Breaking Fashion Rules: The Power of Design

What do Alexander McQueen and local merchants have in common?

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Upon my return from a recent trip to New York I had many ask me if I had done a lot of shopping there.

Spending time perusing the opulent shops featuring apparel by renowned designers like Miuccia Prada and Michael Kors seems natural and even logical for someone who writes a shopping and fashion blog, however I couldn’t help but make a mental comparison between the vibrant city’s prominent retailers and our marvelous local shops in Oak Park.

The Big Apple’s fashion destinations are indeed impressive; they're massive, with well-polished marble floors, sky-high ceilings, and meticulously and artfully displayed collections of top designers’ looks. (Fashion merchandisers here must all have studied for curatorial careers as well as fashion careers.)

But these distinguished shops are a bit austere; the ascetic atmosphere doesn’t quite lend itself to a convivial and playful air I’ve grown accustomed to at the boutiques right here in Oak Park and Forest Park.

It’s a very formal affair there on Park Avenue.

I’m sure there are a plethora of quaint boutiques hidden away from the bustling thoroughfares - waiting to be plundered for all of their chic apparel and accessories, but time just didn’t allow for more exploring. (But boy, that Robin Williams sure was good on stage!)

I also felt the need to whisper while inside these enormous stores, and when I get excited about a design, the last thing I want to do is restrain myself. (I reserve hushed tones for church and for hospitals.)

After all, shopping should be fun (at least, you know by now that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!).

And of course there is the small issue of price. $2800 for a pair of trousers. Hmm. My entire ensemble didn’t even add up to $800, and I thought it rather cute: my breezy blue top from Muse, my black harem pants from Ananas with beautiful pocket piping, my oh-so-comfortable strappy sandaled heels from Deedee and Edee’s, and my never-leave-home-without-it eco-friendly necklace from Gem Boutique.

The decision then becomes whether to invest in that new scooter I’ve been eyeing or to devote a handsome sum to a pair of pants from Alexander McQueen’s collection to my wardrobe (more on this brilliant designer to come).

They are an awfully nice pair of slacks. But I’m a bit frugal, and well, I’ve done the math: to get my money’s worth, I’d have to wear them at least once a week for the next 64 years, and well, if I actually live to 101, won’t they commence to biodegrade by then? I’m sure I’ll be biodegrading by then.

The shops in New York are lovely, almost like museums housing works of well-crafted, wearable art (many designs truly reflect the artistry of the maestros of the fashion world), but for now I still prefer the shops on Marion Street or Oak Park Avenue over those on Park Avenue.

I knew unequivocally that I did want to go to 1000 Fifth Avenue, where “over 5,000 years of art” is housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And of most interest to me was the Met’s exhibit, Savage Beauty, showcasing the radical garments of late designer Alexander McQueen, a technical virtuoso.  

McQueen was a style icon and fashion hero to many, known for his precision of tailoring and patternmaking yoked to his bold and irreverent designs; nonetheless, he remains a tragic figure in that he took his own life at the age of 40 in February of 2010.

The Chief Designer at Givenchy from 1996 until 2001, McQueen eventually launched his own label, Alexander McQueen, coveted by high-profile socialites, dignitaries, and celebrities (and me).

The British couturier intertwined fashion with drama, fantasy, and extravagance, creating shocking displays on the catwalks. He was an intrepid designer who considered himself a “romantic schizophrenic.”

“You’ve got to know the rules to break them,” he said of his fashion methodology which was at once disciplined and unconstrained, rigorous and impulsive.

He once stated he wanted people to be afraid of the women he dressed, he wanted to empower women.

Isn’t it interesting how the goal of a fashion wunderkind - born, raised, and educated across a great ocean, miles away - mirrors exactly that of the merchants in Oak Park and Forest Park?

They aim to make dressing and shopping both a spontaneous and artful experience, to ignite our sensibilities, and to cloak all women in confidence.

See photo gallery for more defiant McQueen designs and to allow me to bore you with a few vacation pics.

Reader Comments

4 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Mike Janowski from Oak Park  

Posted: July 2nd, 2011 6:08 PM

Mr. McLaughlin's site: http://hoganmclaughlin.com/home.html his Tumbler site: http://hoganmclaughlin.tumblr.com/ The Barney's opening with Daphne Guiness wearing his shoes...and an interview from ZOOT magazine: http://www.zootmagazine.com/2011/05/02/interview-with-artistic-designer-hogan-mclaughlin/ Enjoy! Hogan is a great talent, and a 2007 graduate of OPRF. He splits his time between NYC and Chicago.

Mike Janowski from Oak Park  

Posted: July 2nd, 2011 6:04 PM

I wanted to alert you to a local connection to the McQueen exhibit you may not have been aware of. River Forester Hogan McGlaughlin had two pieces included in the Barney's windows (curated, I believe, by Daphne Guiness) currently on display. McGlaughlin made the aquaintence of Ms. Guiness while staying at his studio in New York, and designed the "knife shoes" that she wore to the opening of the Barney's windows. I'll follow up by posting the Barney's opening, and Hogan's Tumbler site.

Christina Pippin from OakPark.com/Shopping/Blogs  

Posted: June 29th, 2011 12:11 PM

The Alexander McQueen exhibit has been extended through August 7th (it was originally slated to close at the end of July). Good news for anyone planning a trip to New York. No news of further venues to host the exhibit yet.

Melissa from OakPark.com/EmpoweredParent  

Posted: June 22nd, 2011 10:42 PM

This doesn't get any better. . . thank you for your love of McQueen, the images, the history, and of course, "you've got to know the rules to break them." Is the McQueen exhibit traveling beyond the Met?

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