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Alexander McQueen SS16
Backstage at Alexander McQueen SS16Photography Chloé Le Drezen

Unravelling the stories of McQueen’s new collection

Inspired by 17th century Huguenot weavers, Sarah Burton spins a tale of romance, history and folklore

After Alexander McQueen’s SS16 collection last night in Paris (followed by a smash afterparty with our sister mag AnOther), we break down the three key references behind the romantic collection.

17TH CENTURY ARTISANS

This season, Sarah Burton looked to Huguenots of 17th century Spitalfields, Protestants forced out of France by religious persecution. On arrival in Britain, they brought with them their skills – many were craftsmen and artisans, with those settled in East London particularly deft at weaving. (In fact, a time capsule house designed to represent how a family of silk weavers would have lived remains in Shoreditch, just around the corner from Brick Lane and only a mile from McQueen HQ). Their legacy translated in the collection’s delicate florals, frock coats that looked like deconstructed stockman dummies and beautifully constructed period pieces, like laced up bodices and high, ruffled collars.

ENGLISH FOLKLORE

Folklore has long been fertile ground for the brand, with McQueen himself drawing on their gothic, spellbinding nature for collections such as The Girl Who Lived in a Tree, his own fantasy tale of a young woman descending from the tree in his garden to become a princess. With billowing floral fabric and flushed, English rose cheeks, this season’s muses also had a touch of the fairytale heroine. They weren’t all damsels however – models including Dazed cover star Lineisy Montero wore military-like tailored suiting, decorated with chains.

HEIRLOOMS AND FOUND OBJECTS

Inspired by a sense of the age-weathered and familiar, Burton’s creations were made to evoke a sense of history. Dresses were finished off with the tiny buttons and cross charms you might pull from a velvet-lined trinket box (these medal-like decorations were glittering, silver renderings of the Huguenots’ own religious emblem), while intricately jewelled earrings were either mismatched or worn hanging from a single ear. As is to be imagined with a McQueen collection, there was a hint of dark sexuality – models wore bondage-style body chains decorated with pearls that looked like dew drops on spiderwebs.