On the eve of the 10th anniversary of Alexander McQueen’s death, his successor, Sarah Burton is to be honoured with a special Trailblazer award at the upcoming Fashion Awards taking place on Monday, December 2nd. Burton stepped into the role of creative director after the designer’s suicide in February 2010. The codes of the house were stitched into her DNA. She joined the house in 1997 and became head of womenswear in 2000. Burton more than anyone, knew how McQueen thought and worked. 16 outfits were 80% complete when he died. Wracked with shock and grief, Burton finished this final collection, which was shown just a month later in Paris. Over the next decade, she has honoured the McQueen legacy but also deftly expanded upon it bringing a softness and romance to the label, whilst exalting couture level craftsmanship. When she was asked to make the Kate Middleton’s royal wedding dress, Burton and her gifted McQueen ateliers were more than up to the task. It is craft and its healing, humanising touch that excites her but just as she is able to celebrate the positive power of the collective act of making (as her SS20 show did with pieces hand-stitched by everyone on the McQueen payroll), her imagination vaults ever higher. From its dark and discomfiting roots, McQueen in 2020 stands for beauty but it also has a spiritual, redemptive quality. Can clothes be magnificent and serene? Burton’s come close. Here, we look back at her decade of divine designs…
McQueen’s posthumous collection was 80% complete when he died. Burton finished what he started, showing the 16 exquisite looks in small salon show.
Burton stepped into the spotlight with her first solo women’s show she honoured the sharp tailoring tradition of the house and brought in softer shapes.
When Kate Middleton walked up the aisle in her breathtaking, Alexander McQueen lace wedding gown, Burton’s name went global. The gown was a triumph of craft, romance and tradition. Middleton’s tiny waist circled was by a full skit of hand made British lace and her was veil beautifully appliquéd with heraldic lace, rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock motifs.
Burton ushered in organic futurism with vast alien anemone gowns worn with space visors.
Models stalked a magical moss covered catwalk looking like characters from an epic McQueen fairytale.
A heavily pregnant Burton brought the McQueen show back to London for one season only showing lavish eiderdown coats and cobweb dream dresses.
Burton took her design team to the Shetland Islands to research traditional fabrics and motifs as she added a sweeping layer of McQueen romance and storytelling with beaded shipwrecked gowns and Fair Isle Knits that disintegrated into lace.
Lavished with beetle embroideries and butterfly wing prints, this highly crafted collection took flight and soared.
A celebration of British craft and tailoring, this collection used traditional menswear fabrics from Yorkshire mills and fashioned couture silks into magnificent English rose gowns.
Burton’s crafted serenity was in full flow for this show. “I love the idea of people having the time to make things together, the time to meet and talk together, the time to reconnect to the world,” she said and enlisted the entire McQueen staff (even the accounts and HR departments) to embroider pieces for the show. She also upcycled lace from previous collection and enlisted the last beetler left in Ireland to make lustrous, paper-light linens for her gowns. It was nothing short of glorious.
The Fashion Awards 2019 will take place the Royal Albert Hall in London, December 2nd. Tickets are available online.