V&A fashion curator Edwina Ehrman discusses the ‘Bird’s Nest’ headdress by Philip Treacy and Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen.
The Widows of Culloden, Autumn/Winter 2006.
Alexander McQueen frequently worked with feathers and he’s known for his skill with feathers. One piece that particularly intrigues me is the bird’s nest hat that he created for the 2006 collection, The Widows of Culloden. This was a collection which was full of emotion, it was about the Battle of Culloden in 1745 during the Jacobite uprising, and it resulted in the death of large numbers of Scottish soldiers. The thing that really worries me about the piece, which I should describe…so we have a bird’s nest, it’s got seven eggs and it has two mallard’s wings mounted on it and it was created by Shaun Leane and Philip Treacy. Now what really alarms me is the fact that the actual bird, the bird’s body, is absent. So is this the absent father, who’s been killed on the battlefield? Is this the absent mother who is distraught and in her distress left the bird’s eggs on their own? Whatever’s happened these bird’s eggs are very vulnerable. They’re mallard’s wings. Mallards usually nest on the ground so they’re now perched on top of a model’s head – are they going to tumble on to the ground and break? Or are these wings the predator’s wings, the predator who’s circling above and is going to come down and seize those eggs? But whatever the scenario, it fills me with, sort of, anxiety and fear to a certain extent. But you can also admire the piece on a level of craftsmanship. It is incredibly skilfully made, it’s very attractive and the whole collection really was a great exhibition of McQueen’s craftsmanship.