Sarah Burton’s A/W23 Men’s collection for Alexander McQueen splices classic tailoring in a modern reimagining of tradition
“A return to formality,” reads the concise show notes for Alexander McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 2023 Men’s collection, with a matter-of-factness emblematic of the British label’s uber-refined menswear – its sense of luxury unhindered by frivolous detail. Since being appointed creative director in 2010, Sarah Burton has been cultivating a vision of menswear that’s timeless in style, yet intuitive and undeniably modern with its subtle fusions of gender, unwavering focus and decisive, sensual engineering.
The new collection’s expert tailoring marks a return to the sharp roots of McQueen – it was of course on Savile Row where Lee Alexander McQueen cut his teeth in design, becoming an expert pattern cutter and tailor, and cultivating a level of pinpoint precision and skill that took his brand to extraordinary heights. Here, a classic suit is pulled taut, strictly spliced and reconfigured to become an open-back, high-waisted jumpsuit, revealing bare skin from the waist. It’s this surgical dissection of classics that Burton has established as her forte. “I realised almost immediately: pattern-cutting, that was what it was all about,” Burton, who worked for years under the label’s founder, told AnOther in 2012. “Saint Martins taught me a lot but in a year at McQueen you discovered the whole process.”
Elsewhere are more references to the early McQueen years – kilts are reimagined in a deep black wool, asymmetrical, and draped over sharp cigarette trousers. The tailoring’s precise cuts and commanding silhouettes are diluted with softer and more romantic details; blooming in prints and embroidery, the orchid motif permeates the collection appearing sometimes abstracted in high-contrast intarsia, delicate screenprints, or in more lavish bead adornments that bud and blossom in glistening dimensions across the body. The classic beauty of horticulture and its significance to the British label – a nod to the natural world – is made striking in its abstractions. A cocooning scarlet overcoat, balloon-sleeved trenches with ultra-wide lapels and tailored bustiers add further nuance to Burton’s vision for progressive tailoring. Reimagining our traditions, the collection offers a further levelling up of menswear in sharp focus – one for the bold, forward-thinking modern man.