On September 25, 2000, attendees of the Alexander McQueen S/S 2001 fashion show (entitled “Voss”, a direct reference to Lee’s fascination with birds) filed into a room. Before them stood a large mirrored box. They were made to wait for hours, uncomfortably staring at their own reflections. In Lee’s words:
"The idea was to turn people’s faces on themselves. I wanted to turn it around and make them thing, am I actually as good as what I’m looking at?"
Eventually the box was lit from within, to reveal a space resembling a holding cell in a mental hospital. Within the box was set another box, which remained closed for the duration of the runway show. Models began to walk into the cube, with their heads wrapped in a gauze-y fabric resembling that of mental patients. The patrons could see into the box but the models could not see out. Their clothing contained a variety of styles and themes; everything from sleek silky cocktail dresses in pearl and blush pink to references to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was shown. Some of the more eccentric pieces included a top made out of jigsaw puzzle pieces, trapeze dresses covered in large green feathers, futuristic heel-less shoes, and elaborate gowns made out of razor clam shells and painted microscope slides. In reference to the red dress made of microscope slides and ostrich feathers, McQueen said to The Observer Magazine "There’s blood beneath every layer of skin".
The piece-de-resistance of the collection was the finale. After all of the models (the likes of which included Kate Moss, Erin O’Connor, and Karen Elson) exited, the box that had been sitting in the middle of the runway became the focal point. Suddenly, the walls of the box crashed down onto the floor, shattering the glass. Inside, a plus-sized woman (erotica writer Michelle Olley) was revealed to be lounging completely naked, breathing through a distorted face mask, and surrounded by moths. It was a reference to Joel-Peter Witkin’s Sanitarium, and a direct statement to the audience regarding Lee McQueen’s feelings about the societal view of beauty. Here, after all of the conventionally gorgeous models had passed by, lay an also beautiful woman, but not in the conventional sense. The show closed with the models pressing their hands against the glass cube, making the first real bit of contact with the audience.
McQueen challenged the fashion world constantly with his designs and theatrical runway shows, but VOSS has remained one of his most memorable statements.