Lee McQueen often claimed that he felt obliged to offer his audience, drained by weeks of shows, something spectacular to reanimate them. The thought drifted across the minds of some of the more seasoned guests tonight when they walked into an arcane venue—the training stables of the Garde Républicaine—to be confronted by a landscape composed of ten thousand heather plants, illuminated by spooky moonlight. The mind raced.
"Wild beauty" was Sarah Burton's inspiration. She insisted she was over construction, corseting, control. "I wanted to see the woman's face again," she said. "Free her a bit, touch her, feel her." So her Fall Alexander McQueen collection was built on a swingy trapeze shape, a childlike proportion. "It's the world through an innocent child's eyes," said Burton, whose ongoing experience of recent motherhood might have assisted the collection in ways she didn't fully understand. Take the fairy-tale aspect, for instance—the ethereal, magical quality of delicately embroidered organzas, or coats exhaustively composed from hand-cut feathers to create the illusion of moth's wings, or virginal smocks in broderie anglaise. But in fairy tales, innocence is always in tandem with a wolf, a witch, or some other entity of darkness, and that also came across clearly in Burton's collection. There was something feral in what she showed. One model was owl-like in a swooping fur cape. Another was swathed in skunk, with fiercely feathered eyes.
The artisanal aptitude of the McQueen atelier was so much in evidence in the extraordinary detailing of the collection that the clothes straddled a fine line between ready-to-wear and couture. This may be the most logical option for Burton going forward. She is so entranced by time-consuming technique that it's hard to envisage a time when mass production carries the McQueen ethos to the masses. Which is a shame, because every home should have one.