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In a spectacular display of storytelling, the Spring/Summer 2003 show, titled Irere (meaning “transformation” in Amazonian), was the beginning of a new era for Alexander McQueen. While the opening video sequence was typically macabre, it was setting the stage for a runway show packed with wearable, covetable items. In the film, directed by John Maybury, a woman is drowning in the ocean, and writhes around, entangled in a torn and gauzy dress. This is our protagonist; the woman is shipwrecked, and will have her “transformation” on land.
The first part of the show consisted of pirate inspired pieces, with the beauty look being very in keeping with the “shipwrecked” theme: wet hair and black eye shadow smudged far beneath the eye. Brown leather miniskirts, knee-high pirate boots, military-inspired jackets, and low-slung belts all led to an incredible gown that has been nicknamed the “Oyster Dress”. Layers of off-white ruffles fell off of a highly structured undergarment. It was stunning.
Next, the backdrop showed a creepy woods sequence, which set the tone for a series of all-black ensembles. The shipwrecked pirate was being transformed into a conquistador. The black eye makeup became more intense and defined, and hair was put into half-up styles, all accented with Amazonian-inspired jewelry designed by McQueen’s friend, jeweler Shaun Leane. Ending with an Elizabethan-inspired ensemble, the backdrop took a sudden turn for the bright and colorful.
In the final part of our protagonist’s transformation, she evolves into a jewel-toned Amazonian Goddess, with hints of a bird of paradise. The chiffon-y dresses were tie-dyed in incredible bright color palettes of blue, red, and yellow. Accompanying the dresses were jumpsuits made from parachute material, and re-incarnations of previous designs such as the Elizabethan corset and “Oyster dress”, taken from beiges and black to every color of the rainbow. When Lee McQueen took his bow at the end of the show, the audience was shocked to discover that he had lost 30 pounds; indeed his own transformation was intertwined with his protagonist’s.