There is something both incredibly enchanting and a little bit threatening about Sarah Burton’s designs for Alexander McQueen. Where her predecessor leaned more into the raw, untamed side of his “Savage Beauty” aesthetic, Burton’s version is intimidating, but refined. Her work attracts and repels, allures and wards off. Spring/Summer 2019 elicited the best of Burton’s dual-natured craftsmanship, with a collection that refined her signature opulence down to more streamlined silhouettes.
At the start, Burton juxtaposed adorable ruffled dresses with thick leather accent pieces – harnesses, asymmetrical jackets and the like, offering a stark contrast between light and dark. Ophelia, Hamlet’s doomed bride, was represented by a pale print on silk taffeta corset dresses, imbuing the looks with a melancholic feel. Menswear, another cornerstone of Burton’s work, was shown with split sleeves and chain-strapped accents, which later give way to one spectacular off-white Victorian suit worn with a pure white, ruffled eyelet blouse beneath – a feminized version of the Teddy Boy suit. Contradictions abounded.
When everyone else is distracted by the athleisure realm, it’s with some relief that there are still designers out there who are still committed to fantasy.
Many pieces were assembled piecemeal like a suit of armor, a technique which looked especially impressive when done in embroidered leather. Burton also showed a variety of stunning dresses cut at oblique angles and fitted with rows of hook clasps where each section came together. For Spring/Summer 2019, Alexander McQueen’s overarching narrative wove together magical fairies of the forest and snarling warrior women, a look exemplified by gothic-pretty styling and a signature mix of tough molded leathers and fragile, beautiful fabrics. When everyone else is distracted by the athleisure realm, it’s with some relief that there are still designers out there who are still committed to fantasy.