Alexander McQueen S/S 2020 Paris Fashion Week Women’s
Moodboard: The Orangerie du Sénat in the Jardin du Luxembourg – Alexander McQueen’s official show venue for the last few seasons – was sparsely decorated last night. No ornaments or wow-effect set designs, just a raw wooden catwalk that echoed under every model’s step and had the effect of making us direct all our attention to the clothes which, in themselves, carried the whole narrative of the show.
Clad in intricate, extra long fishtail braids interspersed with golden thread details, piled-up copper-toned jewellery in the shape of chains and hoops, and the kind of flushed, dewy glow of outdoor dwellers, they seemed to pay hommage to Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate that achieved legend status in the 16th century. It was all there: a slew of references to historical garments, a swashbuckling, adventurous spirit – in the flat boots and the jersey and linen dresses slashed then ‘stitched’ back together with overblown leather lacing – undeniable power – ingrained in the pleated suit jackets and in those leather bodice dresses – but also grace, as lace peppered the collection.
A minimal score composed by Isobel Waller-Bridge (sister of Phoebe and in charge of the Fleabag soundtrack) performed live by members of the London Contemporary orchestra completed the affair.
Best in show: In a season where the term ‘sustainability’ has been worked into seemingly every single show and collection (at best with what seemed like genuine effort, at worst exploitatively, often in what seemed as part of a well-rounded marketing strategy), Sarah Burton’s collection came timely as a masterclass.
If the word itself was nowhere to be seen (not on show notes, not in interviews), the concept itself was weaved into the collection to the point of being its very basis. Burton and her team went to Northern Ireland to learn about flax-grown linen, working with a female-owned farm which manufactures it following the traditional techniques of sun-bleaching and beetling, a process in which the fabric is covered in potato starch, then pounded on a wooden machine.
Linen was the backbone of the collection, worked into suits, coats and dresses, which were complete with repurposed lace from previous collections, mohair sourced at a Northern England mill, and vegetable tanned leather. This was not about using sustainability as a buzzword, but about the true value, worth and luxury of artisanal clothes. At the end of the day, it doesn’t get more sustainable than that.
Soundbite: Burton’s collection summary was crystal clear: ‘Each look tells its own story. The connection between the clothes is the time it took to make them. I was interested in clarity and paring things down, in the essence of garments – stripping back to the toile. I love the idea of people having the time to make things together, the time to meet and talk together, the time to reconnect with the world.’ A statement simple enough yet, in this day and age, extraordinary.
At the end of the show, the designer took her bow accompanied by her whole staff. Not just studio members, but everyone at Alexander McQueen had contributed to the collection with their own hands, embroidering with silk thread over the drawings of Central Saint Martins students created during a drawing class a few months ago. It was a celebration of togetherness and of being truly present (again, without using ‘mindfulness’ as a buzzword) which was unconsciously mirrored by the show guests when, at the end, no one rushed out of the venue as usual, but rather everyone took their time to digest and discuss what they had just seen. And that was the ultimate proof of how much Burton’s philosophy resonates with her audience… and with fashion in 2019.
Paris Womenswear S/S 2020 Shows