A Form of Escapism

“Fashion should be a form of escapism, and not a form of imprisonment”
Alexander McQueen


The Eye, Alexander McQueen Spring Summer 2000 Collection. McQueen turned the runway into a terrifying bed of metal spikes and nails. Models were lifted into the air showing off sheer knits, body hugging jerseys and a controversial makeover of the burka among other racy interpretations of Middle Eastern dress.


This season, Alexander McQueen is staging his first major show in New York. Rumors about the show abound: Some say he plan to suspend models from the Brooklyn Bridge. Others say he is going to use 240 models, that they will walk through a pool of oil, and that the show will cost a million dollars. The location is kept secret until the last minute. To add to the drama, a hurricane is heading up the coast. New York’s mayor issues an order for schools and businesses to close and for people to return home by three in the afternoon.

Although many shows have been cancelled, McQueen’s evening presentation at Pier 94 on the Hudson River is on. More than a thousand people brave the torrential rain and gusting sixty-mile-per-hour to attend. Inside the cavernous warehouse is a shallow pool. The music starts, and the first model strides out, splashing through the water and sending up droplets that glisten in the spotlight.

This show is said to be a protest against the repression of Islamic women with the water on the runway representing the oil of wealthy middle-eastern countries. In keeping with the Islamic theme, veils appear along with crescent moon motifs –but the designs are counterbalanced by a western sensibility.


Alexander McQueen drops his trousers to show off his American flag print underwear during the show’s finale.


Out of Many


E pluribus unum (Latin for “Out of many, one”, alternatively translated as “One out of many” or “One from many”) is a phrase on the Seal of the United States, along with Annuit cœptis (Latin for “He approves (has approved) of the undertaking”) and Novus ordo seclorum, (Latin for “New Order of the Ages”) and adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782. Never codified by law, E pluribus unum was considered a de facto motto of the United States until 1956 when the United States Congress passed an act (H. J. Resolution 396), adopting “In God We Trust” as the official motto.

The phrase is similar to a Latin translation of a variation of Heraclitus‘s 10th fragment, “The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one.” A variant of the phrase was used in Moretum, a poem attributed to Virgil but with the actual author unknown, describing (on the surface at least) the making of moretum, a kind of herb and cheese spread related to modern pesto. In the poem text, color est e pluribus unus describes the blending of colors into one. St. Augustine used a variant of the phrase, ex pluribus unum, in his Confessions.

The traditionally understood meaning of the phrase was that out of many states (or colonies) emerge a single nation. However, in recent years its meaning has come to suggest that out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, and ancestries has emerged a single people and nation—illustrating the concept of the melting pot.


Naomi Sims and Viviane Fauna in Native American inspired fashions by Giorgio Sant Angelo for Vogue September 1970. Photo by Irving Penn