Sarah Burton has conjured Alexander McQueen’s softer side, but she always weaves in elements of the warrior woman, too. Take her Spring/Summer 2020 collection, for instance, which highlighted a romantic dalliance with lacy frocks, scribble prints, and ruffled trim, as well as an exquisite remake of the house’s famous ‘Eshu’ dress from Fall/Winter 2000. Yet, for Fall/Winter 2020, she was searching for something new, a provocative edge that provided protection for women. A visit to Wales and an exploration of its folkloric traditions provided inspiration.
Militaristic rigor opened the show through a sublime navy double-breasted coat, and continued along cleanly tailored lines that hewed close to the body. The line-up was sharp and crisp, even in the case of asymmetric blanket dresses, but the stop-you-in-your-tracks moments came courtesy of suiting. Alexander McQueen’s Fall/Winter 2020 suits are impeccably fitted, with strong shoulders, nipped waists, and straight legs. They arrived in a variety of bold checkered patterns or bisected by contrast panels, similar to the iconic looks from McQueen’s famous Golden Shower show.
One of our favorite looks – a stunning suit worn by Akuol Deng – was done in a blazing red hue, a color used in Welsh tradition to signify powers of protection. Even soft knits were emboldened by glossy leather legging-boots, while dreamy poet-sleeved dresses were held in place by harnesses.
Inside McQueen’s hard exteriors were hidden passions.
Oh, but there was romance, too. Inside McQueen’s hard exteriors were hidden passions. A stunning lilac frock was inspired by the romantic muse of a Dylan Thomas poem, and an impressive silk taffeta gown was covered in a red and silver pattern inspired by 17th century love letters. Among the hidden elements was a stand-out. Lovespoons, or decoratively carved wooden spoons that were given to romantic interests, were found throughout the collection. The most electrifying example was worn by Adut Akech: a look featuring embroidered lovespoons dangling from the surface of a metallic sequined dress. It was nothing short of magical.
There is a tribal notion among women these days, an urge to uplift the sisterhood and call upon our collective strength to protect each other and hear each other’s stories. Burton found a sartorial expression of this tribalism for Fall/Winter 2020, but her empathy for women and desire to cloak them in means of protection also provided a soft place to land. Romance and reality, love and anger, self-care and self-defense – women are complex and so are their needs.