Visionaire 58: “Spirit” (A Tribute to Alexander McQueen)
Before Alexander McQueen committed suicide in February of 2010, he considered the idea of a collaborative art-fashion project with Visionaire, “a multi-format album of fashion and art produced in exclusive, numbered limited editions” — which sounds kind of awful and pretentious in cold hard print, but the reality of the Visionaire experience is a passionate dedication to presenting the best of what the art and design worlds offer within an equally creative context.
And if there’s one thing McQueen did well, it was blur the lines between high art and functional design, pushing the boundaries of printed textiles, playing with the form of the ubiquitous platform heel until it resembled nothing so much as a lovechild between Frank Gehry and David Cronenberg, and continuously nudging mere Ready to Wear ever closer to the rarefied air of Haute Couture.
But even though the meeting between Visionaire and McQueen took place in 2003, the collaboration never formally materialized. So after McQueen’s death, the people at Visionaire went ahead and produced their own personal tribute to the emotionally charged designer, releasing edition #58 (titled “Spirit”) in June of 2010 in a limited-edition of 1500 copies.
From WWD: “Each issue comes in a case designed by the McQueen studio and wrapped in a metallic brocade from the spring 2010 collection. And the stock is special loose leaf embedded with wild flowers (poppies, snap dragons and such) that bloom when planted and watered.”
Detail from a photograph by Nick Knight
Contributors to the project include Nick Knight, Lady Gaga, Steven Klein, Mario Sorrenti, Steven Meisel, Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott, Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin, David Sims, Mario Testino, Philip Treacy, Craig McDean, Sean Ellis and Sebastian Faena, a who’s-who of stylists, personalities and photographers.
The project is loose-leafed, each page its own piece of visual art, the images printed on a thick, textured paper save for the last — a 3-D holographic picture of a model on an old-school playground swing set, sailing back and forth in a kind of stop-motion progress, a big little-girl grin on her face.
It’s almost out of place among the more somber (and often macabre) posing that precedes it, but McQueen was, himself, an optimistic pusher of the high-tech in fashion, so this particular image flow acts as a kind of happy-pill chaser — and who could say no to one of those?
Detail shot from a photograph by Steven Meisel — note the embedded seeds
I’m only just getting around to writing about this book now because I received my edition (#831 out of 1500) shortly before we moved from Seattle to Auckland, and it got boxed up and packed away without much of a chance to take it out and look through it first.
I then, of course, promptly forgot about it (moving to a whole new country can do that) — until I started digging through the various boxes and containers and thought, “Wait, what’s this?”
And much to my delight, I got to discover Visionaire 58 all over again.
Detail from a photograph by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott
If you visit the Visionaire webshop, you’ll find that #58 is completely sold out, and it seems to be one of their few recent editions for which demand completely outstripped supply. The achingly hip French department store Colette even offered a “couture” version of the edition entirely covered in brass brocade, available in a run of fifty and at a price almost seven times greater than the lowly Ready to Wear version I’m showing here.
I think those have all sold out, too.
Detail from a photograph by Steven Klein
You can find other detail-shot of photographs from the Visionaire 58 at my Flickr account: Visionaire 58: Spirit — one thing I can say for certain is that I won’t be planting any of these pages to see if the seeds actually sprout. Okay, maybe one page.
But just one.