In “It’s a Jungle Out There,” shown in February 1997 in London’s Borough Market, McQueen meditated on the theme of the Thomson’s gazelle and its terrible vulnerability to predators.
He used the idea of animal instincts in the natural world as metaphor for the dog-eats-dog nature of the urban jungle, staging the show against a forty-foot-high screen of corrugated iron drilled with imitation bullet holes and surrounded by wrecked cars, adding dry ice and crimson lighting for drama.
In a television interview he said: “The whole show feeling was about the Thompson’s gazelle. It’s a poor little critter – the markings are lovely. It’s got these dark eyes, the white and black with the tan markings on the side, the horns – but it is the food chain of Africa. As soon as it’s born it’s dead, I mean you’re lucky if it lasts a few months, and that’s how I see human life, in the same way. You know, we can all be discarded quite easily … you’re there, you’re gone, it’s a jungle out there!”
Yet the design and styling of a hide jacket with pointed shoulders from which a pair of twisting gazelle horns stood up, worn by a model whose metallic contact lenses made her look like an alien, subverted the fatal passivity of the Thompson’s gazelle.
Though the animal was referred to in the model’s dramatic black and white face make-up, the horns, and the hide jacket, McQueen repositioned its parts and added the huge shoulders and metallic contact lenses to create a woman more like Rider Haggard’s She: predatory, scary, powerful, and only half human.
These were the characteristics of McQueen’s femme fatale, a figure who suggested the terrifying power of women rather than their soft vulnerability.
Text taken from article: 'A portrait of designer Alexander McQueen and his visions of the future.' by Caroline Evans