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Of her latest creation for Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton writes: “More than ever, a sense of humanity, of the team working together with a single aim—to make something beautiful, something meaningful—feels both precious and important.” Her words resonate with a wider post-pandemic sensibility. Runways have returned with an explosion of extravagance; using bold shades and decadent fabrics to announce a clear and unified directive that occasions are back. Burton’s interpretation is somehow both a response to recent events and a steadfast exploration of McQueen’s central tropes seen through Paolo Roversi’s eerie portraiture lens.
Following on from a stark spring/summer wade into the Thames, water continues to be an inspiration. This time for its healing properties and paired with anemones, chosen for being the most ephemeral flower, as Burton seeks to give permanence to that which is fleeting by nature. Anemones have been photographed, manipulated, photographed again and enlarged to form oversized scarlet splashes across pillowy ballgowns. While “trailing lilypads” of embroidered metal create a delicate patchwork armour wrapped around waists and limbs. That signature McQueen push-and-pull dynamism emerges as a conversation between rebirth, power and spectral beauty.
The collection is a seamless weld of contrary ideas; tailored wool jackets are jigsawed with ballooning bomber sleeves, white muscle tees are overlaid with gilded floral lace, corseted gowns are sculpted from faded denim and uneven sequinned hems are draped over suiting trousers. Burton may have described the collection as an expression of strength and healing, but another statement is also clear; practical, comfortable, casual materials may be here to stay but not at the cost of theatrical grandeur. Anemones is yet another McQueen masterclass in locating the elusive fulcrum between polar opposites and flourishing there.