Remembering McQueen′s Armadillo Boot

“Some designers are so airy-fairy people can’t connect with them. I hope people can relate to me, to a normal person who just happens to be a fashion designer; that people can take me as they find me. It’s not the designer’s job to care about what people think. Whatever else I’ve done, I’ve never tried to be something that I’m not.” The words of the late Alexander Mcqueen; the infamous protagonist to the birth of abstract fashion. Celebrating what would be his 49th birthday on Saturday, we look back at the inspiration behind his Spring/ Summer 2010 collection featuring the illustrious Armadillo boot.

Lee, as known by his friends and family, left school at 16 to work on Savile Row as a tailor. From here, the designer performed a stint as a design assistant in Milan before enrolling at Central Saint Martins where he envisioned and executed his renowned Jack the Ripper inspired graduate collection; a dramatic style of clothing that became the visionaries signature. Isabella Blow, life-long friend of McQueen and advocate of his work, bought the entire collection and also advised the British designer to be professionally known as Alexander due to the latter being ‘more regal’. After only four years out of design school, the eccentric designer was tasked to take the reins of LVMH owned Givenchy. Although he pushed the limits to what people expected from fashion, McQueen felt the role ‘constrained’ his creativity leading him to start his eponymous line.

Fast forward to 2010 when McQueen designed his Plato’s Atlantis collection which was lauded as his best show by the fashion press with the buying director of Selfridges saying it would be the store’s best selling collection ever. Amongst his alien-motivated make-up and serpent-like prints were his infamous reptile-scaled lobster-claw boots that later became known as ‘Armadillo Boots’.

The night before the environmental-inspired collection was to be staged, Sam Gainsbury, McQueen’s show producer, tried on the ten inch heel and claimed she couldn’t actually walk. She said, “I went and found Lee and I said, ‘I can’t walk in these, and I can walk in any heel. This could be a disaster. What if the girls fall?” Epitomising McQueen’s lovingly brash nature and brutally honest personality, he replied, ‘If they fall, they fall’. Being the first catwalk show ever to be live streamed on the internet, you can sense the artist’s abnormally risky character.

The entire collection was a pure fantasy with inspiration coming from his passionate love for nature. Merging Darwin’s nineteenth-century theories of evolution with twenty-first century concerns of global warming, McQueen claimed the collection ‘prophesied a future world in which ice caps would melt, seas would rise, and humanity would need to evolve in order to survive’. The Armadillo boot created a form entirely without reference to the natural anatomy of the foot; the scaly surface of design rendered in python skin invoked an armoured-like shell of the animal to which the shoe was named. As models walked, the oversized heel morphed their legs, creating a ballerina-en-pointe aesthetic.

Not only did McQueen look to inspire designs for future fashion, he also envisioned a whole new frontier for the projection of fashion shows, with the show being broadcasted on Nick Knight’s Well, that was the plan until brand fan and friend of McQueen, Lady Gaga, tweeted that the show would premier her new single, to which millions of youth hopefuls flooded the stream and inevitably crashed the website. Gaga’s love for the artists designs did not die with the designer; only a couple years ago the singer bought three pairs of the Armadillo boot in an auction that cost her £195,000.

We will to continue to wonder what could have been; achieving so much at such a young age is a testament to the talent and iconoclastic brilliance the east-Londoner had.