THIS season, Sarah Burton built upon her own personal and treasured collection of antique kimonos picked up during trips to Japan during her early days at McQueen. Those precious pieces informed the palette of blossom pink, red and black and brought about a blown-up floral on structured engineered jacquard lantern-sleeved dresses, which were so stiffened they looked like they might stand up of their own accord were a body not even in them. And so the theme developed, extending too to hair and make-up, which served to enhance the Samurai warrior feel, with faces covered in angular black lacquer masks and hair aggressively pulled back into neatly folded ponytails.
The set was staged with Marc Quinn’s gargantuan painted bronze orchid sculptures, one male and one female, which were on loan from London’s White Cube. It lent an air of erotica: Burton made a point of opening up necklines and slicing slits into sleeves to reveal windows to flesh. It was strict but not Geisha-girl covered.
There was some movement; her finale dresses swished about the body as buoyant skirts were festooned in hand-cut floral ruffles, while up top hand-painted petals were attached to wet-look black harnesses.
Alexander McQueen is not a house where one can typically shop from, nor is it a show where one looks to tick off the emerging trends of the season (OK, granted, a mean pair of flares did pop up here, and yes, that Japanese theme is also shaping up to be a spring story) but what is so refreshing to witness – and a delight – is how Sarah Burton never wavers from what this house stands for. At a time where so many other designers are riffing on others, sidling up to an aesthetic that doesn’t typically ring true, to see a collection that is so wonderfully, boldly unique is a powerful thing.
Sarah Harris

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