Set in a cloud-like structure designed by architect Smiljan Radic, the Alexander McQueen spring/summer 2023 show saw creative director Sarah Burton returning to the custom-built structure for last year’s presentation.
Titling this season’s collection ‘First Sight’, it’s clear that perception and consciousness are Burton’s central themes. As written in her show notes, ‘First Sight’ is about “searching for humanity and human connection. The eye is a symbol of that humanity, a register of emotion, an expression of uniqueness.”
On the runway, macroscopic eyes with multi-coloured irises repeatedly appeared on sculptural dresses and blazers. Meanwhile, miniature blue pupils formed the pattern of voluminous gowns. There were also eye-catching moments that stole the show: the appearance of Naomi Campbell in a black bodysuit with the abstract image of an enlarged pupil, boasting thousands of sequins and crystal embroidery.
We’ve seen Burton delve into the house’s archive before for autumn/winter 2021 to bring out its undercurrents of dark romanticism, and this collection is no exception. Revisiting Lee McQueen’s idea of slashing garments to deconstruct them, Burton’s designs continue to subvert the formalities of traditional suiting with cut-outs and tailoring that play with aspects of the body.
Tuxedo jackets were cropped to reveal torsos. Angular dresses came down the runway as if they had been sliced and randomly reassembled. Bold sensuality also threaded its way through the collection. Skin-tight bodysuits in red intarsia wool and denim featured corset panelling and cuts that loosened at the shoulders and hip.
The most striking reference to McQueen’s legacy? Burton’s series of tailored pants that drop low at the waist to expose hip bones, a nod to the late designer’s infamous “bumster” trousers from his spring/summer 1994 collection, ‘Nihilism’.
Similar to Alexander McQueen’s posthumous collection, Burton directly engaged with the art of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch this season—“at once dark and beautiful” as written in show notes. Iconographic elements reminiscent of Bosch’s triptych, ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ were transformed into prints for Burton’s line of asymmetrical dresses and thigh-high leather boots.
Fans of the brand since the noughties can anticipate the return of the Skull Clutch, now reimagined with crystal eye embroidery. Other accessories that are new additions in the collection would be the Slash bag and jewelled hobo bag that take on McQueen’s signature four-ring closure.
From subversive tailoring to the archival references, it’s safe to say that we can always count on Alexander McQueen to make us look at ideas of destruction, nature and beauty with brand new eyes.
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