This exclusive collection of pictures captures the lacework of Sarah Burton’s Spring/Summer 2020 collection and the enduring appeal of “the most quintessentially feminine and emotionally resonant of fabrics”
At Alexander McQueen, Sarah Burton’s creations more than rival those of Paris’ most revered couture ateliers: a silk dress might be painstakingly embroidered with a mass of coloured flowers, fabrics might be made using laborious centuries-old techniques, yards of organza transformed into ruffles which explode outwards, like a rose in full bloom. Yet, like her forebear and the house’s namesake, her collections never feel rarefied – each look is sliced through with a frisson of subversion, and bear the visible imprint of a human hand at work.
McQueen himself loved to make the old new, getting lost in the wormholes of tradition and history – from Scottish Jacobite risings to the Victorian sanitorium – pulling what he found into the present via his runway collections. Lace became a source of endless fascination; throughout his career McQueen used it to conjure both chastity and sex, concealment and exposure, marriage and mourning. Early in his career he was using cheap cuts of lace from Berwick Street Market – as in his breakout Dante collection, where the fabric was used to conceal models’ faces – later, in perhaps one of the lasting images of his career, a tulle and lace dress and veil draped over a pair of resin antlers, worn by Raquel Zimmermann in his Autumn/Winter 2006 show, demonstrated his exceptional commitment to craft.
The latter was actually based on a dress current creative director Burton – then head of womenswear – wore to her own wedding, made from a handmade fabric whereby flowers were cut from existing lace then reappliquéd onto tulle. The designer has continued to use lace in her own tenure at the helm of the house, perhaps most memorably creating the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding gown, whereby a lace bodice and veil contained within its filigree design roses, thistles, daffodils, and shamrocks (the Royal School of Needlework, based at Hampton Court Palace, created the custom lace).
For her Spring/Summer 2020 collection – which is now available from Alexander McQueen’s website – lace once again played a vital part. “I love the idea of people having the time to make things together, the time to meet and talk together, the time to reconnect to the world,” Burton said of the collection, which was an ode to craft. The lace which featured – cut into suits or dresses, or adorning the edges of leather – took inspiration from endangered flowers and Irish crochet techniques. Guipure, lichen lace and ivory lacework all featured – the latter on damask linen, woven by Thomas Ferguson, widely considered the finest weaver of the fabric in the world (and the owner of the last mill of its kind in Ireland).
Here, shown exclusively on AnOthermag.com, a collection of photographs of these pieces – and the processes behind them – each featuring what the house calls “the most quintessentially feminine and emotionally resonant of fabrics”, by Don McCullin, Chloé Le Drezen, Adama Jalloh and Liam Leslie.