Alexander McQueen. Just the name brings elaborate and excessive imagery to mind. The designer has branded Lady Gaga, reinterpreted the concept of stilettos, and exceeded the boundaries of fashion design. In his latest stunt, McQueen pushed the boundaries not only in the Spring/Summer 2014 collection, but also in the corresponding campaign video, featuring Kate Moss, which introduces the new line.
The video, which mimics a “classic” horror film, uses subtle imagery that references the use of a postmodern approach. The short story uses simulacra and hyperrealism through subtle symbols that play into our subconscious as viewers, ultimately blurring the line between reality and this creation. Many design campaigns focus on romanticizing reality, but this sinister approach is a far more significant exaggeration.
The story is set in a dark, secluded city, outside a 24-hour movie shop. The screens of old, boxy TVs are glaring with white noise and clips of old, scary movies. Kate Moss, looking fairly futuristic with bright orange hair and a geometric, contemporary outfit, stares at the TV screens while someone is filming her. She knows someone is following her, and she leads him up to her eerie apartment where she then undresses for her stalker. Before the follower enters the apartment, a doll, resembling Kate Moss, is thrown into the trashcan.
The simulacra becomes evident not only in the plot, but in artistic decisions of the video. The soundtrack of the clip is paired with heavy breathing, a sound that can be compared to a pornographic film. The noise is clearly coming from the “viewer.” The idea that this noise is referencing pornography is further emphasized when we get a glimpse of the vintage camera recording her on the street and then seductively undressing. Several frames show a perspective through a lens, incorporating another form of simulacra to portray a meaning. The camera shows a grid over Kate through the camera viewpoint, which strongly resembles the perspective from a gun. The concept that the stalker is “shooting” Kate becomes a parallel, which adds to mysterious nature of the campaign. The intentions of the stalker become blurred and misconstrued. Does he want to document her or does he want to kill her? Does the doll of Kate symbolize a fetish or a is it simply a toy? The act of Kate guiding the stranger straight upstairs to her room furthers the sexual undertones. With all these chilling elements, there is still a twisted feeling of seduction in this S&M inspired collection, which is considered the entire focus of this campaign video. Yet it’s not.
Much like McQueen’s designs, this promotion video becomes a performance piece. It evokes an intended feeling through each element that assists in telling the story. The Spring/Summer 2014 Collection is no longer a set of clothes; it is now a manipulated presentation. This element of technology in the presentation becomes a constructed viewpoint for the audience. In reality, these pieces, while excellently made, are only garments. Yet the scene is set for this promotion and it transforms the collection into something it’s not. This use of technology incorporated with fashion is a blessing and a curse. Because of this ability to release an online video, the McQueen collection is able to express its story and alter the perception of the viewer. But in reality, without this influence, the collection may not evoke any special emotion.
The campaign video is not a commercial in the traditional sense, even though its purpose is to sell a product. In this instance, the video was supposed to capture our attention to the story, not the garments. We were intrigued through the suspense, not the shoes. Because the product was not prominent, it is easy to lose sight of the purpose behind the campaign video. Was this simply an artistic stunt? Or was it to seduce an audience into investing in an expensive piece through a false sense of reality?