With mythical creature details and eiderdown coats, Sarah Burton was inspired by the line between the waking world and the land of dreams
For women, it’s long been believed that a cosmic connection with the moon runs in our very blood. Shrouded in myth, it’s a symbol of femininity, madness (or perhaps ‘lunacy’ is the more appropriate term) and fertility – which might be the reason it was on the mind of the heavily pregnant Sarah Burton for this season’s Alexander McQueen womenswear collection. “She’s sleepwalking, basically,” explained Burton of the season’s muse, who appeared in planetary appliqués, velvet slippers and embroidered eiderdown coats which referenced the line between wakefulness and dreams, the conscious and the subconscious.
Held in London’s Lawrence Hall (its deco decor replaced by a minimal black set) last night’s show was a temporary homecoming for the house, who have presented womenswear in Paris every season since McQueen’s death and will continue to do so in the future. It was a deeply personal move for Burton herself; backstage, she revealed that the hall had played host to the first McQueen show she ever worked on – La Poupée, held 20 years earlier in September 1996 and best known for its slashed tailoring and the fetishistic cage outfit that caused model Debra Shaw to hobble down the runway. If that was McQueen indulging his violent, sexual side, this was Burton exploring her natural talent for the romantic.
“It was a deeply personal move for Burton herself; backstage, she revealed that the hall had played host to the first McQueen show she ever worked on”
The collection was rife with what the designer called “symbols of femininity” – think florals, butterflies, fantasy creatures and sacred hearts, as well as classic McQueen-isms like feathers. In her last menswear collection, Burton explored the idea of the collector through numbered specimen prints and talisman-like details. The theme continued here, with the designer referencing “women and their obsessions” – models’ hair was pinned into magpie nests, resplendently decorated with brooches, chains and charms like the heirlooms you might discover in a long lost relative’s jewellery box. While the collection had romance, that's not to say it was without an eroticism. Things felt distinctly “after dark” thanks to stiff corsets paired with frilled fraulein dresses, rubbery sex shop leather and lingerie dresses of translucent lace. As Burton put it of her muse of the season: “She comes alive at night.” That she certainly did.