Alexander McQueen’s Medieval Answer to Haute Couture

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Photography by Tim Elkaïm, Styling by Chloe Grace Press

For A/W17, Sarah Burton paid homage to her late mentor through an embroidered tribute inspired by the craft of Europe’s middle ages

Sleeveless asymmetric top, Alexander McQueen

Cashmere voile with with Samplers embroidery

The earliest variety of English textile art can be traced back to the craft of Opus Anglicanum, a term for the ecclesiastical embroidery produced by a close-knit community of London-based workers during the Middle Ages. Incorporating silk, velvet and linen, with the lines of the needlework accented with golden thread, this painstaking process was often executed by women who worked for hours on end, squinting at their handiwork in the dim glow of candlelight. Forming the basis of clothing commissions for royalty and the nobility – an early form of haute couture to dazzle the courts of medieval and renaissance Europe – the pieces produced during this era are precious relics of technique.

This pocket of history formed the inspiration behind Sarah Burton’s A/W17 collection for Alexander McQueen, which paid homage to her late mentor through embroidery, as seen here in this sleeveless asymmetric top. “When we started working on the Autumn/Winter 2017 collection we were looking at 16th and 17th century samplers and medieval embroideries from an exhibition at the V&A,” she told AnOther Magazine. “Then, in our embroidery archive, we found a copy of a sampler from 1598 that Lee himself had asked to develop. In the text of the sampler was written: ‘Alice Lee was borne the 23 of November being Tuesday in the afternoone 1596.’ I decided to change the embroidery to Lee’s date of birth, which became hidden and embedded in the dress. Because he is always here, in everything we do.”

Hair: Yumi Nakada-Dingle at Home Agency using Aveda. Make-up: Fir Wang at Atomo Management using Nars. Models: Franziska Bachoven; Sofia Fanego at Silent Models; Dustin Muchuvitz; and Camille Rochand at Girl Management. Casting: TM Casting. Manicure: Beatrice Eni at ASG Paris. Set design: Sophear at Swan Management. Digital tech: Florian Massal at D-Factory. Photographic assistant: Yves Mourtada. Styling assistant: Grisel Clémence. Hair assistant: Fabio Petri. Set assistant: Céline Corbineau. Production: The Collective Shift. Post-production: D-Factory. Special thanks to Upper East Studio and Codimat

This image originally appeared in Autumn/Winter 2017 issue of AnOther Magazine is on sale now.