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Alexander McQueen Womenswear SS/12

One of several shows exploring life in the ocean but Sarah Burton's deep sea dive had a far different result

With the year that Alexander McQueen has had in terms of monumental exposure with THAT dress and the various plays on overt femininity at the shows, Sarah Burton could have gone down a similar trajectory and turned out an ultra feminine crowd pleaser. Well, it was a crowd pleaser but when the audience stood up to applaud with cries of "Bravo!" it's mostly because Burton turned her design sensibility up a notch, perhaps closer to the late Lee McQueen as we all had a collective tingling moment, similar to previous McQueen shows. The very fact that Burton chose to revisit the theme of under the sea (have all the designers taken deep sea diving holidays in the past summer?) when of course McQueen's last collection was based on an imagined viewpoint of 'Plato's Atlantis' was significant.

Burton made her point of difference clear enough though. Whereas the S/S 10 collection was about women helplessly transforming into sea mammals, beyond their control because of a drowning world, Burton's sea goddesses are willingly living under the sea, decked out in the most beautiful of matelassé jacquards, layers of silk chiffon, lace and embroideries all alluding to various sea motifs - barnacles, coral, seaweed, and the shimmers of the shells and sea. Even black leather looked like the most stunning oil slick you'd ever seen and in the form of a daringly cut bodysuit with lace-up sculptural wedges and a bead encrusted mask, it was also fetish in mood that felt like Burton took a slightly uncharacteristic but completely McQueen-appropriate leap. There's never been a doubt that Alexander McQueen operates like an haute couture atelier, especially when the final passage of gowns stridently came out where each sea goddess surpassed the last in their extreme workmanship and extravagance.

One particular silk chiffon high-waisted gown which burst forward with a ruffled bust and hem as well as a flowing cape and had a deep shade of coral snaking its way upwards was just one instance where Burton's softer touch was at its most magnificent.  Where sharp hips jutted out from a gold brocade cut-out gown and cascaded down into a column of tightly sewn cream ruffles, that was pure Lee McQueen. The balance between Burton's own sensibility as a designer and the history of Alexander McQueen seemed to hit a pitch perfect note in this collection and bodes well for Burton to carry on, taking the label to even greater heights than it reached this year.