ALEXANDER MCQUEEN AUTUMN/WINTER 2015-16 READY-TO-WEAR PARIS FASHION WEEK
In the same week that the Alexander McQueen exhibition opens at the V&A in London—a run that is already completely sold out—Sarah Burton did exactly what she had to do when she showed her latest collection for the label. She brought the romance back.
Burton was in a postshow fret that she hadn’t shown enough ready-to-wear, but all those options will be in the showroom. On the catwalk tonight she offered up the purest distillation of what she called “the spirit of the rose,” a flower that begins with a tight bud that opens into a lush bloom and then eventually collapses back onto itself in gorgeous decay. Burton had in mind the photographs of David Sims, who once made a book for the art/fashion publication Visionaire that was dedicated to the rise and fall of the rose. This show trod that same path, structure to dissolution, just like nature itself. The show notes said it better: “the frayed nature of reality and the beauty of imperfection.”
Imperfection can seldom have looked more beautiful than with models whose Guido-ed hair and Pat McGrath-ed makeup were the living Scissorhands-y embodiment of an Egon Schiele painting. Schiele’s twisty, fraught intensity echoed throughout the collection, but that intensity at last felt like a fit with Burton. She has never known when to stop with her manic attention to detail. Here, it all worked in an appropriately weird way.
Weird, as in the paper-thin leather that was bonded to a floral jacquard for a black trouser suit and a pink coat. Or the leather, not so paper-thin, that was intarsia-ed into crystal-pleated bustier dresses. Or the shredded patent that made glossy puddles on top of the silk coats at the beginning of the show. Or in the distressed lace gowns that closed the presentation in a shroud of silk threads, echoing the hair with which Lee McQueen once lined his jackets.
Burton’s show wasn’t the first this season to present a melancholic Victorian mood. Maybe it was the mourning exhibition at the Met; maybe it’s being fed by binge-watching Penny Dreadful or, for the more arcane among us, The Crimson Petal and the White. Whatever, a strange sense of loss seeps from fashion for Fall 2015. There are few designers more familiar with such a sensation than Sarah Burton. And it’s perhaps her familiarity with the feeling that could inspire a dress as simply ravishing as the cloud of tiered chiffon ruffles that evoked a bloodred rose on the brink of blowsy-ness. Truly, the beauty of imperfection.