At the centre of Savage Beauty, the acclaimed new Alexander McQueen show at the V&A in London, is the hologram of a ghostly Kate Moss, which first appeared in McQueen’s 2006 ‘Widows of Culloden’ show in Paris. We talk to Hector Macleod, founder and CEO of Glassworks, about his memories of working on the project….
The Kate Moss hologram was a dramatic and emotional finale to the Paris show, with the ethereal figure of Moss shown floating inside a giant pyramid, set to the poignant soundtrack from Schindler’s List. McQueen was renowned for his catwalk show theatrics and also his love of exploring new technology, though this particular work was created using the Victorian parlour trick Pepper’s Ghost. Post-production house Glassworks worked alongside director Baillie Walsh and McQueen’s regular collaborators Gainsbury & Whiting and production designer Joseph Bennett to bring the hologram to life.
“Our special projects division had previous experience in creating Pepper’s Ghost and this project was a case of updating it, using keystoning and distortion to trick the eye,” says Macleod. “The idea was invented by the brilliant Joseph Bennett. It was ambitious and exciting and totally creative.
“Because of the time frame of when the actual pyramid would be built, we had to do a lot of virtual pre-visualisation,” he continues. “We completely rebuilt the architecture in CG, from the pyramid to catwalk and viewing areas. This was essentially surveying, so we could check virtually every field of view to see that it would work from all angles and where we could put the screens and projectors. Working closely with Joseph, we made sure everything was not only aesthetically correct but technically too.
“One of the big challenges was making sure you didn’t see the edge of the frame of the Kate Moss footage. The swirly material of her dress meant that we needed to do a lot of masking and distortion to make sure no one saw where it stopped and the illusion wasn’t shattered. Not being able to see that it would work until the pyramid was actually built meant it was technically fiddly and very exciting!”
As we now know, everything came together perfectly at the show. “For Lee [Alexander McQueen], his shows were pure theatre and that was exhilarating,” MacLeod continues. “The atmosphere and buzz when the show happened was amazing. The stakes are higher in fashion. Working amongst and being surrounded by such creativity it becomes harder to impress. But that night, with all the great and good of the fashion world there, everyone was blown away.
“With it being a fashion show, and everyone sitting rather than walking around it, we were able to create a very controlled environment for this hologram to be displayed in. What we hadn’t banked on was people taking photos. Because you can see through the pyramid and the hologram, the camera flashes added a whole different dimension, making it even more ethereal. Clothes-wise, it was probably the best Lee show that we saw, with these beautiful, highly tailored outfits.”
For the Savage Beauty show, the team that worked on the hologram have been reunited, with Glassworks working on the mini replica of the pyramid hologram that appears in the show, and also contributing an additional film at the entrance to the exhibition. “The V&A show has felt like a reunion of sorts,” says MacLeod. “After Lee’s death, there wasn’t that central focal point, but working together for this show with Gainsbury & Whiting, Baillie Walsh and Joseph Bennett has brought us all back together in his memory.
“We work on a lot of fashion films but rarely do you see a project of this scale, ambition and experimentation,” he continues. “Lee was a genius and he wasn’t interested in the commercial aspect of it. This was theatre.”