The hands-down fashion moment of this season's London Fashion Week was the incredible finale to the McQ show, which not only featured the legendary model Kristen McMenamy bathed in light as cascades of autumnal leaves swirled around her, but also included some post-show audience participation when we all had to exit the show space via the live wood that was the set, and drop in at a broken down shack where McMenamy was holding court!
What the show notes didn't reveal (for fear of giving the game away that this was to be more that just your bog-standard-models-marching-up-and-down-a-catwalk-affair) was McQueen creative director Sarah Burton had collaborated with the pioneering theatre group Punchdrunk to create the whole spectical – from the concept, to the music and that incredible set.
Punchdrunk have created quite a name for themselves in art and theatre circles with their unique brand of immersive theatre, where the audience, rather than just watching the show, become a part of it. Their current production Sleep No More – a take on Macbeth - has been the hot ticket in New York for over a year now (they have had to extend the run six times!).
Grazia Daily caught up with Punchdrunk's Artistic Director Felix Barrett, to get the scoop on the show's inspiration, how it was to work with Sarah Burton and the pressures of living up to the McQueen legacy...
Grazia Daily: How did Punchdrunk get involved with the project?
Felix Barrett: 'I had worked on a Louis Vuitton store launch with Sam Gainsbury (the award winning show producer who has worked with McQueen on some of their most memorable shows) and it was her idea to get Punchdrunk involved in the McQ show. The McQueen brand is synonomous with fusing fashion art and technology, which we find really exciting and inspiring, so we jumped at the chance!'
GD: Was this your first time working on a fashion show? Were there any unique challenges?
FB: 'Yes, it was our first, which was really exciting. It was a challenging project in that it was the last show of a very long day so the audience were tired and primarily there to see the clothes, which meant we had to create a show that not only did the collection justice, but also was high impact enough to excite the exausted fashion crowd! Also, we were mindful that we needed to create something that would not only live up to and honour Lee's [Alexander McQueen's] legacy for ground breaking creativity, but also be a platform for hurling the McQ line into it's new phase.'
GD: What was Sarah Burton's brief?
FB: 'When we first went into Sarah's studio, she showed us these incredible, sumptious moodboards that were her references for the collection. They featured forests and leaves, organic earthy colours and fabrics and a picture of a shack. Those moodboards were the starting point for the entire concept.'
GD: What was Sarah Burton like to work with?
FB: 'A delight – so sweet, nice and brilliantly creative. Sarah knew what she wanted, but she was warm and generous to work with. I so hope we can work together again in the future!'
GD: Talk us through the process of creating the McQ project.
FB: 'I went to Paris last season to see the McQueen show – which was incredible. Following our initial meeting with Sarah when she showed us her moodboards, we had a series of meetings at the McQueen studios with Sarah and Sam Gainsbury, where we would show them what we'd been working on and discuss ideas about the theatrical shape of the production. We wanted to keep the front of house paired back and a bit rough and ready [the show was staged at a disused post office sorting office in Holborn], so that the finale would have maximum impact, and be so much more than the audience were expecting. Everything changed a lot in the last two weeks before the show though, at one point we had three shacks in the woods, then back to one. We had a huge cast of performers, then no cast...! But I was really happy with the final outcome!'
Punchdrunk's next UK theatre production is The Crash of the Elysuim. Click here for further information www.2012crash.co.uk
by Siobhan Mallen