In our continued attempt to portray some iconic figures in the world of fashion as more than just high-end designers, but as deeply rooted artists and visionaries, we saw it fit to revisit one of history’s most powerful fashion campaigns.The Highland Rape collection, which was showcased in autumn/winter 1995-1996, is considered to be the collection that established McQueen’s reputation not only as a world-class designer, but an activist fuelled by national pride. Initially, the public was under the impression that McQueen referenced the rape of women, when in fact it was actually the rape of Scotland by England. Highland Rape referenced the Jacobite risings of the eighteenth century and the Highland Clearances of the nineteenth century.
Alexander McQueen was then identified as an artist, because he was communicating powerful and thought provoking topics through his shows and through his collections, topics that were very personal to him. McQueen regarded his Scottish heritage as dreary and ruthless, and we clearly see that manifested in the details of the collection. Highland Rape is a moving and inspiring portrayal of the ever-turbulent relationship between Scotland and England.
“This collection was a shout against English designers doing flamboyant Scottish clothes. My father’s family originates from the Isle of Skye, and I’d studied the history of the Scottish upheavals and the Clearances. People were so unintelligent they thought this was about women being raped—yet Highland Rape was about England’s rape of Scotland.”