• Brooke Roberts-Islam

McQueen and a bee named Beyoncé

Bees have been featuring greatly in my life lately. From blogpost one featuring Bastian Broecker’s robot swarm algorithms based on the behaviour of bees, to a wonderful gift of bee pollen and propolis-laden honey from Pablo Villasenin of Toca honey in Galicia, which threw me back into rude health after a hectic time at London Fashion Week, to a very special Pearly Queen beekeeping session this morning at Stepney City Farm in East London. It was special because I learnt more about how bees communicate via a waggle dance that is fundamentally based on physics and also managed to spot the Queen Bee amongst a hive of around 8,000 bees. Well, she is called Beyoncé so it’s not surprising she was dominating the crowd and making her presence felt. I also got to wear a Beekeeping suit (I am an ardent onesie fan – usually of the pilot suit variety) so stylistically, I felt right at home.

The Queen bee rules the hive for her lifetime of (up to five years), long outliving the worker bees (other female bees) and drones (male bees) whose lifespan is around 6 weeks. The Queen bee mates once, one mile in the air about the hive (mile high club, anyone?) with up to 20 drones. She stores the semen in her bountiful “hips” for her lifetime, fertilising her eggs according to how/when she wishes to populate the hive. She can lay up to 2000 fertilised eggs per day. Interestingly, John from Pearly Queen tells us that there are a group of French bees located near an M&M factory in Alsace have been making coloured honey after visiting waste sites containing the coloured shells. M&M flavoured honey, anyone?

The fascinating bee behaviour and the protective suits, mesh hats and long gloves got me thinking about beekeeping-inspired fashion. My research led me to Alexander McQueen SS13 and Jean Paul Gaultier’s SS15 collections.

Understanding the powerful pheromone-driven sexuality of the Queen bee and devastating and sudden demise of all drones who mate with her, the premise for Sarah Burton’s dark sexually charged bee-inspired SS13 collection for Alexander McQueen is clear and potent. The collection featured a metamorphosing hexagonal digital backdrop, honeycomb jacquards and tortoiseshell accessories and cage-like bodices with ornamental bees, reminding me of the wooden frames of the hive I saw today and adding a rich, glossy, amber quality like the nectar and pollen inside the honeycomb.

Images: Style.com

If I was developing a collection inspired by beekeeping I’d consider the corruption of honey by artificial colours from the M&M factory and take it to a more techno place. I’d draw influence from beekeeping suits and all-over protective clothing including NASA space suits, as well as functional fastenings, including zips. I’m also a fan of the gauzey drapery around the neck and in the mesh of vintage beekeeping attire. I’d also develop knitted structures to mimic hexagonal shapes and create a honeycomb dimension. Here are my beekeeping/spacesuit/functional outerwear mood boards.

Mood board credits: Givenchy Haute Couture, Toogood Outwear, Noemi Anna Tina Ceresola, Nasa Space Suits.

Header Image: Raquel Zimmerman by David Sims.

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