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6.28.2018

Alexander McQueen

Yes, you could think this was the wrong season. There were quilted jackets, heavy trenches, a wonderfully soft but totally leather red suit. Even the shirts were leather. Only a gorgeous scalloped pant and white cotton shirt perforated with broderie anglaise near the middle and a tank top near the start was proper phew-weather wear. That, though, is pedantry in the face of art. For what is dank sweat to ethereal concept ? Sarah Burton offered an interestingly inverted play on "Heart of darkness" that saw her menswear overlap with her women's and climax with one of the most truly beautiful pieces seen this season. As completists might recall, her previous womenswear collection was a pagan-touched journey (with fabulous, badass studded boots) into the North. She had visited Iceland and let the endless days, beautiful heritage, and pagan non-specificity of the nightless volcano-hewn realm's territory inflect her. Then she connected that womenswear collection with menswear here in a way not often seen at Alexander McQueen. We started firmly in the hitherto well-mapped lands of McQueen for men : beautifully cut topcoats and suits, black, their shoulders just a little softer than usual; a skintight bibbed shirt over cavalry flash pants; a Guardsman's scarlet long leather coat. Only the whistles worn around the models' necks hinted at the distress about to be unleashed upon these comfortable (if you fit) McQueen givens. The unraveling began with a series of hyper-fractured leather bikers and pants heaped with a panic-attack of zippers or faced with inverted shearling in panic-alarm red. Mixed up tailoring and trenches added to the disorientation. Slowly, menswear caught up with womenswear. That broderie anglaise look was the turning point, the curve in the river after which the destination was closer than the starting point. Check pants roughly belted with climbing cord were worn below a patched jumper based on a Fair Isle sock pattern Ms Burton had encountered in Iceland. More Icelandic-pattern knit punctuated by a pagan pajama suit with some premodern compass points followed. Bearings were shifting. A moment of clarity -or at least return- followed with the padded jackets : conventional explorerwear issued in London. But then a white leather cape inlaid with blue contour lines and poetry from Rudyard Kipling's "The explorer" followed and set those certainties adrift. It was inlaid with long strands of scarlet yarn, the same strafes we had seen in the designer's dreamy previous womenswear collection in the same venue. Her sirens of the north were influencing her men from the south. Denim overalls and separates treated similarly to the cape followed. Then a jacket and topcoat of inverted floral tufts. And then the really, really fabulous pieces : two topcoats -one multicolored, one black- plus one ivory jacket, all of whose bodies were made of hanging scallops of silken fringe. Sarah Burton explained backstage that the multicolored piece was made of the carpet that her womenswear models had walked on three months earlier. It was inside out, to show the bare bones of its weave. In ivory, and especially black, these couture-level garments were mordantly moody. The end of the show climaxed, just as her womenswear show had, with the tree of life embroidered in crystal onto a jacket and topcoat with more fringing. This was a trip to Kipling's never-country -and, for those with the ears to hear it, it whispered, "Come-hither. You may be some time". Féerique.

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