Alexander McQueen: Greenwich Mode Time, and Paris in the house’s plans
Not quite last, and very much not least, the house of Alexander McQueen unleashed its latest collection on Tuesday, a dark yet glorious visual tale presented inside a giant synthetic membrane dome, built on an elevated platform at the Royal Navy College in Greenwich.
Make that Greenwich Mode Time, and a collection that was a much a comment on our era as a selection of superb clothes for discerning women. Its most powerful images were a quartet of looks referencing Hieronymus Bosch, turning the painter’s images of medieval pestilence and plague into proudly punchy and brilliantly striking clothes.
Though the bigger story was the superlative tailoring, from a house that is without doubt the most innovative tailor in fashion today.
Due to the Queen’s death, multiple brands also pushed their show dates back to this week in London, including Roksanda Ilincic and Raf Simons. Though the house of McQueen always intended to stage its show outside any official calendar.
Tailoring dominated the McQueen opening salvos. Frocks sliced into corset shapes at the front and dangling tails at the back. Tuxedo jumpsuits with power shoulders and slashed backs. And pants that revived founder Alexander’s famous low-level 'bumster' pants.
Along with sensational body-suits shaped with in-built corsets and made in red intarsia or black knit. Then, the house’s creative director Sarah Burton began sending out statement pieces - like a bodysuit cocooned in huge bird of paradise fringes.
Burton also has few peers when it comes to draping. To cite a few examples, a brilliant lapis lazuli asymmetrical leather dress worn with matching long gloves. Rock goddess at her best. Or a samurai worthy black halter-neck leather dress, where the model perched her hands inside the dress, Toshiro Mifune-style. Plus, Sarah’s manic slash dresses in compact red viscose knit will be hugely influential.
An all seeing eye ever present on many looks. Engineered to be football sized on a white poly file dress cut like giant petals and worn over a sporty bra; or an eye glowering from a white double-breasted viscose lady blazer. The largest eye appearing in a crystal encrusted leotard and attached stockings worn by Naomi Campbell.
“I wanted to ask, how do you find humanity in these very difficult times? It’s about opening your eyes. The most unique symbol of humanity, each one is like a fingerprint and each one completely individual. And in tailoring, everything surgically cut, not much surface embellishment. I wanted to ask, how do you take tailoring and play with the proportions of a woman’s body and empower and reveal? It’s a about a woman dressing for a woman, and not a male gaze,” Burton explained.
Another element that makes Burton so great a designer is that she is never literal. Her opening Bosch look was actually all in mono-color, where his imagery was seen in delicate embroidery in white - not a color one associates with the Dutch master. But perhaps the most memorable image of this very special collection will be the slashed leather dress and jumpsuits with couture-worthy embroidery that recalled Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, a technique seen all the way to the embroidered booties.
“It feels like we are almost in another dark age today. It’s also something we have always looked at in McQueen - life, death, destruction and beauty. There is a minute beauty in Bosch, yet you are seeing darkness where there is so much beauty,” underlined Burton.
Sarah was Alexander McQueen’s right hand when he designed the now legendary 'Widows of Culloden' collection of 2006, inspired by the Jacobite Rising that led to the bloody slaughter of 1746, the last pitched battle fought on British soil. Close by today’s show is the National Maritime Museum boasting flags captured at the Battle of Trafalgar, Britain’s greatest naval victory.
The show also marked a London show debut for the house’s CEO Gianfilippo Testa, who came on board in March. He revealed that McQueen plans to return to show in Paris next season on the official French runway calendar. This follows a hiatus of several years. Six months ago, the house showed in New York, and one year ago in London, after a year-long break due to the pandemic.
This McQueen Spring/Summer 2023 collection was displayed beneath the elegant neo-classical facade of the landmark Thames River side masterpiece, one of architect Sir Christopher Wren’s greatest works.
Backed up by a rousing soundtrack including Transport by Kamil Van Derson, the 41 looks climaxed with a deconstructed wild-bride slashed wedding dress made mainly of Bosch embroidery.
In the background was the Royal Observatory, home of the prime meridian, the zero reference point for astronomical observation. And an ideal for this collection, the starting point for any discussion on great contemporary tailoring and sartorial style.
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