A bare pine floor, a dozen unvarnished wooden columns and a few billowing ceiling sails as Sarah Burton stripped back Alexander McQueen to its essentials with a simple set and a brilliant fashion collection for Spring 2020.
Back to the house’s gothic essence, its quintessentially British tailoring, its brainy tough chic, its heraldic glory and its phantasmagoric femininity. And to a committed atelier working overtime and in sync with a creative director to produce something rare and magnificent.
Take the opening look, which was actually a re-edition of a Winter 2000 “Eshu” dress, first made by Lee McQueen in calico, and sent out again this evening inside the L’Orangerie of the Luxembourg Gardens. This time it was made with beetled moonlit ivory linen, cut with leg of mutton sleeves and anchored by some fab new Knights of the Round Table meet techy galosh boots.
Next up, a sexy Savile Row peg-legged pantsuit, made with hard sheen Ulster linen, from William Clark of Maghera in County Derry. Once again, totally in sync with the founder’s Celtic roots, even if Northern Ireland stands in fear of being torn apart again by Brexit.
Then, a fabulous square-necked gown in beetled linen, dissected by a medieval leather belt, and bristling with energy. Worn by a model who – like all the cast – had waxed-back hair, with just one strand jutting diagonally across the forehead: 21st-century priestess chic and the most memorable hair styling anywhere this season.
Everything complemented by antique gold necklaces, braided antique chokers, oversized rings with pearl droplets – all somehow just right.
In effect, there wasn’t a single weak look in this show of 42 passages: from the truly stunning black leather bustier dresses, mixed diagonally with bright white guipure lace, to the astounding asymmetrical Irish linen dress hand embroidered with dancing girls.
Adding to this fashion moment were a dozen musicians from the London Contemporary Orchestra, dressed in McQueen – calico gowns for the ladies, strict suits for the gents – driving the show on with urgent, pulsing strings.
Before it all went into overdrive with ultra-romantic organza gauze fantasies and an awe-inspiring oyster dress of tulle, organza and jacquard – referencing an earlier Burton collection for McQueen. Self-sustainability at its best.
“Each look tells its own story. The connection between the clothes is the time it took to make them. I was interested in clarity and paring things down, in the essence of garments – stripping back to the toile. I love the idea of people having the time to make things together, the time to meet and talk together, the time to reconnect the world,” Burton explained in her program.
Before having the generosity to share her bow with some 60 of her team. Their long, smiley tour before the backdrop winning huge cheers, applause, extended clapping and yelps of delight after a unique moment in fashion.