“It’s Oscar Wilde, it’s military, it’s dandy, it’s aristocratic, it’s romantic,” says Sarah Burton of her Autumn/Winter 2017 men’s collection for Alexander McQueen. “And linking to women’s there’s a femininity, and a softness to it as well as a masculinity.” Although this is an open homage, it is far from pastiche: Wilde’s famous green carnation has been replaced by an embroidered red iris; his overblown dress shirts and overcoats come discreetly deconstructed – waistcoat ties reach to the ankles, buttons circle the elbows – his shoes deliberately aged. The thematic also includes nods to McQueen signatures, from illustration worthy of a Victorian collector to prints of antique maps. “Yes, it also goes back to Darwin and Victorian collectors again,” Burton confirms. Then there are subtly worn carpet coats and jackets informed by the current Alexander McQueen women’s collection. “There’s the idea of it being eaten and worn away,” Burton says. And, of course, the tailoring that lies at the heart of the name remains: “I like when it’s a very clean silhouette and you can really see the form. It’s back to being fitted with a peaked shoulder.”
Still, the narrative is principally driven by Wilde, the author, poet, playwright and philosopher of aestheticism, as he moved from Tite Street in London’s Chelsea to L’Hotel on the Left Bank of Paris at the end of his life. Wilde’s love of velvet – featured here in the form of smoking jackets and tuxedo stripes on trousers – is very much in evidence, while Victorian dressing gown silks, in the form of a coat and panelled on a field jacket, and even gems, are also all present and correct.
Behind Oscar Wilde’s bed at L’Hotel, on a dark green background, were painted two huge golden peacocks. They remain there to this day and are the central motif of the collection, printed across shirts again, embroidered in bullion on a classic camel coat and, most spectacularly, a full-length black cape.
The collection is presented through a lookbook photographed by Ethan James Green and styled by Alister Mackie, with an accompanying film directed by Masha Vasyukova.