This year has showcased the best of Sarah Burton’s talents. With two triumphs in hand—the superlative dark tailoring she showed in March in Paris, and her impeccable Coronation outfits for the Princess of Wales and Princess Charlotte—now comes the Alexander McQueen pre-fall collection that is unveiled in stores today. This one represents the continuous creative thought-process she and her teams work on, looping back to connect with the touchstones in the McQueen archive, and taking them forward.
This season, she’d pulled out McQueen’s La Poupee spring 1997 collection—a reminder of the ingenious slash-and-reveal tailoring and dressmaking he was hand-making at the time. It’s a study that took her further into an anatomically-focused “peeling back” of cloth and leather, strategically spliced with zippers to open or close across the breasts, embedded in vertical inserts on trouser-legs, or used as devices to unfurl skirts.
In person—these pieces were on view in the McQueen London flagship—the technical wizardry involved in carving out a fluid diagonal into the front of a black tuxedo jacket, or outlining a deep swooping S-shaped back in a heavily beaded dress was quite staggering. Ditto the way the McQueen teams will go to the extremes of embroidery—here, in the bejeweling and festooning of antique-looking crystals on an evening dress, tailored dresses, cutaway jackets, black tulle stiletto ankle boots, and bags.
Still, this is a needs-must shoppable range that also folds in softer and more pragmatic pieces. There’s color in the orchid motifs (derived from Burton’s research on Victorian botanical studies) that were blown up on a giant gray sweater and played over the rippling tiers of silk dresses. And then, somehow you can’t help looking at the three simplest things in the shop: a trio of McQueen daywear trouser suits, sans slashing or embellishment. You know exactly the kind of customer they’re for—royalty included.