There was a lot of talk about mushrooms ahead of the Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter ‘22 fashion show. As soon as teasers began to quite literally sprout in the form of (virtual) mushrooms, people began to wonder whether it was a sign that the line would debut mushroom leather (see: Stella McCartney) or feature mushroom prints (Rodarte, Brandon Maxwell). Or even: Did head designer Sarah Burton engage in some psychedelics in preparation for what was bound to be a trippy collection?
The answers arrived on Tuesday. As is the case with most things that the British luxury house provides, they were a lot more subtle than expected. As explained in the show notes, the new collection wasn’t inspired by mushrooms (or shrooms, for that matter) but rather mycelium, the vegetative part of fungus, and “nature as a community that is far, far older than we are.”
“Mycelium connects even the rooftop of the tallest skyscraper to the plants, to the grass, to the ground, to animals, and to human beings. Mycelium has the most profound, interconnecting power, relaying messages through a magical underground structure, allowing trees to reach out to each other when either they or their young need help or are sick,” the notes read. “We exist as single, individual entities on one level, but we are far more powerful connected to each other, to our families, to our friends, to our community.”
This came through in the setting. As guests sat wrapped around mounds of fallen tree mulch in an industrial warehouse — not unlike the synagogue-turned-community centre on the Lower East Side where McQueen showed 26 years ago — in the decidedly unfashionable Brooklyn Navy Yard, a soundtrack of birds and insects filled the space.
The collection, too, was fitting for those of us who have stayed in cities since the pandemic took hold two years ago while simultaneously yearning for woodland forests and pastoral fields as we were stuck in our apartments. To the sound of The Cure’s “A Forest,” models walked out in full-skirted leather dresses in colours ranging from black to sunshine-bright yellow; asymmetrical moto jackets with soft, flowing hems; and unraveling sweaters — as cottagecore as it gets for New Yorkers.
As always, the highlight of Burton’s collection was the razor-sharp suiting, in particular the tie-dye-esque pieces that called to mind one of the late Lee Alexander McQueen’s most famous looks: the strapless white dress, spray-painted live by robots at the brand’s Spring 1999 show. In line with more of the house’s signature looks, the red carpet-ready dresses were re-imagined in shorter hemlines — including a mycelium-inspired, crystal-encrusted one-shoulder mini modelled by Kaia Gerber — and more-utilitarian silhouettes, in the form of a tuxedo blazer-style dress with ribcage slits. And while there were traces of more obvious fungi-inspired fashion in the form of an acid green pantsuit and mushroom-printed knits and embellished frocks, they were far from the most interesting pieces seen on the runway.
Maybe then viewers were never meant to forage for clues in the show’s teasers or even in the clothing shown. Bur rather spend that time engaging with our community to, as the brand’s notes put it, “restore, reinvent, rejuvenate – heal.”
View the full show below (start at 59:10):