Alexander McQueen /S 2010 / PFW / Day seven

“I’m no Nostradamus,” Alexander McQueen wrote in his program notes. Perhaps not, but he seems to share a Donnie Downer gene with the pessimistic seer. The collection McQueen showed on Tuesday evening, the third in a series that has explored man’s relationship to the earth with Darwinian detachment, was, theatrically speaking, heavy. With the polar ice cap melting, the earth can no longer support life as we know it. We’re headed back from whence we came, the ocean, so start growing those gills.

Sounds like rich fodder for a talent as complicated as McQueen’s; he could have conjured endless evolutionary wonders. Yet instead, his fashion felt insufficient despite the parade of short, sensual dresses worked in intricate, individually engineered prints. Up close, these dresses approach art, each one unique and couturelike in its labor intensity. From the audience, however, blurry renderings of one species molting into another across molded superhero shapes and a few ruffles converged into a depressing norm, one lifted literally, but not in spirit, by scary “Armadillo” shoes. Brief digressions to sleek gray coats cut out over printed matter and a rubbery black passage barely registered on the diversity scale.

Which links to the much-hyped live streaming of McQueen’s show via a collaboration with Nick Knight, whose film of a naked woman’s metamorphosis from human to sea creature (she seemed to really get into the crawling-with-snakes stage) ran on a huge LED-screen backdrop. It proved to be an opportunity lost, and not just because there were widespread problems with the streaming. Before his show, he said the video stream would allow his clothes to “not get lost in translation. This is about me going to the public without stylists picking the looks. It’s about better direct access [to] customers.”

Why then, McQueen, a designer with an advertising budget of nil and imagination and skill as deep as the ocean he loves, chose to highlight his dark side only — and that with no real clothes — is a mystery. Why not instead go for an exquisitely textured presentation, as he did with his human chess game and dance marathon blockbusters, and toss in a few retail-friendly looks? No doubt many successful stream viewers found this show fascinating. But few likely turned off their computers desperate to buy.

At least some of those in the traditional audience who watched the show live found the mammoth onstage cameras intriguing — for about the first three looks. But as the cameras rolled up, down and back again, they became distractions as well as ominous reminders that the traditional fashion system is evolving as well, and fast — ready or not.

© by WWD / Photos by Giovanni Giannoni

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