Doyle Offers 15 Years of Alexander McQueen in Upcoming Auction

Liz Catalano
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“He wanted to be a 21st-century designer. The one who didn’t approach fashion the same way. Who didn’t repeat the narratives of the past 50 years in fashion,” critic Cathy Horyn told The New York Times shortly after the death of Lee Alexander McQueen in 2010.

McQueen, a British fashion designer and the founder of the Alexander McQueen fashion house, would be remembered as the trailblazer he always strived to become. Doyle’s upcoming auction reflects on this legacy. Held at 10:00 AM EDT on September 10th, 2020, the sale will feature 50 McQueen items from 1995 to 2010.

Lee Alexander McQueen. Image from the Alexander McQueen Maison.
Lee Alexander McQueen. Image from the Alexander McQueen Maison.

“McQueen always took fashion to the level of performance art,” remembers Alix Browne, Deputy Editor at T Magazine. One key lot following this spirit is a black silk parachute cape from Alexander McQueen’s 2002 Autumn/ Winter collection (USD 40,000 – $50,000). The piece was made to honor Tim Burton’s 1989 iteration of Batman. Its defining characteristic is the bubble train that flows out behind the wearer, evoking the aesthetics of both cinematography and the melancholic Victorian era. 

From the same period in McQueen’s career is a sleeveless glass bead and synthetic horsehair dress from the Autumn/ Winter collection of 2000 ($30,000 – $40,000). This piece shows chartreuse beaded patterns creeping down to overtake the flowing skirt, imitating a parasite-host relationship. 

Alexander McQueen, purple reptile print kaleidoscope ensemble from Plato’s Atlantis, Spring/ Summer, 2010. Image from Doyle.
Alexander McQueen, purple reptile print kaleidoscope ensemble from Plato’s Atlantis, Spring/ Summer, 2010. Image from Doyle. 

One of the last shows that made it to the runway before McQueen’s death was Plato’s Atlantis, a Spring/ Summer collection that debuted in October of 2009. At the time, the show was hailed as a cutting-edge prediction of the technological future. The pieces blended animal and insect prints with curved shapes and unnatural forms. Billed as the first live-streamed fashion show in history, Plato’s Atlantis also intended to open up the exclusivity of the fashion world to everyone who couldn’t afford a ticket.

Six lots offered in the upcoming auction premiered in that show, including a python-print clutch and a black-navy coat. The Alexander McQueen silk kaleidoscope dresses were especially impactful with their colorful, unexpected prints and functional design. Each Plato’s Atlantis silk dress is offered with an estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. 

Alexander McQueen, floral print ballroom gown from The Widows of Culloden, Autumn/ Winter, 2006. Image from Doyle.
Alexander McQueen, floral print ballroom gown from The Widows of Culloden, Autumn/ Winter, 2006. Image from Doyle.

Another notable McQueen show was The Widows of Culloden, which presented the Autumn/ Winter collection of 2006. The Scottish-inspired event paid homage to McQueen’s heritage and used audio, visual, and tactile elements. Critics recall the invitations written in Gaelic; the soundtrack overlaid with bagpipes, punk rock, and howling winds; and the subtle allusion to a bloody conflict in 1740s Scotland. The clothing itself was dark and pensive, designed to convey the grief of war widows. Offered from the collection is a floral-print ballroom gown with an off-shoulder corset bodice and bubble hem ($3,000 – $5,000). Complete with a train and skirt hoop inserts, this gown balanced some of the more dramatic pieces in the show. 

Alexander McQueen, quilted dark gray silk blend coat from Horn of Plenty, Autumn/ Winter, 2009. Image from Vogue.
Alexander McQueen, quilted dark gray silk blend coat from Horn of Plenty, Autumn/ Winter, 2009. Image from Vogue.

Rounding out the auction are red and black items from the Horn of Plenty Autumn/ Winter 2009 show. McQueen dressed his models in outrageous outfits that together formed a cohesive whole, disjointed yet unified in their eccentricity. About the show, McQueen reportedly said, “It’s Aubrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It’s Dior. It’s Valentino’s ladies who lunch… I want people to look at it and say, ‘What’s that?’” Among the key Horn of Plenty lots is a quilted dark gray coat with elbow-length sleeves ($6,000 – $8,000). This piece was originally worn with a tightly-wrapped dress and Marilyn Manson makeup.

This auction was sourced from the collection of Jennifer Zuiker, a Los Angeles-based collector who bought each of her McQueen items directly from the brand. The sale spans the last 15 years of McQueen’s career, which was brought to an abrupt halt with his death by suicide. Zuiker kept many of the clothes unworn, interested less in their value as clothing and more in their value as art. 

“Her collection is on another level,” said Lady Kinvara Balfour to Vogue. “I think collections like Jennifer’s are so precious because he’s gone.” 

The sale will be held live and online on September 10th, 2020, at 10:00 AM EDT. For more information and to place a bid, visit Doyle