With these mesmerising theatrics unfolding around the clothing, it had to be one hell of a collection to drag our gaze back to the garments. McQueen, as ever, delivered.
This season, it seems every fashion house and its dog is offering a live stream to global viewers. Trust Alexander McQueen to approach the medium a little differently than most. His broadcast equipment, rather than being unobtrusively hidden in the photographer's pit, was centre-stage - two twenty-foot robotic cameras that sprung to life before the first outfit even entered the catwalk, turning their gaze first on the audience before pirouetting like sinister automatons around McQueen's models. Behind them, a sixty-foot LED screen projected a super-sized image of model Raquel Zimmerman melting in and out of water and coiled with snakes, as a suitably macabre backdrop for this technological play. Alexander McQueen never really does subtle - this was evidently engineered to be another blockbuster.
To be honest, with these mesmerising theatrics unfolding around the clothing, it had to be one hell of a collection to drag our gaze back to the garments. McQueen, as ever, delivered. The theatrical play was integral to the clothing shown - despite the title 'Plato's Atlantis', this was a decidedly modern vision of a dystopian future, inspired by the not-so-approachable concepts of environmental destruction, stem-cell technology and 'mutation of the fittest'. McQueen is one of only a handful of designers who could take themes like this, and use them as the raw creative material for clothing that walks a fine like between fashion and fantasy. Accordingly, garments did indeed 'mutate' - shapes adapted slowly, morphing from outfit to outfit, fabric unfolding and peeling away to reveal new layers of embellishment. McQueen talked about these cameras 'dissecting' specimens as they walked down the catwalk - a white stretch of plastic with the aseptic cleanliness of a laboratory. If some of those models looked a little perturbed, it was understandable - a red-eye camera spiralling into a girl's path and stopping mere inches from her face was disconcerting just to watch, never mind for one of the participants in this ballet of woman and machine. The stunning prints reached a new level of complexity: morphing through fish-scales, snake-print and crocodile jacquards to create a amphibian hybrid in jewelled tones of petroleum blue, emerald and bright yellow. Later, as those creatures sank into the beautiful briney sea, pixellated coral prints in oceanic shades of blue emerged, embroidered with verdigris treasure like sunken relics - a great jewelled sweep of tarnished gold doubloons, say, encrusting the ribcage or neck. Despite this theatrical richness, McQueen is undoubtedly tuned into the contemporary pulse of fashion, albeit in his own idiosyncratic fashion. You want military? Try khaki silk-taffeta fatigues trimmed with painstaking passementerie like Victorian mourning garb, or a dress of camouflage-print of distressed roses with militia patched-pockets disintegrating into flesh. Try his take on brutal femininity, with raw ruffles jutting at the hip like sinister sea-creatures latched onto the hull of the models' bodies. As for tailoring, his signature razor-sharp shapes were spliced around those prints, grey vestiges of mohair or wool clinging to the models figures or jackets gripping the waist, bustle-backed or splaying out into tails.
It is ironic that these scraps of tailoring appeared to be clinging on for dear life to the theatrical underpinnings - indeed, they were the mere vestiges of wearability in the collection. This, of course, is of no concern - the showroom will be filled with those outlandish prints decorating accessible garments, while the wickedly tailored pieces, when rendered in block colours, will no doubt sell in droves. For in this show, those incessantly roaming cameras underlined that this was postmodern fashion - Jean Baudrillard's hyperreality finally become our reality. As Zimmerman and the snakes melted in and out of incandescence, they were replaced by live video of the garments we saw before us, while the audiences' countless Blackberrys and iPhones, tuned to the live stream, immediately replicated that reality again, and again, and again. Before our very eyes, those garments became image rather than object, pixellated and broadcast worldwide within seconds. Maybe McQueen's show delves deeper than even he expected, as it seemed to summarise not only his fantasy mutation of humanity, but this latest - and very real - mutation of fashion. This show was about image, not clothing, an image that was sinister, compelling and utterly unique.