Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2019

by Long Nguyen

“I went home for this collection, back to where I grew up in the North of England, surrounded by mills, towns and wild countryside. I took my team to those mills, to a landscape that I remember from my childhood. The heart of the collection is inspired by the bolts of cloth we saw woven both by man and machine,” said Sarah Burton in the show program placed on our seats, which were, in fact, rolls of different types of woven woolen fabrics. The dark navy, wool chalk, stripes roll that I sat on had identification markings on the trims woven in white capital letterings ‘BRITISH CLASSIC ALL WOOL MADE IN ENGLAND,” on the selvage of the cloth roll made by threading heddles, warping and wefting to combine worsted spun wool yarns, and double-blind finish to make the authentic, anthracite flannel cloths softened by the local water.

Devoid of any historical references to places and people that inspired and, perhaps at times, anchored her collection in the past where the clothes, while utterly impeccable, felt slightly like costumes rather than actual proposals for a women’s wardrobe, Burton relied this time on her instincts along with her skills at craft and tailoring for a stellar collection that verged on haute couture of precisely linear tailored suits with strong shoulder, defined waist, and added elements of asymmetry like a charcoal flannel coat with a side flap and often colorful deconstructed pleated dresses with floral prints from photography and post-punk posters. A silver heddle embroidered tulle dress was inspired directly from the heddle of the loom at the factories, with the laser-cut heddle sequins that when touched by others, as the model walked, recreated the sound of the loom in motion and the manner of embroideries placing the metal sequins and bugle beads in a mechanical pattern to mimic actual production sequences. One of the great suiting looks was a patchwork of dark navy pinstripe suit with a deconstructed canvas jacket, inspired by the archive sample books at the Huddersfield wool mills, which documented the fabrics for menswear, and the different shades of the white chalk striped reflected the various black and white photographs hung around different mills. There was a great black wool coat with the bottom section of asymmetrical lighter grey blankets sample cloth.  

Despite all the handiwork, the collection felt light and airy like the red rose patterned taffeta gown anchored by a bodice and black leather waist belt with a full petal folds skirt, and a neckline which resembled the Red Roses of Lancaster from Lancastershire. Even the evening portion of dresses was kept to a minimum, with less ornamentation than in previous seasons like a navy blue corset draped dress. One of the more outstanding looks arrived towards the end of the show with a black tailored wool silk tuxedo with rose silk stain duchess draped petal sleeves.

What made the show powerful is the fact that Burton worked from her heart and each cut, each drape, each fold, and each asymmetrical pleat came from the emotion and the desire which goes into making clothes. Each of the 41 looks in the show reflected this spirit and conveyed this same emotion.

Photos courtesy of Alexander McQueen