LONDON MARCHES ON
ALEXANDER MCQUEEN WENT TO WAR THIS SEASON, AND MADE AN EVEN BIGGER IMPACT OFF THE RUNWAY, WHILE ELSEWHERE, MILITARY LOOKS, LACE CONCOCTIONS AND BEAUTIFUL KNITS WERE THE ORDER OF THE DAY.
Alexander McQueen: Once again, it was up to McQueen to lead London fashion’s fall charge. And it was a blitzkrieg, both in theme and in his uncompromisingly aggressive style. The designer called his show “What a Merry-Go-Round” — an unsubtle comment on his battles with LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton over his new linkup with Gucci Group NV, which bought 51 percent of his company last fall. Domenico De Sole, Gucci’s chief executive officer, sat proudly in the front row at his first-ever McQueen show. “I’m very excited,” De Sole said.
In the garbage depot on the banks of the Thames where he was showing for the last time (the lot will become luxury apartments), McQueen constructed a tilted set surrounded on three sides by bleachers. In the center was an eight-horse carousel that was both beautiful and bizarre — the horses were completely covered in fetish-style patent leather. The laughter of playing children filled the soundtrack.
But forget any thoughts of innocence and romance. Those have never been a part of McQueen’s sensibility. Instead, the show was a surrealistic comment on childhood, toys, war and death — with a little bit of raunchy pole-dancing thrown in as the models strutted their stuff.
The designer tapped into fashion’s military mood with a stream of looks that could have outfitted an army. There were coats and skirts trimmed in pearls made to resemble braid; khaki shirts and ties with slim military pants; flight suits with parachute belts; motorcycle jackets; sailor pants, and admiral’s coats covered in gold braid. He even produced his own version of camouflage — plaid pants, jackets and coats spraypainted with black blotches.
But McQueen didn’t overplay his martial hand. He mixed all those looks with his other themes: tops and pants in clown harlequin patterns; lace-trimmed skirts, tops and dresses; peacock-feather bodices and skirts; patent leather-trimmed jeans; tops and dresses trimmed with Tahitian pearls, and off-the-shoulder yoked jackets and tops. He also showed more clothes than ever, more than any woman would want to buy, whether or not she wants to make a statement. There were great pants — from slim to wide, cropped to long; beautiful ruffle-fronted leather tops; skirts and jackets in intricate leather scales; lace and sequin tops and coats; gentle draped jersey tops and dresses, and skull-patterned knits that are bound to be among the most-photographed looks for fall.
At the end of the barrage, the lights dimmed, then came up to reveal, behind a net curtain, a jumble of childhood memories and nightmares: a huge teddy bear, a jack-in-the-box, dolls, a toy car and toy soldiers. A model with her face painted like a clown emerged from behind the curtain. Her huge lace skirt was covered with orange and black balloons which, one by one, were cut loose to drift to the ceiling. More sinister-looking clowns followed, in frock coats with lace trains, mannish suits with a spider’s web print, lace dresses with bondage bands and a silver leather tunic with a top cut out to resemble a rib cage. One clown’s leg was chained to a gold-painted skeleton, which she dragged around the stage.
The clowns then slunk off, and McQueen shyly came out to take his bow to Julie Andrews’s trilling “Just a Spoonful of Sugar.” He clearly knows which side his bread is buttered on, and gave one smile and one handshake — to his new boss De Sole.
Was it McQueen’s best show ever? No. The balance between the theme and the clothes wasn’t the perfection he’s achieved in the past. But it’s unfair to expect him to surpass himself season after season. It should simply be enough that he constantly surpasses so many other designers out there.
Boudicca: In a musty 19th-century hall in North London, the design team of Zowie Broach and Brian Kirkby produced one intricately layered outfit after another: a long, white shearling coat with a huge collar and high cuffs; stiff leather panels tied together into a skirt; ruffled-back blouses; jersey dresses with high suede cuffs; black waterfall ruffled dresses with gold metal bands; and striped satin pants and tops with kimono sleeves. Some people liked it and some didn’t — and, sure, parts of the presentation were pretentious, but London fashion feeds off such conceptual ideas. With the absence of Hussein Chalayan this season, Boudicca filled the demand.