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From the sartorial commentary on England’s violation of Scotland in Highland Rape to transparent bustiers filled with worms in The Hunger and from the skeleton sitting front row at Dante to Lady Gaga crashing the world’s first major live-streamed show , Alexander McQueen is synonymous with memorable shows. Creative director, Sarah Burton, has upheld the tradition of transportive, live storytelling with considered narrative-filled, emotion-powered IRL presentations. And so, against the unprecedented backdrop of a global pandemic, we wondered how she and Alexander McQueen would take us at a time when physical shows are not possible. Her answer was to collaborate with London-born neo-noir director Jonathan Glazer – best known for Sexy Beast and Under The Skin – on an eerie short set on the beaches and bridges of the River Thames, featuring the most stylish mudlarks imaginable. As the Thames rises and rescinds, centuries worth of treasure may be discovered on its beaches, but rarely are its mudlarkers dressed in black leather trousers and moto jackets, voluminous trench coats, lace corsets, sleek suiting, and tulle skirts.
After a presence on the Paris Fashion Week calendar for close to two decades, the lockdown London setting marked a literal homecoming. This was also the first time that city provided an explicit source of inspiration for Burton, who in previous seasons has taken her design team on research trips across the UK.
Unable to pursue her fabled travels to Wales, Scotland and beyond, it seemed as though Burton lost herself in the stark solitude of the stripped-down capital and discovered a rarely seen beauty there. Pure as this focus may be, the results are far from puritanical. There’s an undeniable dynamism at play, thanks largely to hybrid garments and unlikely juxtaposition. As garments are cut, pasted and manipulated, a biker jacket is collaged with exploded tulle sleeves and an overblown skirt, a Crombie coat is fused with an MA-1 jacket, and a poplin dress mutates into a pique shirt. There’s a conversation between past and present, menswear and womenswear, and the uniforms we’ve adapted into fantastical everyday wear throughout.