Just as fashion month was coming to an end, Alexander McQueen gave the fashion crowd another reason to scrub up and return to the catwalk, built inside a giant transparent dome at the top of an East London car park.
Why now? Couldn’t they have stuck to the Paris calendar, and spared everyone the extra trip to the far eastern reaches of London?
No they could not — and for good reason.
McQueen creative director Sarah Burton said she wanted to “listen to the rhythm of her studio,” stay immersed in her London day-to-day and choose a time and place that suited the team.
Indeed, this had the feel of an indie show, one that was pure McQueen, and that didn’t conform to broader industry demands.
The crowd was mostly local; there was no street-style frenzy or fanfare outside the venue, while the vibrant front row was packed with McQueen supporters, including Kosar Ali, Vanessa Kirby and Emilia Clarke, picked for their close relationship with the house, rather than the size of their Instagram following.
Guests sat inside this greenhouse-like dome, surrounded by views of the City of London and a sunny sky — a striking contrast to the eerie sounds of thunder that blasted through the speakers and reached a crescendo as the show was about to begin.
Another intriguing contrast played out in the collection, with Burton looking at the “ever-changing, all-encompassing magnificence” of the sky as her primary source of inspiration. The designer said she wanted to capture everything from the tranquility of a clear blue day to the unease of turbulent storms.
Cue a collection that balanced feminine and masculine, soft and hard: a puff-sleeved dress with a pastel sky print floated down the runway ahead of an androgynous suit in Prince of Wales check wool, while a tailored blazer was made softer with delicate tulle panels at the back.
Burton paired her dresses — with their romantic cloud prints, corseted bodices or couture-like embroidery — with sneakers or tough platform boots.
Such edgy details were everywhere, from the zip fastenings that spliced tailored separates to the leather bralettes and bomber sleeves on jackets — all of them in line with Burton’s vision of McQueen women as mysterious and exciting “storm chasers.”
The models were also full of contrasts. They gave a new, tougher energy to traditionally feminine “princess” tulle dresses or big, parachute skirts with their buzz cuts, tattoos and fierce attitudes — everything deemed inappropriate for women by old social standards.
“It’s very much about [dressing] these individuals who are all part of the same McQueen world. Often our designs are inspired by these girls, and their character. It’s about putting people first, before the design,” said Burton, who is part of a generation of female designers who highlight the many sides of women and reimagine femininity far beyond traditional boundaries with their work.
Elsewhere, the brand made a big accessories push, offering plenty of new shades for its Curve bucket bag and a new, briefcase-style shoulder bag with the signature knuckle fastening and a chunky chain. Footwear styles, from white sneakers to punk-ish platform boots, and low heels were cool, too — and made for women on the move.