It was always going to be emotional. Naomi Campbell wiped away a tear as she walked Sarah Burton’s farewell show for Alexander McQueen. The designer joined the house 26 years ago as an intern and rose to be Lee McQueen’s right hand woman. When he committed suicide in 2009, she became creative director, bringing a femininity to the darkness and drama that defined the house. For her farewell show she sent out a superlative, soaring collection that showed off all her sensitivity as a designer and put the intense skills of the remarkable McQueen atelier centre stage.
Inspired by female anatomy, her tailoring was razor sharp, moulding to the body and cut away to reveal the rib cage. Coats literally dripped with lavish fringes of red beads that looked like flowing droplets of blood. Rose motifs – a favourite of the house – came in petal-like dresses and printed onto silk gowns. Moulded leather corsets were worn over gowns or integrated into tailoring, knits came skin tight or coiled into sculptural lace-like constructions. It had a sense of sense of grandeur. These were not ordinary clothes. It was couture level stuff. Every piece a museum-worthy collector’s item.
Many clients were in the audience wearing their full McQueen regalia – a reminder of how intense the bond was between Burton and the women she dressed. It was built on her skill as a designer and her respect for them, their bodies. It will be difficult to replace that sense of trust in their wardrobes.
The audience rose to their feet giving Burton a rapturous standing ovation, showing their appreciation for all the years of beautiful clothes, incredible craftsmanship and soaring creativity. Burton takes her direct connection to Lee McQueen away with her. It is the end of an era.
Photography courtesy of Alexander McQueen.