FASHION

Alexander McQueen Trades Shock Factor for Inventive Shapes


Naomi Campbell walking the runway at Alexander Mcqueen in a bedazlled catsuit
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen

In the 12 years since Sarah Burton has reigned as creative director for Alexander McQueen, she’s invented a new lexicon of shape and silhouette that’s wholly specific to her iteration of the brand. Perhaps it’s not as experimental or extreme as McQueen once was, but it is uniquely recognizable. For Alexander McQueen’s spring 2023 show, Burton pushed those lines of silhouette and texture to create a collection that felt inherently striking in shape and form.

Held to coincide with Frieze London rather than fashion month, the spring 2023 show opened with a sea of blooming flower-like structured dresses covered in eye prints. It was the second time McQueen showed in London since the pandemic, following a mushroom-themed presentation hosted off-schedule in New York for fall 2022. The looks that followed defined the new shapes of McQueen: blazers with fabric that sashayed behind the model, worn open with nothing underneath, and cropped. Leather peplum panniers sculpted in surrealist forms, mini dresses exploding with dense fringe texture like pom poms, bandage dresses with cutouts and pierced details, tulle trench coats with corsetry. It was a mixed bag of hard and soft, surprising and expected, restrained and expressive.

Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen

Burton knows her craft—that fact was most evident in the pieces which morphed from one concept to another. Suiting was deconstructed into asymmetric dresses, for example. The classic black leather jacket that has arguably become a new house code for McQueen turned into a dress. Dresses and jackets pulled apart with slits merged into new pieces that delicately challenged the idea of traditional silhouettes. The most embellished pieces—like suits marked by oversize eyeball prints, or Naomi Campbell’s sequined cutout catsuit—were incredibly powerful in their lines.

Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen

Perhaps most noticeable of all, though, were the extreme low-rise pants and denim. From behind, a pair of jeans verged on the iconic bumster jeans from McQueen’s first runway collection in 1993. Was it an actual tribute or a cheeky nod to the namesake who started the brand? Either way, those low rises, along with the sheer paneling, high-slit skirts, off-the-shoulder sequin sculpted dresses and peplums all recalled very strongly the mid 2010s. With so many of the spring 2023 shows fully leaning into Y2K culture, it felt like a strong directional change of pace that we may start to see a lot more of in the coming seasons.

Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Courtesy of Alexander McQueen

The spring 2023 collection may have lacked the kind of surprise and extreme turns that were once so strongly associated with the McQueen brand, but sometimes beauty trumps concept. In this case, it’s become crystal clear that Burton stands as a modern master of shape and silhouette.—one who can interpret expert tailoring and create something both intriguing and covetable.