Alexander McQueen: Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims

by Hailey Anderson

Alexander McQueen was one of the most influential and controversial designers in the industry. He loved expressing ideas of sexuality, religion, race, and class through the art of fashion. Known for his infamous clothing lines and groundbreaking fashion shows, he enjoyed using his platform to create collections representing social issues throughout his career. In 1992, he graduated from Central St. Martin’s and created a runway collection known as “Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims.” His collection was inspired by the unidentified serial killer in the Whitechapel district of London, England in the 1880’s.

Jack the Ripper was known for targeting and killing female sex workers for numerous years without getting caught. Alexander’s relatives actually owned a hotel that one of the victims of the serial killer was murdered at. One London England’s most unsolved mysteries with over dozens of victims between 1880 to 1995, but only 5 victims proven to be linked to the serial killer. The five victims confirmed murdered by Jack the Ripper include;

Mary Ann Nichols (August 31st, 1888)

Annie Chapman (September 8th, 1888)

Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes (September 30th, 1888)

Mary Jane Kelly (November 9th, 1888)

Each piece of clothing even had locks of his hair woven into the material representing a piece of himself within it.

One of his most famous quotes when asked about his collections was, “I find beauty in the grotesque.” His love for victorian culture and gothic design helped create this historical collection known to be one of his first masterpieces.

One of the most iconic pieces within the Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims collection was the Pink Silk Satin Coat with thorn patterned lines and encapsulated human hair. His idea of lining a majority of his collection with human hair was due to the Victorian Era when sex workers would sell their locks of hair to be given to peoples lovers. McQueen using his own locks of hair to finish the collection. His collection fits a gothic theme due to his inspiration being Victorian Gothic mixed with horror and romance. A majority of his collections had life and death styles with a sinister aspect creating a strong gothic theme. Every fashion show representing a new collection of his is told with a story.

The 1968 film we analyzed this semester that I believe depends a lot on the style of the characters is Rosemary’s Baby by Roman Polanski. Just as Alexander McQueen uses everyday life experiences to inspire his clothing lines, every piece of fabric and design used alters the clothing completely. The models also play a very important factor in how the audience portrays the clothing which McQueen is very careful in choosing. Rosemary within the film is depicted as this sweet and innocent woman being completely taken advantage of by those closest to her.

The way the audience depicts her character has a lot to do with clothing choices and costumes playing an important role. Throughout the film, Rosemary wears colorful baby-doll style dresses, knit sweaters, and 1960’s nightgowns. Adding color to her wardrobe made a significant difference in the amount of positively and youthfulness the audience saw Rosemary as. This is important within the film because it puts the audiences’ minds at ease until they’re completely caught off guard.

Another similarity is seen within the 1960’s psychological thriller Psycho directed by Alfred Hitchcock. McQueen uses soundtracks from the film during his runway show, Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victims to enhance the experience. The soundtrack is used within the film during important moments of tension to amplify the scene, keeping the audience engaged and nervous. Since McQueen’s runway show was about one of London’s most mysterious serial killers, he believed this soundtrack would be the perfect match to his collection.

Although collections such as this one are under vast controversy, this is what made McQueen so unique and he wanted the victims to be highlighted and remembered while making women feared and not to be messed with. The main song McQueen picked from the film was The Murder by Bernard Herrman from the shower scene in Psycho. The collection was filled with different articles of clothing all with various patterns representing blood spatter. Models were also carrying weapons within the show and not breaking character. He chose specific people to wear iconic clothing such as the Silk Satin Coat who also wore a barbed-wire head piece to match. McQueen was a huge influence in gothic fashion that opened so many possibilities for other designers within the industry that were too originally too afraid to be that “outside the box.” His legacy in the fashion world still lives on.     



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