Inside the chilly auditorium of Lycée Carnot, a strange soundtrack of eerie ticks, whirrs, and clanks bounced off the rafters, while guests were invited to arrange their posteriors on seating fashioned from giant bolts of fabric. The setting, which was amplified by staccato reverberations of the track and machinery clearly signaled the presentation’s theme.
Welcome to Sarah Burton’s textile mill.
In the past, Alexander McQueen collections were birthed from its progenitor’s heritage, and his family history played an extensive part in the themes of his presentations. Burton’s tenure has explored the same idea, filtered through her past instead. For Fall/Winter 2019, Burton visited the mill towns that surrounded the North England region she grew up in. The charming countryside that was Burton’s home during her formative years is now dotted with disused mills that once formed the basis of the region’s most lucrative industry – in the late 19th century, that is – and they formed the inspiration behind her incredible collection.
The parallels of the past and present – Burton’s history and Burton’s “now” – were realized not only in the set of the show, but also throughout the collection itself. It employed elements inspired by heddle looms and found objects, like the type one might find scattered on a factory floor. If that sounds intensely crafty, that’s because it was, but it was also surprisingly punk.
Out came Burton’s battalion of bada** babes decked in spiked lug-sole boots, waist-cinching corsets, suits topped with chain sashes, and molded leather pieces. Even her fluttery knit dresses were stamped with silver metal buttons within rows of plackets. The look was cool and aloof. She’s the kind of woman you wouldn’t dream of messing with.
If that sounds intensely crafty, that’s because it was, but it was also surprisingly punk.
While suits were impeccably tailored and separates were instantly wearable, it was her dresses that stood out. One was formed from laser-cut heddle sequins, which was crazy cool. As the look stomped by, the long and spiky sequins rustled in a way that mimicked the sound of a factory floor. Ingenious. Another resembled roses, except they were created from folded taffeta that blossomed on the front of the bodice. Adut Akech wore this dress, and she was absolutely breathtaking to see in person. The finale look was similar, except this one came in siren red, referencing the Red Rose of Lancaster, a very specific species of rose associated with the House of Lancaster and the county of Lancashire in Northern England.
History meets biography meets craft meets design on the Alexander McQueen runway for Fall/Winter 2019. Burton’s interpretation could have been pretty, predictable, or even skewed towards the traditional, but instead it was edgy and thrilling; eyes were practically gogging out of their skulls when a suit with massive duchess-satin sleeves in a shocking shade of pink walked the runway. Burton has so thoroughly realized her own vision within the house’s framework – a commendable feat given whose name the house bears.