Many of us will remember 1999 as the year that S Club 7 hit the music scene, or perhaps when Gwyneth Paltrow gave that emotional speech at the Oscars. However, one of the year’s most memorable moments came courtesy of designer Alexander McQueen, who treated us to a fashion show like none other – and it’s fair to say its impact still lives on, over 15 years later.
Following on from controversial presentations such as his ‘Highland Rape’ collection of 1995, McQueen grabbed the attention of fashion critics once again with his ‘No. 13’ show for spring/summer 1999. Opening with physically handicapped athlete Aimee Mullins taking to the runway wearing prosthetic legs, the show oozed a dark yet futuristic feel, fusing sharp tailoring with softly draped designs to create a unstructured aesthetic that would soon become McQueen’s signature.
But the real talking point occurred at the show’s finale, when model Shalom Harlow positioned herself on a spinning plinth, wearing nothing but a plain white dress. Robotic machines suddenly came to life and began dousing the dress with spray paint, taking the presentation from a straightforward show to a technological spectacle. Now hailed as an art piece, the very dress can be seen on display at the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, until August 2.
But the most touching part of the show? When Alexander McQueen steps out with his two dogs to coyly take a bow, possibly not knowing that he’d just created a piece of fashion history that would be lauded for years to come.