Alexander McQueen has come home, a stone's throw from the house's Clerkenwell HQ, as creative director Sarah Burton presented her menswear collection in London for the first time since Lee McQueen's days as a young, anarchic womenswear talent.
This decade however, the show was not about anarchy, but a steely edged subversion. Let's cut to the chase – Burton's presentation reminded us exactly why we love fashion, such a sublime conflation of skill and concept was it. Delivering all we'd hope from a McQueen show, here was beauty in darkness, drawing on the challenging and (figuratively if not literally) uncomfortable spirit that runs through the label's DNA.
At the creaking Farmiloe building on St John Street, selected editors, journalists, stylists and buyers were housed in glazed rooms of 25 or so; a creepy soundtrack filling the ether as we waited for the show to start. The opposite of muzak, here was sound that didn't encourage light conversation. Instead, it built a sense of foreboding in this clinically lit glass maze. The building braced to its foundations.
Enter look one: a pinstripe suit with a pagoda shoulder, worn with a clear plastic, post-accident mask. Savile Row, where Lee McQueen trained as a tailor and where the house has just opened its menswear flagship, met East End gangster. The exits continued this exploration of the immaculate, impeccably mannered and dangerous – a very British phenomenon; with shades of the criminal underworld in Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's 'Performance' flashing to mind. The vocabulary expanded to stained glass prints, silk dressing gowns and red military wool (the 'Row is where the pomp of such heavyweight regalia is laboured over by hand).
As metaphors go for this collection, the barbed wire cufflink that closed shirts might be the most concise. Treat with respect, handle with care, welcome to a world balanced on a knife-edge.