All Photos: Givenchy F/W 1999.
Editor's note: When I spotted this article on Vogue I had a special little thrill to share it - I had just posted on of the photos from the runway show on my Instagram a few weeks back (see that here and please follow me there too if you are not already). I feel that this period of McQueen's history is so overlooked and glossed over - its exceptional to see a little light shone on it. Enjoy! xx Cherie
Last week, in anticipation of the Costume Institute’s forthcoming “Manus x Machina” exhibition, Vogue Runway’s show archive added three groundbreaking fashion shows in which the combination of technology and traditional dressmaking techniques produced truly extraordinary effects. We follow Junya Watanabe’s Fall 2000 Techno Couture collection with Alexander McQueen’s Fall 1999 Tron-inspired collection for Givenchy, which featured LED lights, glow-in-the-dark prints, and circuit board patterns.
Looking back at it, Y2K seems as adorably retro as a flip phone, but at the time it was a much-discussed issue, and one to which a certain amount of anxiety was attached, as no one knew how technology would affect the world at the precise turn of the 21st century. In his Fall 1999 collection for Givenchy, Alexander McQueen cut to the chase, sending sharp, tailored looks down the runway beside those with tech-inspired decorative motifs. Heightening the impact was the contrast between McQueen’s futuristic vision and the more traditional values of a house long associated with Audrey Hepburn, Gallic elegance, and LBDs.
McQueen opened his collection for Givenchy with a laser show, and sent cyborg-like models in what one observer described as “android couture” down a silvery mirrored runway. He seemed to take inspiration from Tron, as polar a reference to Sabrina as could be, and made use, noted biographer Dana Thomas, of “reflective tape [and] computerized Swarovski studs.” Embellishments, embroidered and printed, took the form of circuit boards; and while the glow-in-the-dark looks added drama to the show, they couldn’t hold a candle to the finale pieces, created by McQueen for Givenchy in collaboration with Studio van der Graaf. With these, made of molded clear plastic “vac-formed from plaster body casts” and fitted out with battery-powered, “programmed flashing LEDs,” McQueen tried to crack the code of the future of fashion.