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All clothes and accessories Alexander McQueen AW13Photography by Richard Burbridge

Virgin McQueen

Creative Director Sarah Burton tells us why Alexander McQueen isn’t a brand, it’s a religion

In the lead-up to Halloween, Dazed Digital is running a Dark Arts season inspired by our November Dark Arts issue. Among other things, we've walked the path of darkness via the Hollywood Walk of Death and talked to Don Mancini, the creator of Chucky. Check back on our Dark Arts section for a journey to hell and back. 

Taken from the November 2013 issue of Dazed & Confused:

From the opulent and elaborate rites of mass to the eerie ambience of candle-lit Gregorian chanting, ceremonial drama is used to underscore holy ritual. In the gilded surroundings of the Opéra Comique, Sarah Burton harnessed this power to make the AW13 Alexander McQueen collection soar, with ten hyper-worked looks sent out in pairs. “It was presented like a religious journey – communion girls, nuns, cardinals, popes and angels,” Burton says. “I was expecting (a child) when we were developing pre-fall and AW13 so I had to develop the collections in advance. We looked at ecclesiastical references and decided to focus on the low church for pre-fall and the high church for AW13.” 

“High” is the operative word: the dizzying splendour of the pearl-encrusted narrative that ran through the pieces and adorned the frames encasing the models’ faces was a feat worthy not just of serious worship but a haute-couture stamp. “There are definitely couture qualities in the collections,” Burton says. “Craftsmanship is incredibly important and a focus for us when designing the collection.” It was a moment of unbridled imagination that pushed the McQueen vocabulary towards new frontiers. Super-embellished surfaces swirling with 3D lace flowers and stitched-in metallic rhombic patterns were pinned on archetypal caged and corseted McQueen silhouettes and hoop skirts, softened with ostrich feathers and virginal organdy lace to expand what has become Burton’s distinctly feminine depiction of the McQueen universe. 

Where there’s a heaven, there’s a hell, especially in the case of McQueen, where light has always been fuelled by darkness. Here it came in the shape of black leather and embellished grid stockings, which lent a sense of erotic danger and wickedness to the saintly silhouettes and swoosh-skirted Virgin Queens as they trotted out trussed up in harnesses and lace-up ivory boots, wielding precious pearl knuckleduster rings. It was an elated fantasy ride and a monumental demonstration of Burton’s creative scope. “Lee often said that you had to learn the rules to break them,” she says. “In designing and creating garments, you need to learn and research on construction and techniques before you can produce something truly modern, contemporary and innovative. Knowing the past is probably key to building the present and the future.” 


Photography Richard Burbridge

Styling Robbie Spencer

Hair Raphael Salley

Make up Peter Philips

Nails Sophy Robson

Models Kirsi Pyrhonen at Viva and Magdalena Jasek at Select

Photographic assistants Kim Reenberg, Rhys Thorpe

Styling assistant Coline Bach

Make-up assistant Nina Deweerd

Digital operator Andrew Kenney

Producer Jessica Daly at Art + Commerce

Casting Noah Shelley for AM Casting