Powhaus spotlights McQueen's dark materials
'Tulle: a Tribute to Alexander McQueen'
Feathers, furs, leathers, chains and spandex were just a few of the dark materials seen incorporated into the many Alexander McQueen imitation costumes worn downtown on Friday night.
Dozens of people filed into Plush, 340 E. 6th St., to participate in Powhaus Productions' "Tulle: a Tribute to Alexander McQueen."
Decorations and art installations featuring portraits of the famed British fashion designer created by the Church of Satin and Curtis Marshall (Moonflower) hung on the walls and draped from the ceilings inside the 4th Avenue nightclub.
Participants danced inside near the crowded stage or mingled outside while viewing others' costumes.
"It was startling and exquisite to see so many others who took the time to pay an individual tribute-that was totally amazing because everyone was compelled to stare or touch or hug or photograph and it felt safe to do so," said Emily Hancock, who was dressed in peacock feathers.
Powhaus Productions, responsible for the extreme costume-themed dance party events held previously at the Rialto Theatre, rolled out the red carpet for this event.
"Tulle" featured musicians and DJs, artists and appearances from the cast of DragVision, Powhaus' new TV show. Leather Clutch, El Hanko Dinero, Diana Gen and Treasure Mammal, including DJs Matt Elliott and Raw B all performed throughout the night.
"We started out about two years ago with the idea that we wanted to have a rock and roll dance party that wasn't so clubby, where anyone could come and dress up outrageously," said Jared (Kitty Kat) McKinley, a co-founder of Powhaus.
In the past, Powhaus Productions have put on shows like "Pop," inspired by Andy Warhol; "The Glitter Ball," inspired by 70's glam rock; as well as "Taboo," about the life of Leigh Bowery.
"People love to come and participate or just spectate to see what the heck people are going to wear," said McKinley. "It's just more fun that way."
McKinley and Powhaus partner Nadine Roselle wanted to once again create a participatory event inspired by a pop-culture icon.
This time, it was Alexander McQueen. Throughout his career, Alexander McQueen took the avant-garde side of fashion to the next level by incorporating art installations into his runway shows and by using unusual themes in his designs.
He gained inspiration from styles in the past from such countries as England and Scotland with a special focus on the gothic side of Victorianism, according to Andrew Bolton, curator of the exhibit "Alexander McQueen, Savage Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute.
McQueen was often referred to as the "Edgar Allen Poe" of designers because of his interest in dark, often morbid themes. However there was an evident sense of duality in his work, because he also looked to nature for inspiration and would often create very whimsical, almost ethereal pieces, according to Bolton.
McQueen created a long elegant gown made out of hundreds of layers of white silk organza and a hat completely comprised of red butterflies. "My favorite part of the event was when half of the 2003 collection all came in together," Hancock said. "We were outside on the patio screaming and cheering-it was incredible."
McQueen brought to the runway oddly stained crotches, mud caked dresses, clothing that revealed private parts and impossible and sometimes clashing fabric combinations, and highly unconventional materials such as hair, shells, taxidermy birds, and violently slashed clothing, according to the Powhaus website.
"I'm a romantic schizophrenic," Alexander McQueen had once stated, which is now printed on a biographical panel that resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
When McQueen ended his life in February 2010, McKinley said that they wanted to do a tribute to him because he was an inspirational and unconventional character that pushed boundaries. However creating such an event with little to no budget was challenging for the new production company.
"We got really good at making things in the cheapest way possible," said McKinley. "I paid for this event with the tips I made while working at The Hub."
McKinley said that normally he and Nadine Roselle do everything for the production but for the most recent events, have received help from a group of about 65 regular volunteer contributors.
"For this event we actually paid 30 people, which was kind of tough," McKinley said.
However, he said that the company has attracted attention and that they hope to find some backers soon that will invest in future events.
"We don't just do events we also create a lot of videos and have different TV variety shows on our website and played on Access (Tucson) TV," McKinley said.
He said that believing he could just start a production company based off of a dance party was rather arrogant on his part.
"I am kind of like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh-he thinks he can do anything, " McKinley said. "It is so much more work than I imagined and we are friggin' poor but we are aiming to make a career out of it."