Dress, No. 13, spring/summer 1999

Alexander McQueen (British, 1969–2010)
No. 13, spring/summer 1999
White cotton muslin spray-painted black and yellow with underskirt of white synthetic tulle
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Photograph © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce

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Andrew Bolton: In one of the most memorable moments at McQueen’s runway shows, two robots spray-painted a dress worn by the model Shalom Harlow. Here we talk to Shalom about the experience.

Shalom Harlow: I walked right up to it and stood on top of this circular platform. And as soon as I gained my footing, the circular platform started a slow, steady rotation. And it was almost like the mechanical robots were stretching and moving their parts after an extended period of slumber. And as they sort of gained consciousness, they recognized that there was another presence amongst them, and that was myself.

And at some point, the curiosity switched, and it became slightly more aggressive and frenetic and engaged on their part. And an agenda became solidified somehow. And my relationship with them shifted at that moment because I started to lose control over my own experience, and they were taking over. So they began to spray and paint and create this futuristic design on this very simple dress.

And when they were finished, they sort of receded and I walked, almost staggered, up to the audience and splayed myself in front of them with complete abandon and surrender.

It almost became this like aggressive sexual experience in some way. And I think that this moment really encapsulates, in a way, how Alexander related to—at least at this particular moment—related to creation. Is that all of creation? Is that the act of a human being being created, the sexual act? Is it the act of, you know, the Big Bang, if you will, that violence and that chaos and that surrender that takes place?

Alexander and I didn’t have any conversation directly related to this particular piece and to creating this moment within his show. I like to think that he wanted to interfere as little as possible and allow me to have the most genuine, spontaneous experience as possible.

In McQueen’s Words

“[The finale of this collection] was inspired by an installation by artist Rebecca Horn of two shotguns firing blood-red paint at each other.”

“Style,” South China Morning Post, September 2007

“It was really carefully choreographed. It took a week to program the robots.”

ArtReview, September 2003

Related Video

No. 13, spring/summer 1999
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