Everything about bees was an endlessly rewarding inspiration for Sarah Burton's new Alexander McQueen
collection. Forget the obvious—she has, after all, proved herself the McQueen Bee with a spectacular string of buzzy fashion coups. Instead, think about a honey-based color palette, plus the patterning possibilities of comb, plus the frisson of the bee sting, plus the salient fact that Burton is an expectant mother. All of which equals a collection as conceptual and precise as anything from Lee McQueen's heyday, but with an added—and odd—intimacy. To be honest, it felt slightly mad. The models' heads were covered in archly modernist beekeepers' veils. The clothes they wore refracted a honeycomb motif through a dozen wasp-waisted guises, bound, haltered, and harnessed in a tortoiseshell that could quite equally have been a rich, sweet toffee. The hyper-exaggerated female silhouette was derived from the pinups of Alberto Vargas. "Celebratory," said Burton. "Back to womanhood after last season's overblown proportions." Eroticism was a touchstone: a cheeky bra strap here, a body in resin tortoiseshell there. The sinuous drape of a red dress over a honeycomb bustier would have been enough to raise Vargas himself from the dead. But what would he have made of dresses as structured as a Tudor gown? Or a full-skirted yellow extravaganza that looked as though it had been designed to galvanize bees from here to eternity? It was even more spectacular in red. In fact, so saccharine that the show could only close with the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar." And that was the sting—sweetness that would choke a diabetic.
Like her mentor, Burton used a fashion show as an opportunity to register a statement of intent. There was a real coherence to her new collection—thank you, Buzzy—but it will be interesting to see how she translates it into something more accessible. Hers is a great story. Everyone should hear it.