Rawness and romanticism were two tenets of Alexander McQueen’s design philosophy. But also integral to the designer’s aesthetics was a type of Eastern exoticism, with qipao dresses, bird, floral and dragon motifs, and shimmering gold embroidery all featuring heavily in his genre-and-era-crossing collections. McQueen’s S/S 2001 Voss collection referenced Chinese garments and adornments, such as an opulent raffia coat embroidered with chrysanthemums in gold, red and black silk, while his A/W 2003 collection featured a body-hugging gilded jute dress festooned with Oriental blooms. ‘I have always loved the mechanics of nature and to a greater or lesser extent my work is always informed by that,’ he said.

A model in the VOSS show
Alexander McQueen, Voss, S/S01
A model in the VOSS show
Alexander McQueen, Voss, S/S01 

For the brand’s A/W 11 collection, Sarah Burton – who took the creative reigns of the label in 2010, after Alexander McQueen’s untimely death – looked to the blue-and-white tones of Ming porcelain as inspiration. Burton took ten handpainted porcelain plates, which were smashed into fragments and then pieced together to form the mosaic bodice of a dress, accompanied with a frothy undulating skirt formed from folds of organza. Renowned for incorporating unusual, delicate materials into its designs, such as the dresses crafted from razor clams and oyster shells in S/S 2001’s Voss collection, the London-based label is sure to continue to look East for inspiration.§

A portrait of Sarah Burton
Sarah Burton. Photography: David Burton