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AFTER Lee came Sarah. And after Sarah has come Séan. Though we knew the succession line, we didn’t know what the next chapter for Alexander McQueen would look like.

After being appointed a mere few months ago in October 2023, Séan McGirr hasn’t had long to begin formulating his take on the British brand. How would the young Irish designer reinterpret the theatrical past of the House?

Would he use the same shock tactics of its founder like surrounding models in fire (Joan AW98)? Use collections as tools to speak about social commentary (Highland Rape AW95)? Or, use robots to spray paint across dresses (No.13 SS99)?

The answer lay in the autumn-winter 2024 collection presented on Saturday night in Paris. The first clue was the address. Picking an old, concrete logistics centre in the capital’s Chinatown food market, formerly a train station, the sweeping remnants of the showers from the day trickled into the venue, bringing an eery chill to the atmosphere.

Taking inspiration from the SS1995 show, titled The Birds, which took place in a warehouse in London’s Kings Cross, a building known for its underground raves, McGirr tapped into this mood across the Channel. Out of all the collections, this was maybe one of Lee’s most stripped back shows – literally.

Silhouettes were tight, torsos were on display and suits maintained a constant. Would McGirr try to tone down his McQueen?

Opening the show with a black distorted laminated dress that constricted the model’s arms to her body, what followed was a play on this idea of compression. Pencil skirts hugged waists, and leather trench coats and jeans were tied at various points to squeeze arms and legs. While Lee’s version may have been more theatrical, McGirr’s was far more wearable.

Other nods to its founder were seen in the use of natural sheep shearling in padded, exaggerated collars and trims like in Voss (SS01), the pointed shoulder constructions that were reminiscent of It’s a Jungle Out There (AW98), and the silhouettes of the final three ‘car’ dresses were an ode to Plato’s Atlantis (SS10).

Of course, McGirr ensured nature came into play. Writing blatantly in the show notes, ‘revealing the animal within’, overpowering calf-hair bodices that once again hid the hands and gave the impression of trapping the body paraded down the runway in two variations.

Most notably, the shoes – aptly named ‘hoof boots’ – were crafted from black leather and finished with ponytails that looked like horse feet, and cleverly took notes from Lee’s Eshu (AW00) and It’s Only a Game (SS05) dresses.

But whilst there were evident links to the past, McGirr’s offering was far from the recognisable McQueen that his predecessor Sarah Burton had configured. His design history at JW Anderson was clear.

Big bags, clogs and oversized knitwear were pieces he clearly couldn’t shake from his repertoire – whether they will stay, we will have to see. Jeans, fedoras and hoodies were a far cry from the immaculately-cut suits of the past.

It’s too early to jump to conclusions but McGirr’s McQueen seems to be resonating with Lee’s early days when he was just as outcast as his client. He isn’t speaking to the beauty of luxury but rather the decadent nature of what’s hidden in the shadows, and ultimately that’s who Lee was.

The kid who danced with the dark making beautiful things with it.

by Imogen Clark

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