LONDON - Stars turned out to honour the late "enfant terrible" of British fashion, Alexander McQueen, on Thursday, the opening party of a London show celebrating the designer five years after his death.
More than 70,000 tickets have already sold for the "Savage Beauty" show, which opens to the public on Saturday at London's Victoria and Albert Museum.
The director calls it an "emotional homecoming" for the designer who committed suicide in 2010 aged 40 and is remembered as one of Britain's most influential cultural figures of recent times.
The fashion world was out in force for the opening, attended by Britain's David and Victoria Beckham and models Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Eva Herzigova and Poppy Delevingne in full ball gowns.
They were joined at the dinner by Mexican-born film star Salma Hayek, English actor Colin Firth in a tuxedo and Britain's Princess Beatrice.
On view from Saturday are 240 outfits typifying McQueen's distinctive and occasionally bizarre style in the museum's largest ever fashion exhibition.
Curator Claire Wilcox described McQueen as "one of the most influential designers of his generation who shocked with his spectacular and powerful catwalk shows".
The exhibition, she said, was a reflection of his "elaborate storytelling, craftsmanship of the highest level" and his romantic obsession with nature.
On display are technical skills honed as an apprentice on London's exclusive Savile Row and characterised by precisely tailored curves and exaggerated silhouettes that became his trademark.
Research assistant Louise Rytter revealed that McQueen was an avid watcher of nature programmes, reflected in the use of animal parts including pheasant and goose feathers, razor clam shells, jewel-studded bird skulls, crocodile heads and antlers.
Some costumes are inspired by gazelles, others conjure up images of ostriches.
"I think he was inspired by nature because it was so unpredictable," she said. "The savage, animals that are wild and untamed, living in the free.
"He always questioned beauty, it's not conventional," she added. "In the early days it was more raw and he was very personal. He was an untamed designer."
There is a hint of his untamed side -- recently laid bare in a controversial biography -- in nightmarish leather-masked mannequins sporting Victorian Gothic dresses.