paris fashion week: alexander mcqueen

(images via wwd)

so this one is actually going to be quite quick, as alexander mcqueen‘s a/w 2013 paris fashion week show was limited to a 10-exit presentation, as designer sarah burton is very close to giving birth, and like many of the other female designers of pfw, that usually translates into a very small collection for the season. but! as we’ve learned over the seasons we’ve been closely following (see s/s 2005, a/w 2010, resort 2011, s/s 2011, pre-fall 2011, a/w 2011, resort 2012, s/s 2012, a/w 2012, resort 2013, s/s 2013, pre-fall 2013), the designer is amazing, and even a short show can’t diminish her shine.

and so, because the critics desperately want to jump in here (and space is limited), we’ll let them; according to style, “Burton divided the ten into five subgroups: Communion, nuns, cardinals, popes, and angels. In a scarcely believable but timely twist for McQueen, Britain’s most senior Catholic cardinal has just stepped down in the wake of one of those sex scandals that endlessly plague the Vatican in the twilight of its domain. Burton coincidentally garbed her cardinal duo in outfits that would have done a Vegas showgirl—or a cross-dressing cleric—proud. And, bearing in mind the about-to-be-well-documented propensity of clergymen for outré behavior, she dressed her papal twosome as right royal queens of the British Isles…The technique was obsessive to a fault—two weeks per outfit, ventured one awestruck source.”

“Burton opened with a white silk dress traced with pearls, tight at the waist, and worn over a hooped skirt, an Elizabethan ruff at the neck and a face guard crisscrossed with still more pearls,” explained us vogue. “Yet that was only the beginning. Across the next nine looks, there were pearls embroidered onto black jackets with caped shoulders and peplums, short white lace dresses with trains of cobweb lace trailing the floor in their wake, cloudlike jackets constructed out of duck and ostrich feathers, all worn with bejeweled fishnet tights, and monumental shoes embellished with metal toe caps and resting on pearl-studded platforms. Was all this couture? Was it costume? In the end, does it really matter? It was a moment of unadulterated pleasure, a reminder of what a privilege it can be to be in this business.”

elsewhere, the guardian announced that “her timing could not have been more apt. Her collection was based on ecclesiastical wear, a hyperstyled, ultra-chic take on the wardrobes of popes and nuns, on cardinals’ robes and communion gowns…This being McQueen, the grand gowns had more than a hint of the gilded cage about them. The models’ heads were enclosed in diamond-patterned gilded cages, studded with teardrop pearls; their bodies within embroidered bodices, and hoop skirts. The fishnet tights studded with pearls might be a little risque for the Holy City, but the ornate ruffs and lavishly cartridge-pleated skirts were redolent of pomp and ceremony.”

and wwd noted that “(i)n five pairs of related looks, she presented a lavish feast in which pristine communicants in exquisite organdy lace gave way to sensual Swiss Guards and a twosome whose pearl-encrusted, cutaway habits suggested they were sent to the nunnery to atone for their sexual sins, (said atonement a work in progress, from the looks of things). She finished with a white-and-gold homage to the Virgin Queen, which referenced both Elizabeth I and various religious iconography. Burton’s tiny grouping awed with its beauty and the craft on display. It also whetted the appetite for what commercial glories the showroom may hold. Almost at the end of a seemingly endless season, countless other designers could take a lesson.”

meanwhile, rejoined uk vogue, “(i)t was staggeringly beautiful and everything was encrusted in pearls – white gloves that only covered the fingers, extensively pleated or festooned collars that turned essentially into caged crinolines for the face and elaborate costume gowns that it really wouldn’t have been a surprise to look up and see one of Henry VIII’s wives taking a turn in, such was the fashion fantasy so incredibly re-enacted. The workmanship – for the huge hip-laden skirts with stealthy accordian pleats, the bejewelled bodices and the extravagant cascading sleeves that were all just right for Tudor court – was mind-boggling. History remade in Burton’s own exhibition.”

and elle said that “(t)he question of wearability doesn’t even exist here. We all know Sarah Burton can cut a wicked sharp-shouldered jacket and a mean pencil skirt, gorgeous coats, featherlight angel dresses and of course the most beautiful wedding gowns. These so-called ready-to-wear shows have long been about more than mere clothes – for that, you’d have to visit the showroom where, we are reliably informed, there are somewhere between 400 and 500 pieces intended for the shop floor. Sarah Burton isn’t saying, ‘here’s what you’ll be wearing come September’. She reserves these occasions to present the results of her incubated ideas – always far-reaching, always otherworldly, always erotically charged. They are in that sense not ready-to-wear, but couture – delivered with that same level of exquisite finish and detail. ”

and finally, there was the telegraph, describing how “(a)s it is, a solitary suit, with slashed ribbon sleeves, a silver metal belt and liberal smothering of pearls suggested that Burton may be more comfortable making fantasies come true rather than oiling the mechanics of day to day dressing. Yet we know that women go to McQueen for power tailoring as much as for they do for spectacle and once Burton’s back in the saddle she may want to consider tweaking her shows a little to reflect this. Spectacle is fabulous, but so is a suit that transcends the ordinary – and that’s what we want to see her do next. A little less Elizabeth Rex I maybe, and a bit more Elizabeth Rex II.”

(see the collection video here)


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