Sarah Burton, you're just too good to be true.
In the human anatomy, eyes are considered the most important sensory organ. In the West, common courtesy dictates that you look someone in the eye when speaking to them as a sign of honesty. In the East, the eye symbol is commonly associated with moral conscience and purity. For Alexander McQueen designer Sarah Burton, the eyes are a gateway into the soul.
“This collection is about searching for humanity and human connection. The eye is a symbol of that humanity, a register of emotion, an expression of uniqueness,” she says of her Spring 2023 lineup, which showcased on an (unseasonably) glorious autumnal day in London earlier this week.
Guests gathered at the Old Royal Naval College as the brand continues to showcase outside the official Fashion Week calendar (though unofficially, signs point to a likely return to Paris from next season). A quieter London, with its Fashion Week bubble done and dusted, was the perfect stage for the brand’s first show under new CEO Gianfilippo Testa.
On the grounds, a bubbled dome (which you may recall from Burton’s last Spring collection) encased a private audience, its transparency echoing the designer’s fixation with eyes and “seeing things”. At the nearby university, students assembled on the balconies, overlooking the comings and goings with giddy excitement. The guests might have been invite-only, but this was a show for everyone to see.But what was it we were seeing? In typical Burton fashion, her narrative mirrored the shifts in the zeitgeist, and like her predecessor Lee McQueen, reflected an unapologetic, genuine embrace of our present fears. His work, and hers — so brilliantly carried forward for over a decade since his passing — are consistently referred to as both “dark” and “beautiful”, and so it was apt that she referenced Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, whose fantastical work was typically dystopian in nature.
As a stalwart supporter of women, Burton remains peerless in the industry.Bosch’s creations were the catalyst for her direction this season, and in presenting the eye, she showcased it in all its infinite abilities: both the good things we see, and the bad. In beautifully articulated designs innate to her style, Burton introduced a brand-new level of mastery in embellishment, a personal best during her tenure at the house thus far. Enlarged prints of pupils, irises, and eyes appeared early in the show, embedded onto draped dresses and tailored suits alike. They were captivating, and reminiscent of the quiet allure (yet typically confident) way Burton designs. You couldn’t take your eyes off them.“Our clothes are designed to empower. They are stripped back, dissected, and focused on cut, drape and silhouette,” Burton continues.
And so the cuts and drapes, some surprisingly revealing, were also about seeing the woman, but seeing her in all her power and glory. It’s a spellbinding, magical formula only Burton can concoct.Naomi Campbell’s internet-breaking look, a bodysuit in black mesh with satin stitch, sequin, and crystal eye embroidery, was a consummate example of the increasingly couture-like craftsmanship of the brand. Again, you couldn’t take your eyes off it — both the look and the woman wearing it, who commanded the attention of the entire audience. It was absolutely mesmerizing.As a stalwart supporter of women, Burton remains peerless in the industry, equally combining her deft design skills with a discerning intellect that is magnetizing. It’s no wonder then that the students were hypnotized from the balconies. We too, as longtime devotees, can’t take our eyes off her either.