Not since her first presentation as creative director for the Spring/Summer 2011 ready-to-wear season have I been as entranced by one of Sarah Burton’s collections for Alexander McQueen as I was by the 33-piece collection she presented for Fall/Winter 2014 during Paris Fashion Week yesterday.
The dark, hazy set was reminiscent of some long-forgotten field set in the middle of a forest in the French countryside—an apt setting, seeing as how Burton’s inspiration for this collection was the classic French fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. The connection was apparent almost immediately: Models in delicate skullcap braids made their way over the mossy undergrowth in steel-toed boots wearing thick, dark coats decorated with intricate ivy leaves with sleeves fringed in luxurious black fur.
These wild, bestial beauties were accompanied by models bundled up in enormous—yet strangely feminine and seductive—coats with massive hoods made from a mixture of raccoon and goat fur, as well as organza. (And let’s not forget the matching furry eyebrows!) Not all of the fashion was quite so feral: Breathtaking capes in deep mauves and purples constructed entirely out of feathers were featured alongside jewel-encrusted dresses that brought to mind visions of the starry night sky.
Throughout the presentation, viewers caught glimpses of white and other pale hues—broderie anglaise and double-puffed sleeves made a few appearances early on in the lineup, along with some luxurious white and cream fur. It wasn’t until the end of the show, however, that Burton’s true “Beauties” were revealed: Two ethereal figures stepped out of the mist wearing trailing, transparent gowns of exceptionally detailed broderie anglaise—one with double-puffed sleeves, the other with the stiff, high neckline that has become something of a trademark of Burton’s style.
The most notable change in Burton’s aesthetic for the house this season is the sense that the McQueen woman—at least next fall—will have a bit more freedom to move. Maybe that’s what I liked most about this collection: the sense of movement and freedom of many of the garments. Not every single piece was choked by some gaudy metallic belt, nor did every dress feature an exaggerated neckline or stiff proportions. Granted, Burton did not stray very far from her standard set of silhouettes, but the fact that she did experiment with the idea of movement is exciting in that it opens the door to new possibilities for the future of the house.
Alexander McQueen was a visionary in part because his collections were never static: from season to season, everything changed. Very few designers work this way anymore, but it is my hope that Burton will continue to experiment and lean on McQueen’s extensive archives for inspiration going forward.