Alexander McQueen's feminine chivalry
An enormous cheer greeted Sarah Burton at the end of the Alexander McQueen show inside the Luxembourg Gardens on Monday night. As well it should have. Because at a historical moment when women's rights to the sanctity of the body has never been more discussed, her beautiful collection for Alexander McQueen was a visual poem to feminine beauty and fierce strength.
On the penultimate evening of 30 days of international runway shows, there should be little doubt that most aficionados will judge this the collection of the season. Rarely has designer Sarah Burton`s imagination been so rich, and her ideas so well executed by her studio and atelier.
McQueen is also one of those brands that is consistent, in part because Burton always mines British imagery. Not for her trips to Marrakech or LA or Rajasthan for research, but the powerful emotions and history of her native land.
This season she began the collection with a trip to the White Horse, one of the most remarkable prehistoric monuments in England, literally a giant white horse carved into a chalk hillside. Believed to commemorate a 9th century victory in the battle of King Alfred, its creators are unknown.
So there were lots of chivalrous looks; outstanding knight's armor suits made in molded white, red or black leather, overpainted or embroidered with bold crimson poppies, wild yellow irises and thistles and all articulated with straps and leather thongs.
Though her most ravishing ideas were made of shredded silk taffeta – used in either deconstructed wedding dresses, or several sensational red carpet creations.
Her opening statements were ruffled chiffon dresses cut with bravura and worn with a series of sleek leather cutaway riding jackets. The mood managed to be rock, royalist and racy all at the same time. Or, as the program notes put it: Clothing embedded with memories and meaning.
The cast appeared with gelled, braided hair; dangling metal earrings, necklaces and chokers. They marched, clearly excited about the collection, inside the Orangerie of the gardens. The floor done in bright white gravel, the set containing several large rocky outcrops, recalling the prehistoric monuments of Middle England like Stonehenge, though covered in beautiful patchwork silks -- featuring Norman towers and gothic church ceilings. The same dark Ophelia silk fabrics used in magnificently rouched evening gowns.
“Sisterhood, marriage, communion, the idea that you can be powerful by expressing emotions. Treasure and heirlooms; the summer solstice; its strength and fragility together,” said Burton backstage, adding they kicked off this project by acquiring a hand-painted 18th century embroidery and started taking all the elements apart. And then trained 20 people how to hand paint those motifs in the McQueen studio in London. A remarkable show by a remarkable designer.
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