With images from Charlotte James and Clémentine Schneidermann, the new book celebrates an educational project that Alexander McQueen launched in south Wales last summer
Evident in Sarah Burton’s collections for Alexander McQueen is a deep fascination with history – particularly the history of the British Isles. Ancient lore and recent realities have been carefully woven into her collections, from the writings of the Brontë sisters and the industrial mills of northern England, to the revival of forgotten ancient crafts like “beetling”. Burton’s particularly romantic Autumn/Winter 2020 collection was a love letter to the valleys of South Wales, with the house launching an educational youth programme, as well as a joyful corresponding book, in the same area.
Giving back to the region whose rich landscape, crafts, poetry and literature inspired the collection – which referenced historical items like the 1842 ‘Wonder Quilt of Wrexham’, traditional Welsh textiles, and the poetry of Dylan Thomas – the house returned to Wales last summer to run the educational project with the help of Welsh creative director and filmmaker Charlotte James and French documentary photographer Clémentine Schneidermann. The duo, who are based in Wales, are best known for their unique 2019 book It’s Called Ffasiwn, which documents children from the valleys in a mix of costumes and clothes from graduate collections. For several years, they have also been running a community-based project with school-age young people in the area called Ffasiwn Stiwdio.
Guided by James and Schneidermann, the months-long project offered an array of fashion, craft and photography workshops led by the house’s atelier to 12- to 17-year-olds, which culminated in a four-day shoot in various locations around Wales. A year later, a heartwarming new book brings together James and Schneidermann’s portraits of the young people involved in the project alongside their creations – which range from sketches and writing, to embroidery and photography.
“To us, fashion has never been a goal in itself, but more an excuse to generate ideas and opportunities,” says Schneidermann. “Our main focus has always been photography and creative workshops in the broadest sense. We try to raise an awareness, and sense of familiarity with creative skills and art in general through the workshops and the photography shoots.”
The project is a reflection of Burton’s ongoing commitment to fashion education at Alexander McQueen, where just this autumn the house launched an arts education scheme in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. “Community values and the belief in offering creative opportunities to young people are at the heart of what we believe at Alexander McQueen,” says the designer. “This record of what we all learned together last year is a testament to what transformative things can happen everywhere when empowering equal access to creative ideas.”
Alexander Mcqueen in Wales is out now.