Sarah Burton Parts Ways With Alexander McQueen

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Sarah Burton
Sarah Burton for AnOther Magazine Spring/Summer 2012Photography by Lina Scheynius

After a quarter of a century at the British label, Kering has announced that Sarah Burton will leave Alexander McQueen, with her successor yet to be announced

Yesterday evening, it was announced that Sarah Burton is to be parting ways with Alexander McQueen, the label she’s worked under for 26 years, and been the creative director of since 2010. The news means that the Spring/Summer 2024 show, to be staged in Paris later this month, will mark the conclusion of a celebrated, momentous tenure.

The house of Alexander McQueen is the stuff of fashion legend; a remarkable cornerstone in British fashion epitomising the DNA of a nation – its chequered history, power and provocation, and its fragility. Founded in 1992 by Lee Alexander McQueen, a Central Saint Martins graduate, it was his freewheeling talent and untamed emotional process that propelled him into a unique and respected position in the global fashion design scene.

In return, he nurtured those within his company. Sarah Burton started as an intern in 1996, at the time a fashion design student at Central Saint Martins, introduced to McQueen by Simon Ungless, a close friend of McQueen’s who had known and worked with him since the very early days. She returned to McQueen after completing her final year in 1997, and didn’t leave – until now, more than a quarter of a century later. She told AnOther in 2012: “I realised almost immediately – pattern-cutting, that was what it was all about. As the stories go, you’d go home in the evening and come back the following morning and there would be these incredible things that Lee had stayed up all night to make. It was never just a job. And I never stopped learning.”

Burton was appointed head of womenswear in 2000, took her show-closing bows with McQueen for Autumn/Winter 2003, and was pivotal to actualising the designer’s stratospheric collections. When McQueen tragically took his own life in 2010, she succeeded her mentor – and instead of starting the brand anew, Burton dedicated her years as creative director of Alexander McQueen to proudly guarding and honouring the intricate legacy of its founder.

It’s a legacy that spans various moving parts: womenswear, menswear, accessories, campaigns, communications, retail concepts. A gentler, more reserved – but equally romantic – vision for McQueen emerged under Burton’s helm; while nodding to the grit of the house’s foundations, it was one inspired by craft and community, with each garment refined and proportioned with the utmost precision. Notably, Burton designed the Princess of Wales’s bewitching and ostensibly modern wedding dress in the spring of 2011, designed dresses custom for Lady Gaga, as well as AnOther cover stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett.

“I am so proud of everything I’ve done and of my incredible team at Alexander McQueen. They are my family, and this has been my home for the past 26 years,” Burton said in a statement. “I want to thank [the CEO of Kering] Francois-Henri Pinault for believing in me and offering me this amazing opportunity. Above all I want to thank Lee Alexander McQueen. He taught me so much and I am eternally grateful to him. I am looking forward to the future and my next chapter and will always carry this treasured time with me.”

Sarah Burton’s final show at Alexander McQueen will be staged on September 30 during Paris Fashion Week. A successor to Burton will, according to the label’s owner Kering, “be announced in due course”.