WHILE many have fallen into the trap of focusing on creating viral moments from their shows, Alexander McQueen quietly returned to the Paris Fashion Week schedule with a collection that stripped everything back to the very backbone of clothes – literally. With nothing to prove and ultimately the blueprint for every attempt after, Sarah Burton took a moment to focus on anatomy.
“Human anatomy, the anatomy of clothing, the anatomy of flowers,” explained the creative director. “An exploration of beauty and power through tailoring and tailoring fabrics and a focus on cut, proportion and silhouette”. It sounds simple. It isn’t.
Stripping any noise away from all looks made by the brand, it is all built on traditional tailoring techniques that Lee McQueen learnt during his time on Savile Row – it is such an inherent part of the House that for AW23 Burton returned to clothes in their most simplistic form.
Creating from cutting directly from the body, the collection begins and ends with the human form. Looking both externally and internally, the designer used this as fuel to creative subversions, turning bits inside out, upside down and playing with volume extremes; cinching waists with belts, reversing the bumster, lapels were placed on suit jackets the wrong way round, corsets were styled on top of shirts, and seams were shown on outside of the pieces to showcase its production.
In keeping with the rebellious nature of the brand, slicing, exposing and slashing was on full pelt. Black wool skirts with broken red pinstripes were slashed, a jumpsuit was presented with a cut-out waist and knitted dresses had pockets for collarbones to peek through, pushing the message of focused anatomy forward and giving us a much needed biology refresher.
“The most prominent motif in the collection is the orchid, in its rarer forms cultivated but, after the daisy, is the most common flower. It thrives in the air, resists being rooted and grows in the wild”. Finding itself growing on the tulle of dresses in embroidered form, as the outline of a harness top and across tuxedos, this anatomical unique flower is an apt symbol for the McQueen woman and man, whose power lies within their juxtaposing role of being able to play both predator and prey.
Bringing us back to the very foundations of Alexander McQueen, Burton’s strength lies in the House’s history and her unwavering loyalty to the founder’s eye for precision. The collection abandoned the rules of masculinity and femininity, but instead took the framework of traditional British tailoring and created a body of clothes that were rooted in the strength of its construction but also in the strength of the attitude they spoke with.
Less isn’t always more, but sometimes when you remove all the distractions you are left with a beauty far more powerful than those frivolous, over-the-top moments. Burton’s AW23 collection for Alexander McQueen did exactly that – clothes that were pure and that put the wearer first.
by Imogen Clark