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8.09.2016

Alexander McQueen

The metaphors fell like rain in this Alexander McQueen collection. Victorian sailors were the protagonists. Imagine them as men adrift, looking for somewhere to belong, seeking a sense of identity in the tattoos with which they covered themselves. All of that could apply to the collection itself. There was sharply defined elegance in the elongated captain's coats, but a soft, almost androgynous quality in pajama-like jacquards. Mended denim pieces and fraying jackets felt like well-worn relics of a long voyage. Sarah Burton scattered traditional nautical tattoo motifs -compasses, mermaids, anchors- across her spare tailoring, but storybook sea monsters were a stronger graphic element, in a terrycloth bathrobe no less. And there were suits patterned in dazzle ship camouflage, which looked almost incongruously dynamic in this context. That's because dynamism was precisely what the collection lacked. Sarah Burton's crew might have been drowned lost boys, suspended out of time, their sole connection to now was their footwear. If Fall's earthbound collection packed a real punch, this one felt all at sea.
As for the McQ lineup, the Alexander McQueen design DNA is particularly difficult to diffuse into streetwear : the label is so idiomatically fantastic -so very much about its hand-crafted coups de théâtre and explorations of the alien or grotesque- and that's a tone at odds with the matter-of-factness demanded of clothes for everyday wear. Sarah Burton has been doing a nice job threading that needle since she took over the creative direction a few yearss ago. In essence, she's made the label a showcase for an exploration of Lee McQueen's interest in British youth subculture. This season, for instance, the McQ muses were mods and punks -which up the challenge, as those muses are rather commonplace ones in fashion today. The fact that Ms Burton is leaning on those familiar aesthetics makes her clothes approachable, and she is very good at elevating those looks, without entirely subtracting their subversive sneer. A case in point here was a mod jacket done in a light art-inspired black and white print, the prettiness of which only served to underline the look's essential toughness. Ditto the shorts and button-downs done in double-face linen : the fabric was terribly fine, like handkerchief quality, but its Peter Saville-esque graphic print was determinedly non-effete. This collection was full of savvy looks like that. But the only pieces that really stood for something you might be tempted to call "the McQ look" were kilt-shaped shorts and elongated culottes : these pieces seemed unique and to belong exclusively to the McQueen vocabulary. The more Sarah Burton and her team can build on that, the better.

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