Eshu, Alexander McQueen F/W 2000
This was McQueen’s first collection that was shown in Paris (instead of London). It was inspired by the pre-colonial Yoruba tribe of West Africa, mixing tribal details with luxurious fabrics to emphasize the raw power of clothes. The models wore heavy steel piercings and their hairlines were dusted with yellow powder. The clothes were mud-spattered, glass-beaded and shredded, the materials being a variety of leathers, horsehair, and cotton.
Actually it was largely mixing tribal fabric techniques and luxurious fabrics to emphasize the juxtaposition of a culture’s historical sacredness with other privileged culture’s impression of it and theft of it through history. McQueen was all about taking part in cultural appropriation but in a way that he was heavily critiquing it, often visualizing how strange it was to try and take one culture out of one part of the world and make it into a typical Western luxurious fantasy. He wanted to bring out the beauty in other cultures that had been mistreated (often by Western civilization) by fusing the bizarre body constraints, body sexualization, and ladies garments of the Western world with the artistic, natural, savage beauty that he related to and found in the very cultures which we repressed and trivialized. Keep in mind that cultural appropriation was not yet a conversational topic when McQueen was doing this. Before him, there was foreign-inspired fashion, “oriental” and “ethnic” collections. There was no fusion of a political conversation speaking out against the problems with this in the fashion world before McQueen. And you thought it was all just frivolous fashion.