London Skies: Alexander McQueen’s Homecoming

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Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2022
Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2022Courtesy of Alexander McQueen

For the house’s Spring/Summer 2022 collection, and its first London show in five years, Sarah Burton embraced the elements

“I am interested in immersing myself in the environment in which we live and work, in London, and in the elements as we experience them each day,” said Sarah Burton of her Spring/Summer 2022 Alexander McQueen collection. “We moved from water – and the mud on the banks of the Thames – to the sky and the ever-changing, all-encompassing magnificence that represents,” she continued, referencing the film the house created in collaboration with director Jonathan Glazer for Spring/Summer 2021.

This new collection, which was revealed yesterday, outside of the regular fashion week schedule, was inspired by the sky and presented in it, too. The British fashion house’s first home show in five years, the collection was debuted in a bubble-like, Smiljan Radic-designed structure erected on roof of the Tobacco Docks Yellow Park in Wapping, east London – not far from its studio. The City could be seen from one side, Canary Wharf on the other, with skyscrapers poking out of the ground like totems of metal and glass. More importantly though, the sky was above us, and all around us – grey, cloudy sky. (This is England, after all.)

Clouds were present in the first look; in the bustle of a double-breasted tailored coat in black wool. They were there in the looks that followed, too – a print of a cloudy, grey-blue sky melting into gold. More cloud prints followed as the collection progressed, along with more cloud-like bustles and sleeves. Meanwhile puffs of tulle, silk, mesh and net, also alluding to clouds, appeared throughout the collection, which was modelled by an ensemble cast that embodied Burton’s particular brand of hard-edged beauty.

“The artwork for the prints in this collection was shot from the rooftops of the studio where we are lucky enough to have the most incredible views of the city: from Saint Paul’s Cathedral to the London Eye,” said Burton, shedding some light on how the collection came together. “We watched the weather and captured the formation and colouration of clouds from daybreak to nightfall and documented changing patterns, from clear blue skies to more turbulent ones.”

It feels natural that Burton, who has mined the countries, cultures and crafts of the British Isles so extensively in her collections for Alexander McQueen, might one day turn to its weather – something so essential, so elemental to British culture, that the mere discussion of it is considered a national pasttime. Alongside the cloud prints, the colour palette also references our climate – black, greys, blues and in just one instance (fittingly) sunshine yellow. There was also a neon pink corset bodice and skirt, that punctured through the more muted tones. However our temperamental, often tempestous climes didn’t just inspire the look of the collection, they inspired the spirit of it, too.

“I love the idea of the McQueen woman being a storm chaser, of the qualities of storm chasing uniting the passionately individual community of characters wearing the clothes,” Burton explained. “They inhabit the same universe and the clothes are inspired by and made for them. Storm chasing is not only about the beauty of the views but also a sense of mystery and excitement – about embracing the fact that we can’t ever be sure of what might happen next. To give up control and be directly in touch with the unpredictable is to be part of nature, to see and feel it at its most intense – to be at one with a world that is bigger and more powerful than we are.”

Bending to its superior power are ideas that feel particularly prescient to now, as we emerge from a pandemic and reconsider how we live and work in relation to the planet. Hopefully we can do as Burton heeds, and pursue oneness with the world.