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Alexander McQueen Womenswear S/S11

Sarah Burton simultaneously paid respect and ushered in a new era with her first official collection for Alexander McQueen

To call this show Sarah Burton's 'first' collection for Alexander McQueen would be a bit of a mistake as we are talking about someone who has worked closely with the late Lee McQueen for fifteen years and her input in the collections over the years is immeasurable. Still the expectations were high for so many different reasons; but namely it was to affirm what most people already think which she is absolutely the right person to take on the task of moving Alexander McQueen as a brand forward whilst also looking back. The set was a tell-tale sign that we're in for a change - stripped back, with tufts of grass coming up through the stark floorboards - whether the scaled-down set was to add modesty to her debut or it's to be a permanent trademark, time will tell. 

Into the collection we go and the legacy of McQueen is crystal clear but working in tandem with Burton's own sensibility. The opening tailcoats with their softened and fraying hems and cut-into shoulders proposed a more feminine take on a McQueen classic. Drawing from ambiguous English pagan symbolism or Demeter, the healing goddess whose symbol was the corn, various motifs infiltrated the collection with a sense of renewal. The symmetrical mirror digital prints of past collection burst with bloom with a harvest of flowers and wreaths of golden corn, that lie on flared out dresses cut high-necked and strapped in with a corset belt adorned with buckles and a leaf motif. The drama level was then turned up in accordance with house traditions with ensembles made out of black leather leafs as though they fell on the body into perfect formation to make a cropped bolero jacket and low slung hipster trousers.

What ensued was a deft application of gold brocade and raffia, corn husks, feathers and Monarch butterfly wings to a series of showpieces that showcased what McQueen as a house is capable of - a decadent level of craftsmanship that puts fantasy before anything else. Chiffon gowns that were ruched and ruffled with degrade effects thrown in to break up the motif application indicated a more tender and subtle touch to Burton's work. The renewal process of this collection could not have been emphasised more with the symbolism behind the butterflies, the corn and the overarching harvest theme that states Burton's intentions clearly - to carry on and to remember the cycle that has gone before - for now anyway until extreme change will be seen as acceptable and appropriate.