Alexander McQueen’s Latest Show Explored the Magic of Mushrooms

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Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 2022
Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 2022Courtesy of Alexander McQueen

“Mycelium connects even the rooftop of the tallest skyscraper to the plants, to the grass, to the ground, to animals and to human beings,” said Sarah Burton of the Autumn/Winter 2022 Alexander McQueen show

Mushrooms are having a moment. In the fashion world, mycelium – root-like structure of a fungus – has emerged as a sustainable alternative to materials like leather, and has already been used by Stella McCartney, Hermès, and Gucci. Elsewhere, exhibitions like Somerset House’s Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi exhibition, or Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Life (both of which debuted in 2020) extolled the virtues of fungus’ fantastical, spiritual and sustainable qualities.

It would seem Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, has also caught the mushroom bug. For the brand’s Autumn/Winter 2022 show, which was held yesterday evening in New York, Burton honed in on mycelium as metaphor. “This collection is inspired by that idea of community, and specifically by mycelium, by the reality of nature as a community that is far, far older than we are,” she said. In a warehouse in Brooklyn, a furrowed runway flanked by towering piles of mulch – made from decayed, fallen trees – set the scene for a show that explored the interconnectedness of humans and nature.

“Mycelium connects even the rooftop of the tallest skyscraper to the plants, to the grass, to the ground, to animals and to human beings,” said Burton. “Mycelium has the most profound, interconnecting power, relaying messages through a magical underground structure, allowing trees to reach out to each other when either they or their young need help or are sick. The idea is humbling – beautiful - and, of course, a metaphor for interconnection and for community between people, between us all.” 

Models walked to the tune of A Forest by The Cure in dresses that mimicked the spots of fly agaric mushrooms, while their underside gills were rendered lovingly in messy, tasselled embroidery. Sparkling, fringed dresses in red, orange, green and yellow evoked the changing colours of the seasons – or psychedelia – while a sheer tulle dress featured crystal embroidery like a skeleton – or a mycelium web.

For a brand whose embrace of London is so wholehearted – think of Burton’s S/S22 ode to the capital city’s wicked skies, or Jonathan Glazer’s haunting, muddy fashion film shot along the River Thames – New York was an interesting choice for the new McQueen show. “I am so happy to be back in New York, a city that has always been close to our hearts,” said Burton. “We showed the Dante collection here in 1996, and then came again with Eye in the autumn of 1999. It is part of our community, a place that has always welcomed us, and this season I want to honour that.”