After the rain, comes the sun.
Off the official schedule, the fashion set flocked to Wapping, in the East End where Sarah Burton brought Alexander McQueen, one of fashion’s most important houses back to home turf for the first time in 20 years.
Tobacco Dock’s Yellow Park was transformed into a giant bubble-like structure designed by architect Smiljan Radic, that perched on top of an 11 story car park. The Shard and the Gerkin looked on proudly, providing a magnificent backdrop of a somewhat burdened city.
Photo: Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
“I am interested in immersing myself in the environment in which we live and work, in London, and in the elements as we experience them each day. We moved from water – and the mud on the banks of the Thames – to the sky and the ever-changing, all-encompassing magnificence that it represents,” said Burton.
The collection darted between hard and soft, in the way Burton does with pure joy. Exquisitely tailored jackets offset with bomber jacket sleeves and dramatic corseted full-skirted gowns, interjected by fierce leathers and parachute skirting. Buckled dresses printed with imagery depicting sunrises and clouds drew inspiration from the skyscapes the McQueen team had captured from the studio balcony.
“The artwork for the prints in this collection was shot from the rooftops of the studio where we are lucky enough to have the most incredible views of the city: from Saint Paul’s Cathedral to the London Eye. We watched the weather and captured the formation and coloration of clouds from daybreak to nightfall and documented changing patterns, from clear blue skies to more turbulent ones,” said Burton.
Lara Stone, Emilia Clarke and Vanessa Kirby. Photo: Getty
The push and pull of darkness and light and the unpredictable powers of nature were brought to life by a particularly clever casting; a menagerie of character models challenging the industry’s perceived ideals felt both honest and authentic in its delivery. While friends of the brand, such as actors Vanessa Kirby, Emilia Clarke, and Kosar Ali, sat dotted between guests as a sound installation by John Gosling featured Massive Attack’s Safe From Harm and Daniel Avery’s Yesterday Faded echoed around the bubble.
“I love the idea of the McQueen woman being a storm chaser. Storm chasing is not only about the beauty of the views but also a sense of mystery and excitement about embracing the fact that we can’t ever be sure of what might happen next. To give up control and be directly in touch with the unpredictable is to be part of nature, to see and feel it at its most intense – to be at one with a world that is bigger and more powerful than we are,” said Burton.
Naomi Campbell. Photo: Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
As Naomi Campbell closed the show in a cropped black jacket splashed with crystal raindrops, the sound of thunder reverberated around the bubble, perhaps acting as a microcosm for how small and ultimately powerless we are in comparison to nature and its often brutal and unpredictable elements. Has Covid-19 changed us? I think so. These are quieter and more reflective times and Burton’s intimate and dignified collection felt optimistic we are moving collectively in the right direction.
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After the rain, comes the sun.
“It feels like now is a time for healing, for breathing new life, for exploring echoes from the past to enrich our future,” says Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton, upon the unveiling of the house’s fall/winter 2021 collection. Catharsis has brought with it great beauty, as the McQueen atelier staff – who gave Vogue a glimpse of how they #WFH – united, more than ever before, to create something meaningful that would resonate with the strange times we’re living in.
“We looked at water, for its healing properties, and at anemones,” continues Burton. “Anemones are the most ephemeral flowers, here made permanent in cloth. The women wearing the anemone dresses almost become like flowers, like their embodiment, their character – but amplified, grounded, radiant and strong.”
In what can be considered the most exquisite two fingers up to anyone who ever said florals were over, Burton splashed anemones over rose gold poly faille dresses with exploded sleeves, and embroidered silver lily pad motifs over ivory silk tulle slips. Shot by Paolo Roversi, each look takes on the “hybrid” theme Burton has explored through previous seasons – check out the T-shirts turned into red-carpet wear and leather jackets that verge on blousons – and runs with it to its most romantic point.
Click through the gallery above to see Alexander McQueen fall/winter 2021 looks worthy of framing.
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Originally published on Vogue.co.uk
The upper room of Alexander McQueen’s Bond Street flagship store has been transformed into a studio. “Anybody can come. Schoolchildren come, teenagers come, grandparents come,” Burton says. “It’s really a space for everybody to see how we put the collection together.”
The first #McQueenCreators was inspired by the brand’s Roses installation at their New Bond Street open studio
Demystifying the design process and promoting a democratic side of fashion has been a longtime McQueen trait; Lee himself came from a working class background and would rely upon the instinctive skill and creativity of young students and interns to assist in the creation of his early collections. “Everyone should have the door opened to them,” says current Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton during the virtual Vogue Forces of Fashion 2020 summit. “There’s no hierarchy of ideas – it’s a really collaborative process,” she continues, referring to her team and their efforts to stay creative during lockdown by sketching or using dead-stock to drape and create shapes in their kitchens. She received “inspiring” pictures of their efforts, which have only served to substantiate her resolute hoarding of everything from old fabrics to Lee’s drawings (“He had a memory like an elephant, so I never threw anything away.”)
Sarah Burton talking to Sarah Mower during Vogue’s Forces of Fashion 2020 summit
Back in April, the brand further built on their idea of creative community by launching a social media project to inspire a conversation that anyone and everyone could be a part of. Each week, a moodboard was released on the brand’s Instagram and followers would be invited to engage artistically with their favorite images and #McQueenCreators – a visual dialogue began.
Alexander McQueen Fall 2019 / Courtesy of Vogue Runway
“I love the idea of imperfection in beauty,” says Burton, describing the draping and pinning process she used to create the exquisite and exaggerated ‘rose’ dresses for Fall 2019. “We wanted [the model] to become a rose,” she continues, explaining that her design process is always “very organic” and collaborative, even if her method might veer from sketching to draping to 3D design. Recalling the moment Lee altered a dress backstage just minutes before the Sarabande Spring 2007 show, taking away the tulle wrapping that held in place hundreds of live roses so that they gradually fell off as the model walked, it’s clear Burton values ‘the process’ of creative expression just as much as the final result.
While 2020 has certainly been a challenge for designers, Burton has enjoyed a different pace, too, referring to the past few months as a time to “cleanse the palette”, be more creative and really consider how things are made. Reciting a quote, “Nothing is impossible, you just have to try,” Burton reflects that it is one of the biggest lessons she learned from Lee, someone whose creative genius and collaborative instinct lives on within the community at McQueen.
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The excitement is mounting for this year’s first-ever virtual and global iteration of the Vogue Forces of Fashion summit—and as if the event wasn’t major enough already, the iconic supermodel Naomi Campbell has also signed on to participate. On November 16 and 17, industry giants and Vogue editors will join together digitally to discuss topics such as racial equality, social justice, sustainability, and the future of the industry. The lineup of speakers includes Lizzo, who will be in conversation with designer Jeremy Scott, along with Virgil Abloh, Victoria Beckham, and Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton. Also participating this year will be Alber Elbaz of AZ Fashion, creative director Craig Green, Bottega Veneta creative director Daniel Lee, photographer Ethan James Green, Loewe creative director and founder of JW Anderson Jonathan Anderson, and writer and director Reggie Yates.
Campbell’s panel will be hosted by a yet-to-be-announced special guest, but the discussion promises to be one of epic—or shall we say, super—proportions, with Campbell talking about her stellar career and political activism. The two-day event schedule will include opening remarks from Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, along with keynote sessions with Campbell, Abloh, Lizzo, and other industry leaders. Other components to this year’s virtual schedule include live Q&As with Vogue editors, networking sessions, and virtual drop-ins from surprise guests as well as a morning wellness session and happy hour on the second and final day.
More details and tickets are available on the Forces of Fashion website. Check back for updates ahead of the event, which will take place on November 16 and 17.
Vogue’s 2020 Forces of Fashion is presented by Jeep Wagoneer.
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Originally published on Vogue.com