueen’s last collection ‘Plato’s Atlantis’, this piece is a sculptural interpretation of the biomimetic evolution that a changing environment could provoke within the body.
Materials: PVC, Natural Marl-Stone, Swarovski Crystals, Nuts And Screws
Inspired by McQueen’s S/S 2009 collection ‘Natural Distinction – Unnatural Selection’ this piece explores the dawn of the industrial age and how human beings have impacted upon the environment. The design questions the perception of beauty by intertwining crystals within a utilitarian, man-made aesthetic.
FIONA KAKEI CHONG
Materials: Porcelain, Nylon, Swarovski Genuine Topaz, Silver, Leather
The urge to decorate one’s body with natural materials is what I saw in McQueen’s idea of ‘Savage Beauty’. I set out to turn my seashell collection into a body adornment. Drawing on elements from ancient Roman hairstyles and tribal adornments, a wig-like headpiece set with Swarovski gemstones is a celebration of collecting and decorating.
Materials: Swarovski Crystals, Vegetable Tanned Leather and Acrylic Dye
I was inspired by the clown make-up at Alexander McQueen’s shows. My idea is wearing make-up in a form of jewellery and the mask represents a notion of hiding identity. The perfectly applied crystal-formed clown make-up at the front fades away towards the back to reveal the bare leather underneath.
Materials: Swarovski Crystals, Aluminium, Copper, Car Spray
I looked at Alexander McQueen’s incredible headpieces in his shows. These are not just accessories; they become the focus points that catch everyone’s attention. My piece is designed to create the experience of looking through a camera viewfinder; the brilliance of the Swarovski crystals act as a frame and shines a light on the subject inside.
Materials: Stereolithography Resins, Acrylic, Swarovski Crystals
Inspired by the surrealistic elements of the show ‘Voss’, 2001, my piece illustrates the concept that human desires ‘eat’ human souls – desires which appear more powerful than they actually are. The crystal embellished sharp, claw-like tentacles of the neckpiece appear to consume and strangle their victim.
Materials: Red String and Swarovski Crystals
Interested in the tensions that revolve around the relationships between humans and animals, I was drawn to the motifs of birds within McQueen’s collections. Exploring the idea of freedom and restraint, I incorporated traditional basket weaving techniques to encase the crystals and capture the complex interactions between humans and birds.
Materials: Vegetable Tan Leather, Perspex, Hand Stitch String, Swarovski Crystal, 18ct Gold Plated Brass, Antique Fabric
Responding to the shocking ‘Highland Rape’ collection in 1995, I set out to explore the fractured identities within a colonial landscape. Drawing on Highland dress and traditional modes of adornment, my design embeds Swarovski crystals within leather as a representation of the cultural transference that marks both historical and contemporary issues of identity.
Inspired by Alexander McQueen’s ‘Savage Beauty’ collection, I designed a strong angular structure for the neckpiece, which is juxtaposed with the delicate fragility of pheasant feathers. The framework is adorned with Swarovski crystals that echo and emphasise the rich colour of the feathers.
Materials: Swarovski’s Princess Square Fancy Stone (12mm Foiled Crystal), European Walnut and Black Suede
I responded to the balance of opposites in Alexander McQueen’s work, his skillful marrying of the delicate and the forceful. My piece both shields and exposes. The large silhouette commands presence, but by equally integrating crystals within the laser-cut pattern, there is a lightness and elegance to the piece.
Photography by Barney McCann
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