Tonight Sarah Burton brought her autumn/winter 16 collection for Alexander McQueen back to the brand’s home, showing for the first time in a long time in London. Earlier this month, Burton explained her relocation choice to Porter magazine, saying: “McQueen is fundamentally British and London is where it’s based and where we all live and work.” She continued, “There’s a freedom of expression in London that makes it feel right.” We did get a sense tonight that Burton was truly expressing herself. It’s six years and eleven days since Lee (Alexander) McQueen died, and it’s impossible to think about the brand without thinking about its founder, because of the insurmountable impact he had upon fashion. We’ve watched his successor evolve the brand over that time with absolute respect and absolute finesse, and tonight felt like a real moment for Burton. It was a window into the notoriously publicity-shy designer, whom we can only hope to know through the beautiful creations she presents to us.
Flowing on from last season in its unapologetically feminine stance, pink lips, flowers and butterflies – typical, almost saccharine symbols of femininity – were embroidered on to black leather coats and low-V leather dresses. Burton reclaimed these emblems for women and turned them into badges of honour.
There were hints and nods to hardness in fetishistic netting, leather bustiers, heavy buckled trousers and chains. Burton played with masculine tailoring, deconstructing tuxedo jackets so that the lapels were slung over the chest, like Miss World sashes. And true, there was a lot of black. But the overwhelming mood was pretty. Billowing dresses came in delicate chiffons, satins and lace in shades of pink, gold and silver. The latter looks were full-length gowns encrusted with crystals and the models even wore princess jewels and tiaras in their hair. There wasn’t the theatre or provocation one might hope for in the comeback London show, but in its place was sheer beauty, and a womenswear collection desirable enough to dream about, and unattainable enough to still feel like a dream.