Sarah Burton gave herself a very clear mandate with Alexander McQueen menswear this season: No history. After Fall's "nostalgic look back," she fancied a clean slate. But, this being McQueen, any old palate cleanser wouldn't do. Burton was drawn to the flat white blankness of the Kabuki mask, with
its bold counterpoints of black and red. These she abstracted into swirls of color across coats, jackets, and trousers.
In another break with the past, there was no symmetry in the patterns she
created. But there was still the immaculate order of McQueen's workmanship, from the complex cutting that created illusions of layering to the torrent of black bugle beads that flowed off a jacket and across a T-shirt in a trompe l'oeil coil.
It's actually all that craft that can't help but connect McQueen with the weight of tradition that Burton herself might occasionally wish to escape. Meaning that, even if she intended a history-free collection, there was a lot about the look of these clothes that evoked something fantastical. That might just be the price of obsession. Yes, a boldly patterned shirt and baggy shorts had a kind of hip-hop brashness, but the default position of McQueen menswear is an elongated, aristocratic elegance, exemplified here by long coats belted high across the chest. There may simply be no escape from the past.