McQueen's New York comeback
Sarah Burton broke with tradition on Tuesday night, showing her Alexander McQueen Fall 2022 collection in the Empire State.
"New York is exciting, creative, not speedy, but it is a fast city. I wanted to have a pace, energy, and precision to the tailoring and the coloring so to have a vibrancy and sense of character on purpose with a huge personality," said Sarah Burton backstage following the Alexander McQueen show noting the Big Apple influenced her approach to the collection.
Yet, entering her set at the Agger Fish Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the mounds of mycelium and tree mulch piled 15-plus feet high may have suggested another reality: a more crunchy approach to the collection. While she acquiesced, the fungi are certainly topical in the age of microdosing; the flora symbolized connectivity to the community much the way trees are a supportive, interactive community.
In this context, Burton drew upon the themes of the McQueen woman, giving her a unique New York edge.
"These dresses are individual characters; in the way we have characters in the McQueen family, it felt like they could exist in New York or any city really," she explained.
To that end, the show hit the note of seemingly New York tropes, at least those McQueen ideas that played out heavy in downtown 1980s New York. Leather dressing à la variations on a biker imagined as a strapless jumpsuit or cinch-waisted and peplumed jacket for example. Or a stem leather bandeau top and precisely cut, full skirt dress.
Silk faille dresses, playing with signature bustiers and plenty of ruffles and more full skirts, recalled when Madonna and Cyndi Lauper ruled downtown. One in silver seemed to hint at Andy Warhol's factory days. A fringed and embroidered multicolor knit had a punk vibe. A graffiti-esque print that, when paired with zippers, gave off a Stephen Sprouse vibe but was made from a studio photo.
"It was a nod to the dress that Shalom Harlow wore in the '13 show," explained Burton, referring to the white dress that was spray-painted by robots in that seminal show. "It was a shadow of a person moving in the studio then abstracted. It was done the same way the lacquered lace [dresses] recalled Lee's early collections. These characters, the old and the new, coexist together."
The city's vibrancy came through in the precision tailoring, which also rings true to that Wall Street driven decade; crafty slashes and slits and strong shoulder suits à la David Byrne recalled that power era. The acid yellow, green, bright red, orange, and blue colors also exemplified the city’s frisson.
"The color palette came from looking at a photo of mycelium mushrooms—which are very topical at the moment obviously—but what I really love is how trees talk to each and heal as a creative community and work together. But [mushrooms] are toxic at the same time," she continued, adding the colors were found in nature.
As city-centric as this collection was, the natural world wasn't far from Burton's oeuvre. She noted that 85 percent of British wools are sustainable and faille and nylon recycled. Thus far, the brand is still using animal leather but said they are experimenting with mushroom and other sustainable leathers. Indeed, in line with parent company Kering's ethos. She pointed out that the mulch was made from fallen trees, and the mounds would be donated to farms and art projects.
However, the critics love to point out that destination shows are not sustainable. Burton's conviction to show in New York was due to the strong bond she and the brand have with America's fashion capital.
"New York and America is such a big part of McQueen and has been incredibly supportive to us. We showed Dante here (1996), Eye (1999), and Savage Beauty (2011). It's part of our creative community; I've always loved people from New York, so it's great to come here and honor that."
The city also boasts its fair share of loyal clients. Many arrived decked out in the bustier slash full skirt dresses to the post-show party at the Boom Boom Room at the Standard Hotel. To see American clients and show the collection so they can have an experience was another reason Burton gave for showing in New York.
The designer hopes to have her own experience before heading back to London on Wednesday, a simple request, really. She hoped to get outside.
"The light in New York; it's clean and sharp like nowhere else. I'd like to see the light. It's beautiful here."
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