Alexander McQueen’s creative director, Sarah Burton, recently made a spectacular comeback to the Paris fashion scene after a three-year hiatus. Her latest collection was a beautiful display of traditional tailoring with a touch of whimsy. Burton’s one-of-a-kind fashion philosophy combines the established principles of tailoring with a hint of theatricality. The runway was set up like a zoetrope, with the clothing projections rotating around the spectators, and the music from the Fall/Winter 1998 “Joan of Arc” collection playing in reverse.
During an interview backstage, Burton spoke about her design process which involves a revisit to the fundamentals of McQueen’s tailoring, starting with the building of garments. From there, she takes the classic approach and turns it on its head, creating something fresh and exciting. This was evident in the collection, which was a tribute to the anatomy of clothing and the human form.
Naomi Campbell, dressed in a black corset jumpsuit with a peaked collar, led the pack of models showcasing the bold, precisely-cut pinstripe suits, white shirts, and ties. The models, who came from a diverse range of backgrounds, represented the uniform-like charm and discipline that has been a hot topic in the fashion world lately. However, there was also a subtle hint of sensuality, with slicked-back hair reminiscent of Helmut Newton and strategically placed provocative orchids.
The blazers in the collection were transformed into high-slit bustier dresses, with lapels that twisted around the neckline and flap pockets accenting the hips. Some were inverted, molded to the waist, with vents that flowed over the shoulders and sleeves that hung with slashes, worn over long, slim pants. The men’s corsets and waist-cinching jackets were equally alluring, with orchid prints or a pop of blood-red embroidery, worn over pleated trousers with a 1940s vibe.
The focus on the body led Burton to study Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomy drawings, which led to the creation of remarkable dresses. One was made from a black knit that appeared muscular, while another was crafted from cream cables that looked like bones with built-out shoulders, waist cutouts, and a unraveling skirt. Burton achieved a similar effect on gowns using crystals and bugle beads, which hugged the body before cascading into fringe skirts. The showstopper was a silver gown with a bodice shaped like an orchid.
The evening tailoring was particularly fresh and would be a perfect choice for next week’s Oscars events and red carpets. Tuxedos expertly slashed at the midriff and accessorized with an overgrown silver orchid necklace or a slashed tuxedo jumpsuit with bold crystal epaulettes would make a statement.
According to Burton, the return to sartorialism during the COVID-19 pandemic feels both smart and necessary. In times of turmoil, people want to feel put together and strong, and there’s a sense of security in that. With this latest collection, Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton has once again demonstrated her mastery of the craft and her status as a true fashion visionary.