LONDON — Alexander McQueen has dumbfounded his doubters — at least for now. Just as his critics were writing off his shock tactics as passe and a host of imitators were trying to outdo him with shows that bordered on the stomach-churning, the designer turned 180 degrees. His presentation late Sunday night was literally slick and entirely sophisticated. Sure, there were still a few theatrical moments, since it wouldn’t be a McQueen show without them. But what he mainly produced was an immensely wearable, totally salable collection.


McQueen showed that he’s one of the most adept around at reading the current fashion mood. His aggressive shows and equally in-your-face personality have made many overlook the fact that the designer understands what fashion is all about. It’s a business that produces clothes women want to wear. While he can talk the philosophy of fashion with the best of them, he’s fond of punctuating even his own high-mindedness with the throwaway line, “It’s just clothes, after all. You can’t take it too seriously.”


What his show Sunday also proved is that McQueen is still the hottest ticket in town. Just ask Demi Moore, Janet Jackson and Tommy Hilfiger, who brought his wife, Suzy, and daughter, Ali. Moore and Hilfiger, in fact, stood to watch it, since they arrived too late to be seated.


Always on the lookout for out-of-the-way venues, McQueen this time chose a refuse-disposal warehouse near the Thames. Workmen spent a week scrubbing it down and disinfecting it to get rid of the garbage smell and built his 100-foot Perspex runway. Guests sat listening to the sound of a windstorm, which turned into a monsoon with the rumble of thunder and the flash of lights to simulate lightning.


McQueen called his show, “Untitled,” and its name and the Perspex runway could have come right out of the “Sensation” exhibition at the Royal Academy. His sensibility fits in perfectly with the current art scene in London, where he has many friends, and McQueen said beforehand that he wanted to show the deeper, more intellectual side of his personality that people usually don’t expect.


He also wanted to exhibit his ability to cut clothes — which was exactly what he did, with looks that could be worn by almost anyone. There were wool dresses inset with pinstripes in patterns reminiscent of the Union Jack; draped jackets and tops; white jackets and skirts with flower embroidery; circular fringed minis worn with smoking jackets; a catsuit with a sheer top; lightweight wool pants with a zip around the waist, and a plethora of shredded leather looks. They could easily have been trashy, but McQueen made them chic.


The designer’s showmanship was better than ever this season (at a cost of more than $150,000). The second half of the presentation had guests sitting open-mouthed as the music switched to “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and the ceiling sprinklers turned on. The models then splashed down the runway as their array of all-white clothes became plastered to their bodies and their makeup began to run.


As Hilfiger said afterwards, while his daughter stood shyly nearby, “The man’s a creative genius. The cut of the tailoring was fantastic.”


RICHARD TYLER COLLECTION: The Melbourne boy (via L.A. and New York) brought his second line to town and produced the hip London look for the rich. And what exactly is that? Well, think of elements of street and sport combined with more sophisticated pieces. Envision nylon track pants, apple green leather warmup jackets and tank tops. Add a few sporty jackets, bias-seamed white linen dresses, cashmere sweaters and, for evening, silk tulle drawstring dresses.


But what Tyler left out was the precision tailoring that is unmistakably his. He claimed a reason he showed in London was to separate this collection from his refined Richard Tyler Couture. He certainly did — one would be perfect for Bergdorf’s and the other for Paragon. It was definitely a collection for fashion editors to play with.


“This has a younger, sportier feeling that’s right for London,” the designer said. “This is only the second season for the Richard Tyler Collection, and it’s grown up a lot.”
Tyler showed the Collection twice, the second time at a charity dinner at the Oxo Tower restaurant. The society ladies at that show might not find a suit for lunch at San Lorenzo, but they will find the perfect tracksuit for First Class.

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