Sarah Burton recently made a triumphant return to the Paris runway after a three-year absence. Her latest collection Alexander McQueen Fall 2023 was a stunning showcase of classic tailoring, but with a twist. Burton’s unique approach to fashion design blends the traditional elements of tailoring with a touch of theatricality. The runway was set up like a zoetrope, with projections of the clothes moving all around the audience, and the musical note soundtrack of the fall 1998 “Joan of Arc” collection playing in reverse.
Backstage, Burton spoke about her creative process, which involves revisiting the roots of McQueen’s tailoring, starting with the construction of garments. She then takes this classic approach and turns it on its head, subverting it to create something new and exciting. This was evident in the collection, which was a celebration of the anatomy of clothing and the human body.
Naomi Campbell, dressed in a black peaked corset jumpsuit, led the charge of models showcasing the bold-shouldered, precision-cut pinstripe suits, white shirts, and ties. The models, who came from a diverse range of backgrounds, represented the discipline and uniform-like appeal that has been at the forefront of fashion in recent times. However, there was also a hint of eroticism, with slicked-back hair reminiscent of Helmut Newton and provocative orchids placed just so on the body.
The blazers in the collection were sculpted into high-slit bustier dresses, with lapels twisting around the neckline and flap pockets accenting the hips. Some were turned upside down, contoured to the waist, with vents falling softly over the shoulders and slashed sleeves hanging, worn over long, lean trousers. The men’s corsets and waist-nipping jackets were equally sensual, with orchid prints or a shock of blood red embroidery, worn over pleated, ’40s-style trousers.
The focus on the body led Burton to look at Leonardo da Vinci anatomy drawings, which translated into extraordinary dresses. One was made from a muscular-looking black knit, while another was crafted from skeletal-looking cream cables with built-out shoulders, waist cutouts, and an unraveling skirt. Burton achieved a similar effect on gowns using crystals and bugle beads, which hugged the body before dissolving into fringe skirts. The showstopper was a silver gown with an orchid-shaped bodice.
The evening tailoring was particularly fresh and would be a perfect choice for next week’s Oscars events and red carpets. Tuxedos expertly slashed at the midriff and accessorized with an overgrown silver orchid necklace or a slashed tuxedo jumpsuit with swaggering crystal epaulettes would make a real power move.
According to Burton, the return to sartorialism now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, feels smart and necessary. In a time of chaos, people want to feel put together and strong, and there’s a sense of security in that. With this latest collection, Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton has once again proved that she is a master of her craft, and a true visionary in the world of fashion.
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