I post this from Malaga where I sit with a glass of red wine (probably rioja as it’s rather nice) and thrilled to have some wifi. I’m pleased and content about a recent purchase of a prototype. What is a prototype? It is a piece of unfinished clothing so it cannot be called a sample, rather it is an idea in progress, a flavour of a collection.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned collecting fashion, maybe in passing. It is my hobby and passion, away from work and writing a PhD it gives my brain some purely pleasurable creative nourishment. I collect mainly English designers. It was never meant to be so strategic only I love the style of Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Jean Muir and Alexander McQueen. This collection is mostly made up of mainline and commercially available items though I aim for the most iconic or desirable, say, the McQueen skull scarf belt from the Shipwreck collection. It is also sometimes possible to come by more unusual items, say, promotional muslin scarves and accompanying photos like the ones taken by Carrie Branovan which were given out as a boxed set at John’s Spring Summer 1988 presentation.
The latest acquisition is somewhat different. I have always been fascinated to see the construction and techniques which tend to go into very good ready to wear or couture pieces. It says so much about the designer and how they view a woman’s body, the movement they give her and the silhouettes they want her to become or represent. So when a fashion stylist made available some prototype Alexander McQueen pieces recently I spent some time going through which were most interesting.
The piece is a cream kid leather jacket which is barely put together. It appears to have been made on a dressmakers dummy and enough care was taken to beautifully line it in silk. The jacket is mid length and has wide, flared arms so very loose and bohemian. Covering the jacket are pieces of leather braid which has been lazer cut and are coloured either a light plum or red. These appear sometimes consistently as they did in the finished piece or are mixed with paper photocopies where clearly the designer ran out of the samples he had probably ordered in advance at the end of the previous season. Also covering the jacket are photocopied designs, mostly in shades of red which feature intricately hand drawn flowers and organic shapes.
The jacket is partly sewn though mostly held together by glue and tape, it has pins left in from where the idea of a tuck was experimented with, shocking in a way, but if you’re using a piece as an ideas board what else would you do? Over the years several pieces have fallen off; the tape remaining is testament to another idea. It’s a mess and I love it. I love it because I can see that this single piece eventually became the idea for about 7 pieces, shoes, skirts, jackets and frills. One lazer cut frill became a skirt itself. Just one little jacket tells the story of a sequence in a collection.
I know in my heart this jacket will be a nightmare to look after but if you were offered such an oppportunity, it would be hard to turn down.
The photos show what the jacket became on the catwalk for Spring/Summer 2005. The shoes are included because they show a closeup of the flower ideas stuck all over the jacket.