Paper McQueen

“I relate more to that cold, austere asceticism of the Flemish masters,” said the enormously gifted Alexander McQueen, “and I also love the macabre thing you see in Tudor and Jacobean portraiture. For me, what I do is an artistic expression which is channeled through me. Fashion is just the medium.”

McQueen was not alive to see the final outfit in the final private showing of his designs. But, for that 2010-11 Autumn/Winter collection, out came the remarkable finale piece with delicate gold embroidery on the white tulle skirt and gilded feathers from the tips of the starched jacket collar, over the torso and well past the model’s hips.

As Sarah Burton – McQueen’s Assistant, now Creative Director at Alexander McQueen – told Vogue in March of 2010: “”He wanted to get back to the handcraft he loved, and the things that are being lost in the making of fashion. He was looking at the art of the Dark Ages, but finding light and beauty in it. He was coming in every day, draping and cutting pieces on the stand.”

Local design student, Samantha Bourdon, was looking for an inspiration dress for her Retail Visual Presentation project, part of her much loved Design Formation coursework at Langara College. It’s a two-year program in which students develop practical skills in design fields from visual merchandising to event, graphic and interior design. “For this project, we had to find a couture dress from any time and any designer. I was researching a bunch of dresses, but as soon as I saw that one, I said: ‘that’s gorgeous. I want to wear that.”

For the project, she would have to recreate the dress using a limited selection of papers and art supplies. “My teacher – Kevin Smith. He’s amazing – said: ‘are you sure you want to do this dress? It’s a lot of work. But, I was sure. I told him: ‘I got this. I got this.”

As she went about recreating McQueen’s handiwork, Bourdon developed an even greater respect for the designer and his team. “All of his dresses are just unbelievable. I love the form of this dress – the collar, the feathers. It has this dark beauty.”

It was an enormous undertaking. “We started on January 3rd.” Bourdon’s first material choice was kraft paper. “I wet it, crinkled it, ironed it, then it became a really nice fabric material. I spray-painted it, let it dry, then I taped both sides.”

Bourdon cut out all the little feathers by hand, colouring them with gold marker. “I got a hole punch to do all the feathers, but it was a nightmare and broke. I was sitting there for days, cutting out feathers. I don’t even want to know how many feathers are on it.” Next she created the skirt and underskirt from tissue paper, the neckpiece and arms from cardboard. “Kevin was so supportive through the whole thing.”



Last week, Bourdon was finally done. “I nearly cried.”  She packaged up the dress, gave it to Instructor Kevin Smith, who installed her dress and those of her classmates in an exhibit at Oakridge. “It’s beyond words; it’s amazing,” said Bourdon of seeing her work on display. “Personally, I never thought I had it in me. Just to see it there.”

Bourdon had been backpacking around the world for ten years before joining the program. “Making and seeing the dress, I know I’m on the right path. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

The Brown Paper Couture exhibit runs until March 14th. Some of the other lovely creations include:


Paper Couture Designer: Vanessa Contreras
Inspiration: Elie Saab. Spring/Summer 2015


Paper Couture Designer: Vika Zheng
Inspiration: Giambattista Valli. Fall/Winter 2016


Paper Couture Designer: Abby Perry
Inspiration: Paolo Sebastian. Spring/Summer 2016


Paper Couture Designer: Lisa Mariacher
Inspiration: Paolo Sebastian. Fall/Winter 2015


Paper Couture Designer: Evelyn Neves
Inspiration: Valentino. Fall 2010


Paper Couture Designer: Christianna Contos
Inspiration: Nicolas Jebran. Spring/Summer 2012


Langara Design Formation Program

Alexander McQueen. Savage Beauty. 2011. Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Written by Elizabeth Newton




Sarah Mulder Q/A


Outdoor Art @ UBC

Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton